Next week Adam and I go on our annual pilgrimage to the sleepy coastal town of Oceanside, Oregon. This will be our third year celebrating his birthday there and I cannot wait. When winter falls, Oceanside is virtually abandoned. Summer homes lay empty and locked against the sharp ocean winds. The tiny café closes at 3. The few folks you do see are the light sprinkling of year-round residents, or people who come to Oceanside longing to walk their dogs on a quiet beach.
Adam and I are an off-season kind of a couple. We tend to go out in the middle of the week, and rarely gravitate towards large people attracting events. We like quiet and subtly. Oceanside in January is just that.
The meticulously clean cabins we like to stay in are practically right on the beach. In the evenings we sip wine and watch the sun slowly make its decent into the horizon, play a game of chess or cards, then fall asleep each night to the sound of crashing waves.
There is only one restaurant in Oceanside and they make the best salmon cakes (more salmon than cake) I’ve ever had. Wanting more restaurant options means driving for at least 45 minutes, so last year we decided to rent a cabin with a kitchen and bring food to cook for our meals. This year we’ll do the same. We haven’t decided on a menu yet, but this soup would be perfect to warm us against the cold grey ocean winds. There is just a hair of spice from the red pepper flakes I tossed in, and the bright butternut squash orange is like a bowl of sunshine right when you need it.
This recipe is adapted from two recipes in Amanda Hesser’s Essential NY Times Cookbook: Roasted Squash Soup with Cumin and Butternut Squash Soup with Brown Butter. I used one as a guide, and pulled an idea or two from the other. One of the recipes called for half a cup of cream. For some reason, my stomach is very opposed to warmed or cooked milk, so I substituted coconut milk for cream. The coconut milk transformed this soup into a wonderfully Indian style bisque. I wish I had made naan bread to go with it!
What you’ll need~
Salt and pepper
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme or other herb
1 teaspoon ground cumin
4 1/2 cups chicken broth
2-3 cloves roasted garlic
1/2 teaspoon champagne vinegar
1/2 teaspoon honey
1-2 pinches red pepper flakes
Pinch of nutmeg
1/2 cup coconut milk or heavy cream
Preheat your oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with foil.
Using a sharp knife, cut your butternut squash in half lengthwise. I stabbed the squash in the middle and cut down like I was cutting open a lobster. Turn the squash around do and the same thing in the other direction.
Scoop out seeds and place in a bowl. Brush olive oil onto each squash half and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Tuck fresh herbs into squash cavities and place squash cut side down onto the foil.
Roast until soft and tender, about 45 minutes.
Rinse squash seeds under cold water and discard all the leftover goop. Place seeds on a paper towel and pat down to dry.
Warm olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Toss seeds in skillet with 1/2 teaspoon cumin and some salt until nicely browned and crisp.
Scoop squash flesh from shells and place in a pot. Add chicken broth, roasted garlic, champagne vinegar, honey, red pepper flakes and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of cumin.
Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes.
If you have an immersion blender then use it to blend the soup into a purée. Otherwise, blend soup in batches in your blender, then return soup to the pot.
I find that coconut milk tends to separate and get clumpy in the can, so I like to gently warm it up in saucepan before using.
Stir in coconut milk or cream and bring to a gentle simmer.
Season with salt and pepper.
Serve warm and garnished with squash seeds.