26 September 2013

Butternut squash soup with apple, toasted coconut, and sage

This recipe was majorly inspired by my friend Deborah as well as Aux Vivres, a vegan restaurant in Montréal that opened my eyes to the wonders of 'coconut bacon,' with logistical pointers from this post from Eating Bird Food.

So the other day, my mother roasted up a whole butternut squash, and I was thinking today of what the hell to use the rest of it for. (I think she used Becel margarine as part of the roasting technique, the one non-vegan part of this endeavour. Obviously, Earth Balance would have been way better, but I suppose I'll take what I can get.) I settled on soup. Which is hardly settling at all. Because soup is awesome. Especially when it's hearty and fruity and slightly crunchy and a little spicy and fragrant and warm and basically a big steaming bowl of everything that's wonderful about autumn.

Here's how you do it.

1/2 large butternut squash, roasted with oil and maybe salt (see below), peeled, cut up into 1/2-inch cubes
2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
2 tbsp Earth Balance or other vegan margarine
1-1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp nutritional yeast flakes (this is kind of hard to find and also kind of optional, so feel free to omit)
3 medium sized apples (Granny Smith is probably the best. I used whatever kind of apples grow on the tree in my backyard. Yellow-ish green and not too sweet or sour.), peeled, cored, sliced into 1/4-inch cubes
2 tsp dried sage leaves
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
3-1/2 cups vegetable broth (I used a pre-made store-bought variety but hopefully you have better stuff to use)

Roast up a butternut squash. I was lucky that this was already done for me. But if you're not so lucky, preheat your oven to 400 F, then just cut a big one down the middle lengthwise, put the two flat ends down on greased or tin-foiled pans, spread canola oil or Earth Balance or something similar over top of them, add a little salt, and pop in the oven and cook it for a long time, like at least 45 minutes or even an hour, until the skin comes off easily and the flesh is slightly brown, but not toooo brown. Allow it to cool enough so that you can safely handle it, and then take off the skin and dice into 1/2-inch cubes.

In a big, deep saucepan (about 4 litres) over medium heat, combine coconut flakes, Earth Balance, soy sauce, maple syrup, paprika, salt, black pepper, and nutritional yeast flakes (if you have them). Liquid smoke might also make a nice addition, but seriously just one dash, guys. Don't go nuts with that stuff. Stir it around for a few minutes until it gets slightly brown. I actually burnt it a bit and had to scrape some out before adding the rest of the ingredients to the pot. So don't cook it as long as I did. Just a few minutes until it's nice and toasty.

Turn the heat up to medium-high. Add the butternut squash (I only used 1/2 of a whole squash in this recipe... possibly a little less... but it was a rather large squash) and cook for a few minutes until the squash starts to brown up slightly again (only five minutes max). Then add the apples, sage, salt, and black pepper. Stir it all together with a big slotted spoon and keep stirring often for about 5 minutes. Add broth, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring often to avoid overly crispy bits sticking to the bottom. Remove from heat and let cool for about 10 minutes, then puree with a hand blender (this step is kind of optional if you want something more like a stew or if you don't have a hand blender... but it's a good idea). Add extra salt, sage, or pepper to taste.

Serve steaming hot with some extra sage and/or coconut sprinkled on top. Then go play in a pile of colourful, crunchy leaves to beautifully round out your extremely autumnal day. The mild softness of the squash, the bright sweetness of the apples, the salty, toasty, slight crunch of the coconut, the invigorating kick of the sage--seriously, this stuff is fall-flavoured glory. It's the tops!

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