Our ‘Cooks for Health’ family class in Hudson, NY made a sweet and savory vegetable soup filled with rich, complex flavors. This was an opportunity to practice recently learned skills and learn new ones. Prepping the butternut squash, onions, apples and kale for this soup helped reinforce the bear claw and tunnel grip for the knife, cutting techniques that keep fingers safe. Families learned a new technique for breaking down the cooked vegetables to get the right consistency by having the parents try out an immersion blender. This convenient tool allowed us to blend the soup smoothly without pouring it back and forth from a standing blender.
We explored less commonly used ingredients in American cooking such as coconut milk and cashews. The depth of flavor in this soup gave us the opportunity to talk about how to layer flavors and adjust seasonings to our own unique taste buds. Families loved the richness, texture, and depth of flavor of the soup. The cashews and coconut milk provided richness, depth of flavor came from the aromatics and spices, and the sweet and savory flavors from the onions, squash and apples provided contrast.
One student, Aveliz, couldn’t get enough of the kale and onion topping. She liked to place a big mound of it on top of her soup and then stir it in so that a delightful crunch came with each bite. We decided that adding some crushed roasted cashews on top was a nice addition, too.
**For this recipe, we recommend roasting the squash ahead of time to save time. It can be stored for up to a few days before cooking.
Butternut Squash & Coconut Curry Soup
Adapted from New York Times Cooking
1 large butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds)
2 tablespoons olive oil or other vegetable oil
1 large yellow or sweet white onion, chopped
1 cup raw cashews
1 medium apple, any variety, peeled and diced
2 cups prepared vegetable broth, or 2 cups water with 1 vegetable bouillon cube
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons good-quality curry powder
2 teaspoons grated fresh or jarred ginger, or more, to taste
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Pinch of ground nutmeg or allspice
1 14-ounce can light coconut milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 medium red onions, quartered and thinly sliced
1 good-size bunch kale (about 10 to 12 ounces)
3 Tbsp chopped, toasted cashews (optional)
- To bake the squash, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut in half and place halves, cut side up, in a foil-lined, shallow baking dish and cover tightly with more foil. Bake for 30 to 50 minutes, until you can easily pierce the flesh with a knife. Scoop out and set aside.
- Heat about half the oil in a soup pot. Add the onion and sauté over medium-low heat until golden, about 8 to 10 minutes.
- Add the cashews, apple, squash, broth, garlic and spices. Bring to a steady simmer, then cover and simmer gently until the apples are tender, about 10 minutes.
- Transfer the solids to a food processor or blender with a slotted spoon, in batches if need be, and process until smoothly pureed, then transfer back to the soup pot. Or better yet, simply insert an immersion blender into the pot and process until smoothly pureed.
- Stir in the coconut milk and return the soup to a gentle simmer. Cook over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until well heated through. Season with salt and pepper.
- Just before serving, heat the remaining oil in a large skillet. Add the red onions and sauté over low heat until golden and soft.
- Meanwhile, strip the kale leaves off the stems and cut into thin shreds. Stir together with the onions in the skillet, adding just enough water to moisten the surface. Cover and steam over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the kale is bright green and just tender, about 5 minutes.
- To serve, ladle soup into each bowl, then place a small mound of kale and onion mixture in the center.