February 19, 2008

La Gringa's Chipotle Butternut Squash Soup

La Gringa's Chipotle Butternut Squash SoupChipotle butternut squash soup with herbed wheat bread

Calabaza is the general Spanish word for winter squash. Butternut squash are called ayote here in La Ceiba, but apparently other types of squash are also called ayote as well.

Just after we moved into the house here in La Ceiba, Honduras, and before we started landscaping, we had a bumper crop of butternut squash. We had some huge compost piles working in the back yard and as a result of tossing in our kitchen scraps, the compost piles sprouted chiles, tomatoes, papaya trees, and butternut squash. It might have been my best garden ever. ;-)

Chipotle Butternut Squash SoupThe vines, as squash vines will do, tried to take over the earth. We ended up with probably 100 squash. We gave some to family and the few workers we had a the time, gave some to Carlos to sell at the market, and I even tried to trade some with a thief who was trying to steal my garden spading fork.

I searched for new and different things to do with squash. Fried squash chips were good, but I try to avoid fried food. I found a couple of recipes for butternut squash soup which I modified and came up with this recipe. As with most of my recipes, it's flexible and you can add or omit or adjust as suits your tastes.

La Gringa's Chipotle Butternut Squash Soup
Makes about 6 servings

2 tbsp. butter (or margarine or oil)
1 onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tbsp. minced fresh ginger

1 carrot, diced

1 celery stalk, diced

5 cups water, chicken broth, or a combination

2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
2 medium butternut squash (about 2 lbs.), peeled, seeded, and diced
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. brown sugar

1 tsp. dried thyme (fresh is better)

1-2 tbsp. pureed chipotle with adobo (or a few dashes of bottled chipotle sauce)
1/2 to 1 cup milk (optional)
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Chipotle Butternut Squash SoupIn a large pot, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in onion, garlic, and ginger. Cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in carrots and celery, cook another 5 minutes.

Chipotle Butternut Squash SoupAdd liquid, potatoes and squash, vinegar, brown sugar, and thyme. If you are using water, add a little salt. The liquid should cover the veggies. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer 30 to 45 minutes, or until vegetables are very soft.

Chipotle Butternut Squash SoupRemove from heat. Cool slightly. Working in batches, transfer mixture to blender or food processor and purée until smooth. Return puréed soup to pot. Stir in the chipotle and season to taste with salt and pepper. I sometimes add 1/2 to 1 cup of milk at this point, but the soup is nice and creamy without it, too. If the soup is too thick, add a little more water or broth.

La Gringa's Chipotle Butternut Squash SoupHeat thoroughly. Ladle into bowls and top with croûtons and a dollop of sour cream, mantequilla blanca, or fresh homemade yogurt.

Hints: Start on the low side with the chipotle and add more to taste. This soup seems to get spicier the next day. If you don't want the spiciness at all, leave out the chipotle and the brown sugar as well.

You could substitute other yellow or orange-fleshed squash for the butternut or even use part sweet potatoes and part squash.

In case you don't know, chipotles are smoked, dried jalapeños in a thick smoky, spicy sauce. I buy a can, scrape out the seeds as much as possible (a messy job), and then purée the chipotles and sauce in the blender. Then I freeze the sauce in an ice cube tray and later transfer the cubes to a plastic freezer bag as a little goes a long way for us, even though we like spicy food.

I served this soup with Herbed Wheat Bread. It was a filling meal.

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