This soup is a love letter of sorts to many things. To autumn -- and its vibrant, hearty, filling produce -- and to new jobs and new people who inspire me, and to remembering to appreciate the small, quiet moments. And in those small, quiet moments, to give to others when you can. Give material things, but also give your own self: your heart, your excitements, your thoughts. Pour these things out in front of you, sift through them, and offer them up for someone else to be part of. Oh, and though you must let someone into the bad and good parts of you, try and offer them the positive parts. I've learned that when you share your happiness with someone else, it swells and grows and becomes shinier and better than it would be if you enjoyed it alone.
The idea for this soup stuck in my head long after I read about it. The flavors kept whispering something -- even when I shook them off, they came back. Sweet squash and miso? A touch of coconut? Then ginger, and spicy cumin? The ingredients don't sing a story right away, so I abandoned the idea thinking it wasn't a clear or crave-worthy dish, since it wasn't strictly Asian, or sweet, or salty.
But this soup is so, so, so good. It's a remarkable lesson on how things don't need to be familiar to be wonderful. And you can achieve comforting without being comfortable.
Other lessons it reminded me of: feeding someone hot soup and warm crusty bread will make you feel good, and sharing it with them will make you feel even better. And if you have the foresight, try making yogurt biscuits. They'll be flakier than you think -- even without butter or shortening -- and they'll pull apart into soft, warm, savory layers on your plate.
But that's a recipe for another day. I'll consider this a VERY LEGITIMATE reason to bake the biscuits again and again this week, to perfect it for you, and because it takes under 20 minutes. Last night I made them in between walking in the door, dropping my keys, and taking a shower. So eat your heart out, Manhattan food delivery, warm baked goods in no time flat is my expertise!
Butternut Squash Soup with Miso and Coconut
Adapted very lightly from Food52
1 3-lb butternut squash, peeled and cubed
4 1/2 cups water
4 tablespoons mellow white miso
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1-inch knob of ginger, peeled and grated
2 teaspoons cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
large pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 cup light coconut milk
salt to taste
dash of olive oil
Heat four cups of water in a saucepan until it just boils. Turn it down to a simmer and stir in the miso paste. Keep it at a simmer.
In a large dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot, heat a dash of olive oil. Add the onions and cook for a few minutes over medium-low heat until translucent. Add the ginger, cumin, paprika, and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute. Deglaze the pan with a generous ladle of the warm miso stock.
Add the butternut squash, salt, and the rest of the miso stock to the dutch oven. Bring it to a simmer and keep it there for about 20 minutes, uncovered, until the squash is tender.
Carefully puree the soup with an immersion blender until smooth. Add the coconut milk and stir to mix it well. Season with more salt as needed.