Sunday, January 18, 2015

North African Butternut Squash Soup

I have found that my tastebuds are getting more adventurous as I get older.  I have my basic butternut squash soup recipe which is delicious but sometimes it's fun to switch things up a little.  I'm so glad I tried this recipe.  It is a treat to the eyes as well as the tastebuds - colorful and delicious and provides lots of healthy vegetables (some kale or lentils might be good additions too).

A note about the ingredients:  The small cinnamon stick gives it just a hint of cinnamon flavor without overpowering.  The harissa is a chili paste that can be found in middle eastern markets and gives a nice depth of flavor.  This soup also has ground turmeric.  Hopefully you've heard about the health benefits of turmeric.  It's a superfood spice that's getting a lot of press lately.  It can reduce inflammation and has many other health-protecting properties.

Feeling adventurous in the kitchen?  Give this soup a try - your body will thank you!

North African Butternut Squash Soup
from The New Mediterranean Diet Cookbook by Nancy Harmon Jenkins
Makes 6 servings

2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 sweet red pepper, chopped
1/2 to 1 tsp harissa, or 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
6 cups cubed butternut squash or pumpkin (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 14.5 ounce can plum tomatoes, chopped with their juice
2 bay leaves
1 short piece of cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 cups water or chicken stock
1 or 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro, optional

Combine the olive oil, carrots, celery, and garlic in a heavy-duty stock pot set over medium-low heat.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft but not brown, about 10 minutes.  Add the chopped pepper,  the harissa or crushed red pepper, and the butternut squash and cook for about 5 minutes.  Add the chopped tomatoes, bay leaves, cinnamon, turmeric, salt and pepper to taste, and 2 cups of water or chicken stock.  Bring to a simmer and cover the pan.  Let simmer about 20-30 minutes or until the squash is very soft.  If desired, blend the soup with a blender or a stick blender (I left mine chunky).  Add lemon and cilantro and adjust seasoning if needed.

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