Monday, January 2, 2017

Meatless Monday--Harissa-Spiced Butternut Squash Soup

I've heard a lot of people say January is one of their least favorite months.  They point to gray skies, cold weather, and a schedule that seems quite empty after the inevitable holiday rush.

I see it quite differently.

I actually look forward to evenings free from shopping trips and parties and cold Saturday afternoons spent binge watching old tv shows while snuggled up in front of the fireplace.  I really love Christmas decorations and Christmas music, but I also like the feeling of a freshly cleaned and cleared out house and the particular kind of quiet that comes from an overcast sky.  

Most of all, I like the possibility the new year brings.  Chances to recenter myself, focus on new goals, and reflect on new resolutions.  As fun as the ever decadent chocolate-covered, wine-soaked holiday season is, a January menu filled whole, healthy meals just always feels so right.  So get ready for a whole lot of piping hot soups and roasted vegetables, readers.  2016 was pretty rough.  We're going to make 2017 a whole lot better.



Start the new year off right with a big, comforting pot of this butternut squash soup.  With protein-packed chickpeas, smoky cumin, and spicy, warming harissa and cardamom, it's the ultimate healthy vegan meal for a cold winter's day.

Harissa-Spiced Butternut Squash Soup
adapted from Real Simple, October 2016

Ingredients:
3 lbs. butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-in. cubes
5 TBSP olive oil, divided
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, divided
1 1/2 tsp. black pepper
3 shallots, peeled and chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled or thinly sliced
2 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
2 1/2 TBSP harissa paste OR 2 TBSP dried harissa powder
6 c. vegetable broth
1 (15 oz.) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
plain Greek yogurt and chopped cilantro, for serving

Directions:
1.  Preheat oven to 400°F.  Toss the squash with 
three tablespoons oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and  1/2  teaspoon pepper and divide between two rimmed baking sheets.  Roast, tossing once, until tender, 20 to 25 minutes.  (This may be done ahead to make for a quicker, easier weeknight meal.  If roasting the squash ahead of time, pull it out of the refrigerator to begin coming to room temperature while completing the following steps.)

  1. 2.  Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a large pot over low heat.  Add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and caramelized, about five minutes.  Add the garlic, cumin, cardamom, and the remaining salt and pepper.  If using harissa powder, add it here, as well.  Cook two minutes more.
  2. 3.  Add the harissa paste (if using), broth, and chickpeas.  Bring soup to a boil, then reduce heat to medium.   If you roasted the squash ahead of time, add it to the soup and simmer for five minutes.  If using squash straight from the oven, remove 
the pot from heat after simmering and gently stir it into the soup.  Serve topped with yogurt and cilantro, if desired.

Yield: 8 servings

Note: This soup freezes well, so I recommend making the whole batch.  

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