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If you're like us, you look to the seasons for what to cook. Get to the market, and we'll show you what to do with your haul.
Today: A savory, spicy butternut squash soup you won't expect, but one you'll want to eat all season long.
When the air finally became crisp, pulling back its shoulders from a lazy, slouched summer breeze, and September rolled around, other kids in my 2nd grade class looked forward to falling leaves and pumpkins and caramel apples.
For me, fall marked the important moment when I'd start devising a plan to get out of accepting the passed butternut squash at my grandfather's Thanksgiving table. A tactic in regular rotation was getting up when it came my way. When that didn't work, I'd feign ignorance, pretending not to see it, or pretending that the dish was too heavy, too hot, or oops I thought that was the rolls and I already have two.
My aunts and uncles and cousins would tell me that he grew it in his own garden. I would tell them I was allergic.
Every year, the squash would end up on my plate anyway -- a bright orange reminder that I'd have to work harder at strategizing next year. But the next year I didn't: by then, I'd learned to love the earthy sweetness of butternut squash, but I'd grown tired of it sharing a bowl with maple, or apples, or brown sugar. It was always sweet on sweet -- less vegetable, more candy.
The keys to this soup are the miso stock and the coconut milk. The first makes it deep and savory in that lovely way you can't identify while you're eating it, an unsung hero -- integral but otherwise unnoticed. The second makes it pleasantly rich. A gentle, background heat holds everything in check.
Once you get through hacking up the squash (the only real butchery of the vegetable world) the rest is smooth sailing: simmer, purée, taste, adjust for seasoning.
Eat it with a hunk of good bread, and when your soup is gone, steal some from the bowl next to you. Feed it to any squash-haters you know. But be prepared to pass it again -- they may ask for seconds.
Serves 6 to 8
4 1/2 cups water
4 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon white shiro miso
1 large yellow onion
1-inch knob of ginger, peeled and grated
2 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or slightly more to taste
One 3-pound butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
Photos by Eric Moran