Roasted Acorn & Butternut Squash Soup

img_0708 Nothing says cozy to me like a warm bowl of soup made with autumnal squash. I strayed from my traditional pumpkin soup since I didn't have any fresh pumpkins on hand--just a butternut squash and an acorn squash. Since acorn squash isn't very sweet (or orange for that matter), I also threw in a few small carrots and an apple for good measure.

I picked up white mini pumpkins at the Union Square Greenmarket--the newest additions to my growing stash of decorative gourds.

Fall is the perfect time of year for farm-fresh carrots, and they complement the squash in this soup wonderfully.

This recipe uses coconut milk instead of cream. I converted to coconut milk in my squash soups after hosting a fall dinner party last year for friends, many of whom don't consume dairy. I made two pumpkin soups--one that was vegan and dairy free and one that wasn't. The vegan one was by far superior, and I've been using coconut milk ever since.

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I've tried this recipe with boxed or canned squash, and I highly recommend roasting fresh squash. By roasting the squash, you get a wonderfully nutty flavor that imparts an elegant complexity to the soup. Also, I'll include what I used in this soup, but with any soup, be open to free styling. You don't have to follow the recipe exactly. If you like your soups thin, you'll want to add a little more water. If you like them thick, a little less water. As a Louisiana girl who's no stranger to spicy food, I love the kick from the curry powder and cayenne pepper, but maybe you'll want to tone those flavors down. Make this soup your own!

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Roasted Acorn and Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients

One butternut squash, quartered One acorn squash, quartered Extra virgin olive oil 1 small onion, chopped 2 cloves of garlic, minced 3 small carrots, roughly chopped One small apple peeled and cored, roughly chopped One can of coconut milk 2 cups vegetable stock 2 teaspoons pure maple syrup 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon black pepper 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper 1 tablespoon curry powder 4-6 sprigs of fresh thyme Pumpkin seeds* (optional garnish) Cashew Topping* (optional garnish) Pumpernickel croutons (not pictured, optional garnish)

A note about garnishes: Here's your chance to really go wild. Try topping it with roasted walnuts, crumbled chèvre, sautéed shrimp or crispy bacon.

*I used maple sugar and sea salt SuperSeedz gourmet pumpkin seeds. I also used Nuts over Fish cashew nut topping, both gluten-free and totally delicious and were in my Mary's Secret Ingredient package.

I also used pumpernickel croutons which were an excellent vehicle to soak up this soup with, made from my botched pumpernickel bread making this weekend.

Method

Place the quartered acorn squash and butternut squash on a lined baking sheet. You can leave the pulp and seeds in tact. Drizzle the squash with olive oil and bake in an oven at 375 F for about one hour. The squash should be lightly browned and have a few brown spots. Remove from the oven and let cool. Once cool, remove the stringy pulp and seeds with a spoon. Scoop the remaining flesh out and reserve in a bowl.

In a large heavy-bottomed pot, add about a tablespoon of olive oil. Heat over medium heat.  Add the chopped onions and sautee them until they soften, about five minutes. Add the carrots and sauté an additionally five minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for three minutes.

Add the chopped apples, squash, coconut milk (reserve a couple of tablespoons to use as a garnish), maple syrup, salt, pepper, cinnamon, cayenne powder, curry, fresh thyme & vegetable stock. Increase the heat to high. Once the soup begins to simmer, reduce the heat to low and allow to simmer on low, covered, for about 15 minutes.

Remove the thyme sprigs. Use an immersion blender to blend the soup**, or transfer the soup to a blender. Blend until smooth. Adjust the seasoning by tasting the soup to see if it needs anything else. If the flavors aren't there yet, add a little more salt. Or maybe you want to add a little more curry powder. If it's too thick, add a little water to thin it out. This is the most important step--be bold in making sure your soup is flavorful.

Transfer the soup to bowls and garnish with coconut milk, fresh thyme, pumpkin seeds, cashew nuts, or any other toppings you fancy. Serve immediately.

**I purchased an immersion blender after accidentally pouring piping hot soup on myself instead of in the blender. Be very careful!