Monday, January 23, 2012

A great veggie soup for the season!

              I love this time of year, when winter weather makes us sort of cocoon in our houses and long for warming soups and stews.  Well, usually, although this year we've had precious little real winter weather!
 I’d picked up a butternut squash and was browsing online for some sort of soup that wasn’t just a squash purée.  I didn’t find a soup recipe I liked, but I did find several complimentary references to a private label canned soup from a market chain: “Butternut Squash Possole (sic) with Collard Greens.”  But  I have a friend from the southwest who had served posole once a while back.  I remembered liking it…so why not give it a try?
                The collard greens part wasn’t to my taste so I just left it out.  My very first attempt was, untypically, the version I’m giving you here.  Usually I have to work through a couple of tries in a recipe to make it to my liking. 
                You’ll only use half of a smallish (3-4 pound) squash but the other half can be diced, tossed with a bit of olive oil and an Italian herb blend and roasted in a hot oven until just starting to brown around the edges. That will make a good side dish for a chicken or pork main dish later in the week. 
                The posole I’d been served was very thick, like a stew, but if you’d like a “soupier” dish, just add the larger amount of stock.
                I served this with a wedge of lime and a sprinkling of cilantro.  I know there are those who hate cilantro (my husband, for instance), so just leave it off for them. 
However you tweak it to suit your tastes, I think this recipe will be a keeper for you, as it is for me.


2 tbsp. vegetable oil
5 cloves garlic, peeled and very thinly sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tbsp. chili powder blend (see note)
2 cans diced tomato, with juices
1 tbsp. tomato paste
1 to 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 tsp salt
3 cups butternut squash, peeled and cut into ½” dice
1 15-oz can white hominy, rinsed and drained
1 15-oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
Lime wedges and chopped cilantro, for garnish

                In a heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and stir a few times, then add the onion.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until very soft but not browned.  Add the oregano, cumin and chili powder, stir well and let simmer a couple of minutes.  Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, stock and salt.  Raise heat, bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and let simmer gently for about ten minutes.
                Stir in the squash, return to a simmer, cover and cook until the squash is almost tender, about 15 minutes.  Add the hominy and black beans and continue to simmer until the squash is tender, about  another 10 minutes. 
                Taste and add salt if needed.  Ladle into bowls and garnish with lime wedges and chopped cilantro.  Serves 6 to 8.

NOTE:  Mexene is quite an acceptable supermarket shelf chili powder blend, but I am particularly fond of Penzey’s Chili 9000 blend.  It’s a bit spicier than Mexene, but if you like a milder blend, Penzey’s Chili 3000 is also quite tasty.
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