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Spiced Butternut Squash Soup from Paula Wolfert

I’ve been enchanted by Paula Wolfert’s book The Food of Morocco since it came out last year.  I raved about all the great dishes that everyone made from it for the event hosted by the Culinary Historians of New York featuring Ms. Wolfert, but I hadn’t yet tried my hand at any of them.  Food and Wine also did a feature on some of the recipes, which I’d set aside to make later.  One in particular caught my eye, the Spiced Butternut Squash Soup, which seemed like a perfect thing to make on this snowy Saturday.

I used a kabocha squash

In anticipation of the arriving storm, I’d stocked up on the ingredients.  I even managed to track down a goats cheese cheddar from Patches of Star farm at the Union Square Greenmarket.  It might not have been exactly the same as the one called for in the recipe, but it imparted a tangy, creamy flavor that when combined with a dollop of crème fraîche and a smidgen of harissa livened up the squash and blended well with the La Kama spice mixture which was cooked with the vegetables.

La Kama spice blend (Wolfert suggests using the leftover with roasted vegetables)

As with many winter vegetable soup recipes, this came together relatively quickly after the labor of dismantling and de-gutting the squash.  I should have taken a photo of the whole messy process, but my hands were too sticky and I wasn’t quite sure how attractive it would have been to see a picture of all the seeds and fibrous mass that came out of the kabocha splayed all over my countertops.  It’s kitchen carnage at its best.

Mixing everything together

When finished, the soup has a vibrant orange color, made even richer in texture by flecks of the spices.  Sometimes I find that these single vegetable dishes can be dull and bland; however, that is not the case here.  The heat from the harrisa, the sour pucker of the cream, and the earthiness of the aged goats cheese cut through the strong notes of the squash to create a harmonious spoonful of warm, soul-filling flavor.  The aroma is enticing without being heavy, leaving one to dream about warmer, more exotic shores far away from our current winter wonderland.

Buon appetito!

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