Julia Spencer-Fleming: Well, it's been quite a week here at Jungle Reds - hurricane, power outages, travel interruptions. Up here in Maine, we got electricity back mid-day Wednesday. Hurrah! Then on Thursday, my husband Ross discovered steaming hot water literaly bubbling out of our hot water heater (thank heavens our 200-year-old house has beaten dirt floor in the cellar.) To stop the machine from parboiling itself, he had to turn off the oil burner, which also, alas, turns off the furnace.
I'm not sure if it was the earthquake or the superstorm that caused the damage, but I do know five days without heat and hot water is a bit too much. We have decamped to a seaside hotel to lick our wounds and take showers.
In times of trial, we want comforting things, and so today I'm sharing my recipe for peanut butternut squash soup. It's the easiest thing ever to make, delicious and nutritious, and keeps well atop a wood stove when the power's out. When we get home, if my oven doesn't explode, I'm going to make a batch.
One good-sized butternut squash
One onion, diced
Two cans chicken broth (you can substitute vegetable broth if you or your guests are vegetarian.)
1/4 to 1/3 cup natural peanut butter (don't use the pre-blended Jiffy or Peter Pan type)
One can Coconut milk
1/2 tsp cumin
cayenne pepper or hot sauce to taste
two bay leaves.
Peel and chop the butternut squash into cubes. Sautee the squash with the onion until the onion wilts. (You can use butter or oil for the sauteeing. I like to use soy oil - it gives it a bit of a taste.)
Pour in the broth to cover. Boil until the squash is very soft. Take off heat and process it in batches in the food processor until everything is smooth and creamy. (You can also use a masher in the pot if you like a more textured soup.)
Stir in the natural peanut butter. You can add more or less as you like - it should taste of peanuts but not not so strongly that you feel like you ought to add grape jelly to the thing. Drop in the bay leaves and let simmer for up to an hour to develop the flavor. I'm not much one for salt, but if you are, go ahead and use your shaker. If the mixture starts to get too think and paste-like, throw some more broth into it.
Remove from heat and stir in the coconut milk and cumin. Add enough cayenne pepper or hot sauce to give it a bite. Serve and share with family or friends. Don't forget to be thankful for having heat and hot water.