Fresh Ideas: Butternut Squash and Spinach

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I grew butternut squash in my compost this year. Yup…it was not at all intentional but I am extremely happy to have the “volunteer” vegetables.

Since I have quite a few, I’m using them quite a bit in my cooking. I’ve been roasting them up for snacking and for salads, and adding them soups and stews, too.

This soup, which features not just squash but also fresh spinach and organic chicken, has absolutely incredible flavor. It’s adapted from the book Tangy Tart Hot and Sweet: A World of Recipes for Every Day by Padma Lakshmi, and it’s got herbs and spices that are used in both Thai and Indian cuisines.

I used fresh homegrown lemongrass in here, and if you don’t have this, look for it at your local Asian market. An Asian market would also be a good place to find kaffir lime leaves.

Indian-Thai Chicken Soup with Butternut Squash and Spinach

Adapted from Tangy Tart Hot and Sweet: A World of Recipes for Every Day by Padma Lakshmi.

Yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole chicken, approximately 3-4 pounds, preferably organic/free-range
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, chopped into 4-5 pieces and sliced down the middle
  • 2 green or red chiles, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons minced ginger
  • 5 kaffir lime leaves
  • 3 large organic carrots, peeled and chopped
  • approximately 3 cups of chopped butternut squash
  • 4 cups of organic chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 4 cups of water, plus more if necessary
  • approximately 4 large handfuls of spinach
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt, or to taste
  • sriracha (or your favorite hot sauce; I used my own homemade chile garlic sauce)- to taste
  • minced cilantro for garnish- to taste

Directions:

1. Heat olive oil in a large soup pot. When it is hot, add cumin seeds and stir around for 1-2 minutes. Place chicken in the pot and allow to sear for a minute or so on each side. Add a little water if necessary to prevent the chicken and cumin seeds from burning.

2. Add chopped onion and cook for several minutes, moving the chicken around, again adding a little water to prevent burning.

3. Add the rest of the ingredients through the butternut squash, then add stock and water. Bring to a boil, skim any foam that rises to the top, and then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 60-70 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through, turning the chicken over in the stew every now and then.

4. Carefully remove the chicken and allow to cool in a separate bowl. Chop or shred into bite-size pieces.

5. Add spinach and sea salt to the stew, and simmer for about 5 more minutes. Remove lemongrass and lime leaves, douse with chile sauce or sriracha, and sprinkle with cilantro before serving.

–Winnie Abramson writes the organic gardening and food blog Healthy Green Kitchen.

Photo credits: Winnie Abramson

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