It’s Lent, and I’m a Catholic school teacher. That means I bring my faith and religion to work with me every day, and I bring my work to my faith and religion every day. At my school, we talk about our Catholic faith a lot, in all classes-not just in religion class.
My middle school students were happy to discuss with me in literature class what they were giving up for Lent or what they were adding to their prayer life to make their Lent more meaningful. We were all ready to begin this liturgical season, all of us #LeaningintoLent together.
Our middle school religion teacher is also our assistant principal, and along with her administrative duties to support the principal, she is also our in-house spiritual guide. In our Sunday evening email entitled “This Week”, she outlines the coming week’s calendar and school events, ending it with a prayer, a reflection on a passage of scripture, or a quote from a saint.
Last Sunday’s email reminded us that even though Wednesday was February 14th and therefore Valentine’s Day, it was also Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, and as Catholics, we were to fast and abstain from eating meat. Abstaining from meat is the easy part…it’s the fasting that takes some discipline.
I decided to make a big pot of soup to bring to school on Ash Wednesday to share with my colleagues, to help us all out with having a small snack-sized meal at lunch, something to give us the energy to make it through the rest of the school day. My husband had brought home two butternut squash from the grocery store and one of them was crying out to be made into a thick and creamy vegetarian soup!
There are quite a few butternut squash soup recipes simmering away on the internet, and after researching all of them, as usual, I took the things I liked from one, and added them to the things I liked from another, to come up with my own version. My original twists were the addition of herbes de Provence to season the aromatics at the beginning, and dans le style Belge, just before serving, the addition of equal parts of brown sugar and vinegar to brighten the flavors at the end of cooking.
It must have been a hit, because almost five quarts of my butternut squash disappeared that day!
If you need a belly-warming vegetarian meal for your Lenten Fridays, or if you just want to enjoy the last days of soup weather in a healthy way, try my version of butternut soup. Let me know how it turns out!
Curried Coconut Butternut Squash Soup with Apples
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium leek, well-cleaned and rinsed, dark green parts discarded and light green/white parts finely chopped
- 1 bunch green onions, dark green parts discarded and light green/white parts finely sliced
- 1 red bell pepper, cored and seeded, diced
- 3 stalks of celery, finely diced
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
- ¼ tsp herbes de Provence
- 1 tsp curry powder
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 medium-size butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1” inch cubes
- 2 medium-sized Granny Smith apples, peeled and cored, diced
- 1 14-ounce (414 ml) can light coconut milk
- 2 32-ounce cartons of vegetable broth
- 1 tbsp brown sugar (light or dark, either is fine)
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- Heat oil in a large, heavy pot (5 quart or larger) over medium heat.
- Once hot, add leeks, green onions, bell pepper, and celery. Season with salt, pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, herbes de Provence, curry powder, and cumin. Sauté until vegetables are soft, about 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add butternut squash and apples. Stir to coat. Then cover and cook for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add coconut milk and vegetable broth. Stir well.
- Bring to a low boil over medium heat and then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes or until butternut squash is fork tender.
- Use an immersion blender, or transfer soup to a blender, and purée on high until creamy and smooth. If using a blender, return soup back to pot.
- Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more curry powder, salt, or chili paste (or sriracha for heat). Continue cooking for 10 minutes over medium heat.
- Just before serving, add apple cider vinegar and brown sugar. Stir well. Serve as is or with garnishes of choice (toasted pumpkin seeds, grated fresh coconut, chili paste, etc.). Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for 3-4 days or in the freezer up to 1 month.