Recipe Source: Esalen Cookbook: Healthy and Organic Recipes from Big Sur © 2006 Charlie Cascio
This is a recipe I found after checking out the Esalen cookbook, after falling in love with another of its soups I found on 101 Cookbooks, and after falling in love with Esalen itself. I went to Esalen on a three-day retreat after graduating college, when a lot of life changes were going on for me, much bigger than just entering “the real world” post-academia. It was a place of healing and hope, a tiny, nurturing world of its own hidden away in the mist of Big Sur, and it will always hold a very dear place in my heart. I hope to go back one day. In the meantime, I have my memories, one being the lovely garden and the sensual, wholesome food prepared from it. I don’t know if I had this soup there, but maybe one day I will. For now, I’ll be content to make it at home.
Most people have eaten butternut squash without knowing it. The canned pumpkin that is found in the supermarket that a lot of people make pumpkin pie out of is, in all honesty, butternut squash. Butternut has an exceptionally good flavor and a creamy texture. Roasting concentrates the sugars and flavor of this orange-fleshed winter squash. The spicy curry and the creaminess of the coconut milk give this soup another dynamic.
1 large butternut squash
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium-size onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 stalks celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 tablespoons curry powder
3 cups coconut milk
2 tablespoons sea salt
3 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock, or water
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
Sunflower seed for garnish (optional)
Place a large butternut on a baking tray and bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees F. Roast for about 1 hour; it is done when you can stick a knife into the squash and there is no resistance (it goes through like butter). Split the squash in half; scoop out and discard the seeds. Scoop out the pulp and set aside.
Place oil in a 6-quart soup pot over high heat and sauté onion until it is translucent, about 5 minutes. Then add the celery and curry powder and sauté until the celery is tender. Turn heat down to medium and add the butternut pulp, coconut milk, salt, and stock or water. Blend with a hand mixer or whisk by hand until you have a smooth consistency. Heat until soup is hot, add cilantro, and serve.
Serves 4 to 6.
For an excellent taste, add chunks of fresh goat cheese or fresh cream to the soup before serving.