Chai enhances butternut squash soup

By on January 7, 2015

I have not run one stride since the “I Can Run” for Hemophilia race on Nov. 15. Not one plank, nothing. I’m feeling badly, soft. I’ve eaten, I’ve cheered, and now it’s time to reign it in.

I thought about doing a “detox” soup, but I don’t believe in “cleansings” and don’t think there are foods that detox the body, so serve more as a mental detox. Throw a couple habanero peppers in your chili; here’s your detox. I then thought of doing a simple, clean, restorative soup after all the rich holiday foods, like mushroom broth, leek, or miso.

I decided on this because butternut squash is still good this time of year, and chai tea is supposed to “detox.” Chai is a fragrant, black-tea blend that often includes cardamon, cinnamon, clove, ginger and black pepper. It’s in any grocery store. Some say it originated in what is now India, while others attribute chai to Thai origins. It is said that a king created it as a cleansing, vivifying beverage. Whatever. I don’t drink chai tea, but it’s a different, easy way to add an exotic flavor.

This month is also the return of Downton Abbey! Oriental fashion trends were a big influence in the 1920s. It wasn’t all about fringed dresses, long beads and flappers. I’m not sure Downton Abbey has exposed it because it might be too confusing for the viewers, and the Granthams were not into trends anyway. But the producers do seem to keep things true to the era. For example, I’m sure the women’s eyes would be enhanced with mascara, but they don’t wear it in Downton Abbey because it was not available then. Melissa Gilbert, when starring in Little House on the Prairie in the 80s wore big hair and racing stripe blush. It was a turn-off. You don’t want to watch a show or movie with me because all I do is critique &tstr; the strawberry stem is on the strawberry as she picks it and magically disappears when she eats it. I annoy even myself. Anyway, can’t wait for the show!

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Butternut Squash Soup with Chai

Ingredients

3 pounds butternut squash

3 scallions (green onion stalks)

2 tablespoons butter

1 chai flavored tea bag

2 tablespoons crème frâiche or

heavy cream, plus extra for

serving

4½ cups milk

Salt, pepper, chicken bouillon,

brown sugar, to taste

 

Directions

  1. Peel and seed squash, then cut into ½-inch pieces. Mince scallion whites and scallion greens.
  2. Prepare a ½ cup of chai tea as usual.
  3. Melt butter in a large soup pot over medium-high heat.
  4. Add onions and cook, stirring frequently until translucent.
  5. Add tea to butter mixture.
  6. Cook until fragrant, stirring constantly, about 1 minute. Stir in butternut squash and milk.
  7. Cover, reduce heat to medium and cook until the squash is tender. Take from heat and let cool slightly.
  8. Blend the soup in the pot with an immersion blender. Add crème frâiche or heavy cream.
  9. Bring soup to a simmer. Taste and adjust seasoning.

A butternut squash is manageable to cut, if I can do it, you can. I was skeptical of this combination, but it works. Because of its warm spice notes, it’s a keeper for me in the winter. Play with the taste. The first time I made it, I realized it didn’t produce enough, so I added a can of unspiced pumpkin, a stick of cream cheese, and brown sugar. It was so good! I don’t buy canned items much, but it did save time and extended the soup.

Michele Walter Fry welcomes your comments and recipes at michelewalterfry@gmail.com.

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