I came into possession of some gorgeous poblano peppers, which have been looking mighty fine in the market even as all the produce around them begins to show signs of jet lag. So I set out to make my friend Julie’s “Three Sisters and One Spicy Brother” squash soup, which is some mighty soup, but when I unearthed the recipe in my bin of scraps and magazines, I found I lacked a few of the things required to produce it. The principle missing ingredient was time: one of the sisters is white beans, and I did not have time to soak and cook them. There was no big, looming deadline, really–I just wanted this soup for dinner.
Right behind her recipe in the bin was an old squash soup of mine that was pretty tasty, as I recall. But sitting there on the counter next to Julie’s recipe and the peppers, it started to take notions into its head. A hybrid version resulted.
I’ve made it a couple of times now, because the poblanos continue to wink and sparkle at me as I troll the store wishing it were still summertime (only from a produce standpoint), and each time I forget how I did it the time before and still end up with something that makes the consumers pretty happy, so my net opinion is that you cannot go very far wrong combining these ingredients. If you are curious, the main difference is that sometimes I leave the bulb end of the squash whole and roast it, and then mash it, and sometimes I dice the whole squash and cook half of it with the aromatics in the soup pot, and then puree it all together with my trusty stick blender. No obvious difference is apparent. I gave you the half and half method below, because it spares you peeling and chopping the peskier bulb end while it is raw, but it’s your call.
There’s some grunt work involved. Can’t lie about that.
Butchering a butternut squash is aerobic work, and you have to get a pan and the oven involved.
But once all the prep work is done, the soup itself comes together in a snap.
And then you get to eat it.
two sisters and one spicy brother soup
2 or 3 poblano peppers
1 large butternut squash
3T olive oil, divided
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1″ of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped (not too fine)
2-3t ground cumin
3/4 t salt
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (see note), finely minced
10 oz frozen corn kernels
1 c chopped fresh cilantro, or basil as an alternative
Roast the poblano peppers over a gas burner flame or under the broiler until well charred all over. Plop them into a small bowl and cover it, so the trapped steam can loosen the skin for you. Once they are cool enough to handle, do the messy work of slipping their peels off, seeding them, and chopping them up into a quarter-inch dice. Try to resist the urge to rinse them, as they lose roastiness when you do. Stray bits of charred peel won’t harm the end result. You can do this a day or two in advance if you like.
Heat the oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and also grab a medium baking dish. Hack the bulb end of the squash off the neck end. Stand the bulb end on its cut side, halve it, and scrape out the seeds. Place the bulb ends, cut side down, into the baking dish with a little water and slide it into the oven while you continue to wrestle the rest of the squash into submission.
Slice off the stem end and stand the neck section up on the cutting board. Slice vertically from stem to stern, into half-inch slices, and then go about peeling those and chopping them into cubes that will fit nicely in your soup spoon. Toss them with a tablespoon of oil, and spread on the baking sheet. Roast the cubes about 25 minutes, until just golden and tender. Keep the bulb ends in there all this while, and when they slump a bit, they are ready to come out, too. Set all of this aside to cool.
Heat the remaining oil in a large, heavy pot. Saute the onion until it begins to soften and lightly brown, then add the garlic, ginger, salt, cumin and chipotle and keep cooking until it is all nicely fragrant, about another minute.
Now scrape the cooked flesh from the bulby parts of the squash into the pot, and thoroughly mash it around with your spoon until it is pretty smooth. Add about 6 cups of water, the roasted squash cubes and the corn, and mix everything very well. Bring it to a simmer, and let it cook for about ten minutes. Stir in the cilantro, and taste for salt and heat.
The promised NOTE on the chipotle peppers: little cans of these are sold in the Latin or Spanish section of most every grocery store. I buy a can about every six months, dump the contents of the can into a small tub, jar or freezer bag, and use it as I need it.