What to cook this week: Roasted butternut and leek soup with cumin and coriander

This silky butternut squash soup is the perfect winter warmer.
Roasted butternut and leek soup with cumin and coriander
Pepitas, or hulled pumpkin seeds, add a lovely crunch to contrast with the creaminess of this soothing soup.Cheyenne M. Cohen
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By Katie Workman

Butternut squash soup is truly one of the most beautiful and comforting soups around, no matter how you season it. Frankly you could puree up some roasted squash with some broth and a splash of cream, season it with salt and pepper, and be in soup heaven. But silky, pretty butternut squash soup takes so well to all kinds of seasonings, you can play with the flavors indefinitely. This version leans on cumin, coriander and cayenne pepper for a bit of heat (you can use less if you prefer a milder soup). It's finished with a splash of citrus to brighten it up, and a generous pour of cream to give it lushness.

Make sure when you cook the leeks you cook them over low until they are jammy-tender, so that they puree up smoothly with the squash. Keep the heat low, and add a splash of water as needed if they seem to be browning.

Here's some info about how to prep a butternut squash for roasting. But if you wanted to take a shortcut and buy peeled and cubed squash to save some time, go for it. All’s fair in squash and Thanksgiving.

If you want to make this soup ahead of time, you can. In a perfect world you will plan ahead so you can leave out the cream, and when you reheat the soup, just add it at the end to warm through. I like adding any dairy just before serving, so that if the soup should come to a simmer, it won’t be at risk of separating.

Pepitas are hulled pumpkin seeds, and they add a lovely crunch to contrast with the creaminess of this soothing soup. You could also make these ridiculously easy Puff Pastry Croutons to float on top.

Serve this soup with Pepper Jack and Green Chili Corn Muffins or Spinach, Mushroom, and Chicken Quesadillas

Ingredients:

1 large butternut squash (about 3 pounds), peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 teaspoon ground coriander

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1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 medium leeks, white and very light green parts, thinly sliced and cleaned

3 cups chicken or vegetable broth, or as needed

1 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice

Pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds) for garnish

Preparation:

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.

2. Spread the squash cubes on a rimmed baking sheet (they will crowd each other; that’s ok).

3. In a large soup pot (which you will use later) melt the butter with the coriander, cumin and chili powder, stirring until you can smell the spices. Pour the butter over the squash and toss to coat the squash with the spiced butter. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 40 minutes until the squash is golden brown and very tender.

4. While the squash is roasting, heat the olive oil in the pan you melted the butter in over medium-low heat and cook the leeks, partially covered, for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until very soft but not browned. Add a splash of water as needed to keep the leeks from browning.

5. Transfer the leek mixture to a food processor or blender and add 1 cup of the broth. Puree until fairly smooth (there will be flecks of leeks). Return it to the pot. Add the cooked squash with 1 more cup of the broth and puree until smooth. Add this mixture to the leek-broth mixture, add the remaining cup of broth, and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Stir in the lemon or lime juice and the cream and cook, stirring frequently, for another minute until hot but not simmering. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

6. Serve hot with the pepitas on top for garnish.

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