Meatless Monday: Curried Squash Soup With Apple-Cheddar Melts

Butternut squash, curry powder and cheddar make for a surprisingly addictive flavor combination. Expect to go for seconds of this curried butternut soup.
By: Michelle Buffardi
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When I say that my favorite food is soup, I'm not speaking in hyperbole, I mean that in a completely literal way. It's my favorite food delivery system. And I don't just love one kind of soup: I love soup like Bubba Gump loves shrimp. I love vegetable soup and sweet potato soup and carrot soup and lentil soup. I'm crazy for chili and chowder and stew and bisque.

Here's why I love soup so much: 1) it can be a meal or part of a meal  -- eat it with a sandwich or salad or eat it on it's own -- and it's really easy to include all of the food groups in one bowl. 2) You can use up the extra stuff in your fridge and pantry easily by throwing it into soup (add spinach or eggs or rice or potatoes to your soup if you have 'em, or make croutons from day-old bread). 3) Soup is usually made from pretty healthy ingredients which makes it totally okay to have seconds (thirds?) without worrying if your pants will fit. You can't say that about pasta dishes.

Butternut soup is a favorite of mine because it's sort of special. We always have butternut squash soup at my family's Thanksgiving dinner, so when I make it on regular days throughout the season, if feels celebratory and a little bit fancy. You can pair it with grilled cheese, like Rachael Ray does, or make cheese toasts -- like open-faced grilled cheese sandwiches -- out of day-old bread toasted with a piece of cheese on top and float that on top of your soup. Curry works really well with butternut squash, and surprisingly, with cheddar, making the squash-curry-cheddar combo in this recipe a nearly-addictive one.

Serves: 4
Curried Squash Soup:

1 large butternut or other orange-fleshed squash or pumpkin, peeled, deseeded and sliced

EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil), for drizzling
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
2 slightly round tablespoons prepared curry powder
2 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons butter
3 to 4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 carrots, thinly sliced
1 Gala or other crisp apple, peeled and chopped
1 onion, chopped

1 quart chicken or vegetable stock (use vegetable to make it completely meatless)

Chopped scallions and cilantro, for garnish
Apple and Cheddar Melts:
8 slices good-quality white bread
Butter, softened, for spreading
Prepared chutney, such as Patak's Major Gray Mango Chutney
12 ounces sharp Cheddar, shredded or sliced
1 Gala or other crisp apple, peeled and thinly sliced

Cook's Note: For a substitute for curry powder, combine 2 teaspoons turmeric, 1 1/2 teaspoons each ground cumin and ground coriander, 1/2 teaspoon each ground mustard and ground ginger and 1/4 teaspoon each ground cinnamon and cayenne pepper.

For the curried squash soup: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Dress the squash with the EVOO to coat lightly. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and a little freshly grated nutmeg, and coat with the curry powder. Drizzle the honey all over and roast until golden on the edges and very tender, about 25 minutes. The spices will toast with the squash and fill the air with a terrific aroma.

Meanwhile heat a drizzle of EVOO in a soup pot over medium to medium-high heat, and then add the butter to melt. Stir in the garlic, carrots, apples and onions and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook, partially covered, until softened, about 10 minutes.

Pour in the stock and a drizzle of honey (or chutney). Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are softened, about 20 minutes. Add the roasted squash and puree with an immersion blender, thinning the soup with water if necessary. The soup can alternately be pureed in batches in a food processor or high-power blender. Adjust the seasoning. Cool and store for a make-ahead meal, bringing to room temperature before reheating over a medium flame. Garnish with the scallions and cilantro.

For the apple and cheddar melts: Spread each bread slice with softened butter on 1 side and chutney on the other. Fill the sandwiches, chutney sides-in, with the cheese and apples in the center. Griddle the sandwiches over medium heat until deeply golden and the cheese has melted.

More Meatless Soup Recipes:
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