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Andrew Carmellini's coconut-curry butternut squash soup with lemongrass recipe

"This is a perfect cold-winter-day recipe: The soup is rich and savory and a little bit spicy, and the coolness of the cilantro yogurt and the crunch of the dhana dal balance out the intense flavors of the soup. The inspiration was Indian pumpkin curry, a dish you can find in the restaurants in legendary New York Indian neighborhoods like Jackson Heights, Queens. Patel Brothers, the jumpin’ Indian supermarket at the heart of the neighborhood, sells of all the ingredients — huge bags of dhana dal, fresh ginger root the size of my arm, and beautiful vibrant cilantro. But you can probably find most everything you need for this recipe at your local market.

Andrew Carmellini offers an Indian-inspired take on a winter favorite: butternut squash soup.
Quentin Bacon

I like to garnish this soup with dhana dal: That’s the inside part of the coriander seed, roasted in ghee (clarified butter) and salted. It’s got this great crunchy-salty thing going: It’s perfect as a topping for all kinds of soups and vegetables. If you can’t find it near you and you want that crunch, you can garnish the soup with toasted almonds, but the taste will definitely be different. A lot of supermarkets and groceries carry fresh lemongrass in the herb section these days, but if you can’t get your hands any, use the dried stuff."

— Andrew Carmellini

15 inspiring recipes for cooking with winter produce


For the cilantro yogurt:

  • 1 c thick yogurt, preferably Greek
  • 1 c cilantro leaves, loosely packed, roughly chopped
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 T extra-virgin olive oil

For the soup:

  • 2 small butternut squash (about 3 lbs; 6 c when cut into chunks)
  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 T unsalted butter
  • 1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped (2 c)
  • One 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and roughly chopped (¼ c)
  • ¼ stalk lemongrass, sliced (¼ c), or ½ t dried lemongrass
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced
  • 1 T curry powder, preferably Madras
  • 2 small sweet apples, such as Gala or Macintosh, peeled, cored, and roughly chopped (about 2 c)
  • 1 qt chicken broth, vegetable broth, or water
  • One 14-fl oz can coconut milk
  • 1 t salt
  • 2 T dhana dal, for garnish

For the cilantro yogurt:

1. In a medium-sized bowl, stir together the yogurt, cilantro, salt, and olive oil.

For the soup:

1. Using a large serrated knife, cut the top and bottom off each butternut squash.

2. Cut the squash in half right where the round part meets the long part. Using the serrated knife, peel the skin off the long part of the squash, shaving lengthwise.

3. Cut the round part in half. Use a spoon to scoop the seeds and guts out of the cavity of each half.

4. Using the serrated knife, shave the skin off the round parts of the squash: Cut lengthwise, holding the squash section on top to save your fingers. Then, place each piece on the cutting board, flat side down, to cut off any leftover pieces of skin.

5. Chop the squash into big chunks.

6. In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil and butter over medium-high heat.

7. When the butter melts, add the onion, ginger, and lemongrass, and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion begins to soften but not color and the lemongrass aroma is released, for about 5 minutes.

8. Add the garlic and curry powder, and mix so the onions and lemongrass are coated in the curry. Toast the curry for 30 seconds, stirring frequently, until you’ve brought out the aromas.

9. Add the butternut squash, apples, broth, and coconut milk to the pot and mix well.

10. Increase the heat to high, and stir in the salt. Bring the soup up to a low boil.

11. Then, reduce the heat to low, and simmer, uncovered, until the apples and squash are soft, for about 20-30 minutes.

12. Working in batches, spoon the soup into a blender, being careful to fill the blender only about halfway. (I like to put a towel over the top of the blender, and hold it down to make sure the hot stuff stays inside.) Blend the soup until it’s completely smooth, starting at the lowest speed and slowly increasing as the soup breaks down.

13. Strain the blended soup through a fine-meshed strainer into another pot, pushing the soup through the strainer with the back of a spoon or ladle.

14. Divide the soup into individual bowls. Top each one with a large dollop of the cilantro yogurt, and sprinkle the dhana dal over the top. Serve immediately.

Serves: 6-8

From "American Flavor" by Andrew Carmellini. Copyright (c) 2011 by Andrew Carmellini and Gwen Hyman. Printed by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

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