During last month’s San Francisco trip, I was stopped in my tracks by Nikki McClure’s charming art book ‘Collecting Raindrops‘- The Seasons Gathered. To flip through its oversize pages is to be sweetly transported and deeply moved. I bought it on the spot, not even looking at the price (at $29.95 US, this delightful treasure is a bargain at 4 times the price).
“Nikki McClure of Olympia, Washington is known for her painstakingly intricate and beautiful paper cuts. Armed with an X-acto knife, she cuts out her images from a single sheet of paper and creates a bold language that translates the complex poetry of motherhood, nature, and activism into a simple and endearing picture…..Her work depicts the virtues of hard labor and patience…..weathered hands washing dishes, people sweeping, mothers caring for their babies, and farmers working the land…..”
‘Collecting Raindrops’ takes its reader on an eloquent tour of the seasons, beginning with the slowed pace and introspection of Winter and finishing with Fall’s harvest and preparations. ‘Share the Table’ (above image) instantly reminds me of my great fondness for soup….cooking it, eating it and, of course, sharing it. There are few foods I can think of that are, both literally and figuratively, as heart warming and restorative as a piping hot bowl of thoughtfully prepared soup. As autumn settles in and the days bring with them a chill….as the harvest provides us with a bounty of hearty, tasty winter produce…..it is, quite simply, time for soup.
Thai-Coconut Squash Soup
This soup is spicy and creamy, yet not too rich. You could also use pumpkin or butternut squash, in place of the acorn. If you like your soup extra spicy, add more curry paste!
2 acorn squash
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, peeled and diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp fresh ginger root, peeled and grated
1 litre chicken stock
1 14-ounce can coconut milk
1 teaspoon (or more) red Thai curry paste
2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt (or to taste)
fresh cracked pepper
1 fresh lime, cut into small wedges
Preheat the oven to 375*
Carefully cut each squash into quarters. Scoop out the seeds and pulp. Slather each piece of squash with butter, sprinkle generously with salt, place on a baking sheet skin sides down, and cover loosely with tin foil. Roast in the oven for about one hour or until the squash is tender throughout.
When the squash is cool enough to handle, scoop it away from its skin. Set aside. In a large pot over medium heat, add olive oil and then onions, stirring and cooking until onions are yellow and clear. Add the garlic, ginger and curry paste. Stir long enough to allow these flavours to become slightly cooked and aromatic. Add the squash and then the chicken stock. Simmer, stirring constantly, until all the vegetables are really tender. Remove from heat. Place the pot in the kitchen sink (to avoid splattering) and puree with a hand blender. Return the pot to the stove, and reduce the heat to low. Add the coconut milk and bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with wedges of lime and squeeze juice into soup just before eating.
Serves 6-8 people.
A few soup quotes…..
“Soup is cuisine’s kindest course. It breathes reassurance; it steams consolation; after a weary day it promotes sociability, as the five o’clock cup of tea or the cocktail hour.”
-Louis P. De Gouy, The Soup Book (1949)
“Only the pure of heart can make good soup”
“Soup puts the heart at ease, calms down the violence of hunger, eliminates the tension of the day, and awakens and refines the appetite.”