I’m always amazed how people come in and out of your life. Sometimes they are there for the long haul, other times they just seem to pop in and out and then there are those in the middle that you expect will endure, but surprisingly fade away. I used to mourn the idea of losing touch with a friend, but I’ve come to realize there is a better way by enjoying the time you have, finding personal growth in the relationship and learning about yourself and the type of friend you are and strive to be. Hopefully, both your life and theirs will be enhanced having spent time together….no matter the duration. Moving half-way across our country has made me appreciate this sentiment, but I don’t do it with a heavy heart, rather with the awareness of how fortunate I’ve been to have cared for so many who reciprocated with matched affection.
Funny how life works out, but just before I arrived in Texas a special friend also relocated here from NC. I crossed paths with Sarah through the club industry and was quickly impressed by her professionalism and desire to excel and master her field. It’s almost second nature to her to consider the impact of decisions and policies far beyond the immediate result but rather for the vision of the organization. Impressively her ambitions don’t preclude her from a willingness to seek alternate perspectives nor does she shirk any chore or request as something “outside of her area”. The flip side (there’s always a yang) is that her dedication at work often conflicts with a commitment to self….which leaves going to the market, let alone cooking, a dismal priority. Needless to say, I worry…her poor taste buds need a little week day ooolala!
I’ve not been to Rancho La Puerta (sniff sniff), but this creamy, spicy and yes, healthy squash soup hails from the famed spa. On a good day, if I squeeze my eyes shut and imagine so hard that billows of steam practically puff from my ears, I’m transported there in one delicious spoonful….albeit only for a few brief whiffs of wellness heaven. Obviously I didn’t come by the recipe firsthand (ahem), I came across it 5 years ago in Bon Appétit and have been making it ever since- for me, as well as my close friends Eileen and Catherine who evidently endorse it because I’ve never seen one remaining speck in either of their bowls. Sorry ladies! I figure if I make Sarah a pot of this soup she’ll have a dinner waiting for her each night that is tasty, nourishing and perhaps a bit inspiring. It’s the least I can do to express how having her in Texas makes my husband and I less disconnected from our previous life and more like being home…..a sense of family in this vast state.
Adapted from Rancho La Puerta's Azteca Squash Soup.
I go crazy for homemade chicken broth and you can make this soup with it, but you really don't need to as there are so many bold flavors going on already.
- 3 lb butternut squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
- 2 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for squash
- 2 cups yellow onion, medium chop (about 1 large)
- 4 celery stalks, medium chop
- 2 TBSP chopped garlic (about 6 cloves)
- 5 cups homemade vegetable broth
- 15 oz can black beans (low or no sodium)
- 10 oz bag frozen sweet corn, thawed
- 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and medium chop
- 1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- 1 TBSP chopped fresh thyme
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 serrano chile, minced (cored and seeded if you want to reduce heat)
- 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- Preheat the oven to 400 and line a baking sheet with foil for easy clean-up.
- Rub the cut side of the squash with some olive oil, generously sprinkle with salt and pepper and place cut side down on prepared baking sheet. Roast for 45-50 minutes until fork tender. Let cool until comfortable to handle and scoop the flesh out and reserve for later.
- While the squash is roasting, heat the 3 TBSP of olive oil over medium-high heat (I used a 9 quart Dutch oven, but a 6 quart pot will do the trick). Add the onions, turn the heat to medium-low and cook for about 5 minutes until soft and slightly browned.
- Add the garlic and celery and cook for another minute.
- Pour in 1 cup of broth, bring to a simmer and cover and cook for 10 minutes. Stir once.
- Add the squash, cumin, remaining 4 cups of broth and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 20 minutes.
- Remove the pot from the heat and let cool slightly (about 5 minutes).
- Using an immersion blender, purée the soup.
- Add the beans, corn, both peppers, cilantro, thyme and salt. Cover and simmer for 10 more minutes.
- Enjoy as is or with some sinfully delicious toppings! Like cool sour cream and crushed tortilla chips. Fresh chopped cilantro is also a nice contrast.