For this soup--adapted from her 2013 book Vegetable Literacy--author Deborah Madison makes a quick stock from the trimmings of the main ingredients: She sets a pot with 5 cups of water on the stove, and as she chops, she tosses in the squash peels, pulp, and seeds; the ends of the onion; some basil and mint sprigs; and 1 tsp. each of coriander seeds and peppercorns. She lets it simmer, partly covered, and it's ready by the time she needs to strain it for the soup.
2 pounds smooth, dense winter squash, such as butternut, Rugosa, or Musque de Provence
2 tablespoons light sesame oil or olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or 2 tsp. dried
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint or 1 tsp. dried
1 cinnamon stick (3 in. long)
About 1 tsp. sea salt
About 1 tbsp. ground dried New Mexico chiles* or 1/2 tsp. red chile flakes
4 cups quick vegetable stock (see headnote), chicken stock, or water
12 coriander seeds, 12 black peppercorns, and 4 cloves, tied in a cheesecloth sachet
2 tablespoons whipping cream
How to Make It
Peel squash and cut flesh into 1-in. cubes.
Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add squash, onion, basil, and mint and cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add cinnamon stick, 1 tsp. salt, and 1 tbsp. ground chiles, followed by 4 cups stock and the spice sachet. Bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer, and cook, partly covered, until squash is tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove spice sachet and cinnamon stick.
In batches, purée soup in a blender. Season to taste with salt.
Ladle soup into bowls. Swirl 1 tsp. or so of cream into each, leaving it streaky. Finish each with a pinch of ground chiles.
*Ground dried New Mexico chiles are fruitier and milder than other powdered chiles, such as cayenne. Try well-stocked grocery stores, or order Los Chileros mild ground chile (chile molido) from loschileros.com.