Friday, February 17, 2012

Butternut Squash Posole

If you like southwestern/mexican food, this is sure to become one of your favorite recipes. We visited Sante Fe, New Mexico a few years back on our road trip from North Carolina to California. I was struck by how delicious, fresh, and innovative the food was in Sante Fe, in addition to the beautiful setting in the mountains and interesting architecture. One of the things I loved about their cuisine was the incorporation of squash and hearty greens with traditional southwestern flavors. Posole is a southwestern soup made with hominy (essentially, large soaked corn kernels) that often includes pork, but I think this vegetarian version is even better and will appeal just as well to non-vegetarian eaters. One of the keys to this recipe is using real dried chiles as the base for the soup - chili powder just doesn't cut it here. Fortunately, good dried chiles are easier to find and cheaper than you'd think - I found a big bag of New Mexican chiles (or "chile pods") at Whole Foods for a few dollars. I'd definitely recommend not skipping the toppings here (queso fresco and hulled pumpkin seeds) as they add a nice balance and texture to the soup. Like many soup dishes, this is equally good if not better reheated the next day.

Butternut Squash Posole
Serves 4

Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Extra virgin olive oil
1 small (~ 2lb.) butternut squash, peeled and cut into small cubes
1 28 oz. can hominy (including water from can)
1 white onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 dried New Mexican chiles (chile pods)
1 t. cumin
1 t. dried oregano
3 c. water
1 bunch collard greens, leaves ripped from stems and coarsely chopped
Kosher salt
Queso fresco, crumbled, for serving
Toasted salted hulled pumpkin seeds (pepitas), for serving

Heat 1 c. of boiling water. Rip the stems off of the chiles and shake out the seeds (discard seeds). Put the dried chiles in a blender and pour the boiling water over the chiles. Pressing down on the lid of the blender, blend the chiles and water until smooth. Let sit while preparing the squash, onion, garlic, and greens.

Heat 1 T. olive oil in a large stockpot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and saute for about 5 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and saute for another 30 seconds. Add the cumin and oregano, then add the butternut squash and stir to combine. Add the hominy (and water from the can), 2 additional cups of water, and 1 t. kosher salt. Bring to a low boil, then reduce heat to medium low and let simmer for 15 minutes. Add the collard greens, then simmer for an additional 30 minutes until the squash is tender. Taste for seasoning and add any additional salt if necssary to your liking (I added 1 t.). Ladle into bowls and top with crumbed queso fresco cheese and pumpkin seeds. I served this with a side of whole-grain cornbread using the recipe on the back of Bob Red Mill's organic medium-ground cornmeal.

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