Spicy Squash and Chorizo Soup

Today marks a sad day. I usually never let good produce go to waste, but after coming home and inspecting the three miniature squashes I had left out on a decorative platter on the coffee table, as a decorative touch to the room, I discovered that I had overestimated their coffee table life. They were no longer firm and heavy, but sickly hollow-feeling, and the acorn squash’s lizard-green skin was a bit wrinkled, with one spot of mold on the pleated base. These were remnants from my last CSA pickup, which was, oh, about a month ago (another tear of remorse). There’s surely no use crying over spilled milk, or expired ingredients. But the thought of the good meals that could have been had with these squashes suddenly brought on a floodgate of memory, and a conviction to do right by some lost opportunity.

Which brings me to this squash and chorizo soup. One of the reasons I began writing this blog was so that I could simply remember, and share, all the great food I was making. In the process, many recipes got left to the wayside, many memorable nights of feasting, too irresistible to just savor in their moments rather than record. A good handful of these occasions took place about one year ago, when a friend and I set forth on a spree of inventive dinner parties with friends. The concept was simple: we’d each invite two of our respective friends, whom the other didn’t know. We chose ones we hoped would gel, and who loved to eat. We cooked, four courses each night, and for me, it was an especially fun challenge because my friend who was co-chair in this flight was vegetarian, so all the dishes were. We’d had a half-serious notion of using the recipes to create an interactive website which we could never pin down the perfect name of; we attached a theme to each meal (one of which, the easiest target, really, was pizza, and we commenced the evening by watching Heathers for some reason with all of our guests).

flour-coated hands from cookie-making (discovery: some people don’t use spoons!)

Recipes, like friends, fall out of favor with time, and for some dang reason this friend of mine and I hung out less and less since last winter. Yet too often, it isn’t for any intention. And this recipe, and friend, is still pure gold. I got the chance to catch up with this friend of mine last week, almost a year since we’d given up on the website idea and had held our last dinner. The memories caught up, too — biking to his home with so many ingredients stuffed in tote bags on my back, the time we forgot about the pumpkin seeds slowly roasting in brown sugar in the oven before they had stuck impenetrably to the pan. And I remembered the savory squash soup that we’d made one night, a real standout.

the soup course is served

I mentioned that all the recipes we made were vegetarian, but the lone exception was this one; on this evening, to please some of my meat-happy guests, I’d made one version of the soup with real chorizo, and one with spicy sausage-like tempeh. You can choose either/or. It’s a good time for squashes, too, so don’t let your decorative impulses deceive you, like they did to me.

Oh, to good times and food. I hope you have one really soon.

Spicy Squash and Chorizo Soup
(serves about 6)

1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeds and pulp removed, and cut to 1-inch cubes
2-3 chorizo links, finely diced (substitute with tempeh or tofu sausage for a vegetarian version)
1 large Spanish onion, diced
1 bell pepper (any color) diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 anchos (dried poblano peppers), stemmed, seeded and torn to smaller pieces
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 bunch cilantro, about half of it finely chopped and the rest for garnish
1-2 teaspoons ground cumin (toasted and freshly ground from whole seeds is best)
1 teaspoon ground coriander (toatsed and freshly ground from whole seeds is best)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoons cornmeal (optional)
fresh lime juice to taste
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
crema (or sour cream) for garnish
optional: thinly sliced red onion and tomato wedge for garnish

Place the anchos in a small saucepan and fill with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, cover, and let sit for 20 minutes. Transfer to a food processor or blender and pulverize until smooth.

In a medium-large heavy-bottomed pot, brown the diced chorizo while stirring over medium-high flame for 5-7 minutes. Set aside; in the same pan, sweat the onions, peppers and squash cubes in the remaining chorizo grease and the additional olive oil. Season with salt, pepper, cumin, coriander and cayenne. Stir frequently while cooking for 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic and tomato paste and stir another minute. Return the chorizo to the pot and add the ancho puree, stock and chopped cilantro and bring to a boil, and reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and let cook for 20-30 minutes.

Taste stew for seasoning, adding more of anything, and cook off enough liquid to desired consistency (or add more stock if necessary). Add fresh lime juice. Once flavor is correct, add cornmeal to thicken, if desired. Serve in individual bowls and top with a squirt of the crema, red onions and/or tomato wedge, and remaining cilantro leaves for garnish.

Cost Calculator
(for about 6 servings)

1 butternut squash (at $1/lb): $1.75
3 links chorizo (at $4/lb): $2.50
1 onion: $0.20
1 bell pepper: $0.75
2 anchos: $0.60
1 bunch cilantro: $2.00
1 Tb tomato paste: $0.15
5 cloves garlic: $0.15
4 cups homemade stock: $1.00
1 lime: $0.20
spices, cornmeal, salt, pepper, olive oil: $0.50
optional red onion and tomato for garnish: $1.25

Total: $11.05

Health Factor

Six brownie points: While it’s not a light soup, it has plentiful fresh ingredients that keep it both vibrant and nutritious. Chorizo, a dry-cured pork sausage with plenty of fat and sodium, is not something you’ll want to eat in mass quantity (try thinking of sausage and other fatty cuts as flavor-builders rather than a potential main course). But a little goes a long way here in adding some spice and savoriness.

Green Factor

Five maple leaves: Try not to get bored of winter squash this early in the season — they’ll be around for some time yet, much longer than many other attractions of local farmers’ markets, like all those nice cauliflowers and Brussels sprouts. (Speaking, of course, for the tri-state area.) It’s also a great time to stock up on stock, homemade that is. Make gallons of the stuff with all the carrots, parsnips, turnips and other root vegetables as they’re fresh and flavorful now, and freeze it to use all year.

13 Responses

  1. The Local Cook

    Looks delish! It’s amazing how much you can do with squash, isn’t it?

  2. Hagan

    I’ll take that as a maybe.


  3. emily

    my second to last winter squash purchase did not last as long as i had hoped, much like your own. it is quite sad!

    this is very reminiscent of what my first idea for the last food obstructions was – butternut soup with moroccan spices and merguez. happy to see this with chorizo, i will definitely try it soon. love, love, LOVE winter squash!

  4. Allison

    This looks great! What a great site!

  5. NicM

    On my last trip of the year to the farmer’s market I took a cart so I could haul home 10 various squashes! We don’t heat our extra bedroom when we don’t have guests so the squash keeps a long time in there. Nice call on the chorizo, a bit of spice does wonders for squash.

  6. lild

    I’m sure you know this being a culinary pro…but if you want to keep winter squash or pumpkin decoratively you have to give the rind a swipe with some realy diluted bleach to fight back mold. The caveat with this is that in order to cook it you gotta dice and peel, can’t roast the whole thing. Love your site, keep it comin’ 🙂

  7. cathy

    Thanks everyone! And that’s a great tip, lild, will be sure to try!

  8. matt

    Made it with Merguez and Kale for both a more middle-eastern flair and for the added veggies. Yum!

  9. Mindi

    This recipe sounds divine. I’m a vegan and I know that there are a couple of vegie chorizos that are quite yummy. Soy-Rizo is availabla at supermarkets and Trader Joe’s has its own brand. They both taste exactly like chorizo – fabulous!

  10. Hui Carrus

    I have found that this post and supporting comments are very fascinating. To my knowledge, this is a great website to hunt down articles on topics such as natural health. Can anyone here show me where to locate more particular posts on this topic, please? Thanks a bunch!

  11. Sofia Louise

    Deeeeelicious chorizo and squash soup!! I added kale and used chipotle pepper in adobo instead of the ancho, just cuz that’s what I had. I think this is the yummiest soup I’ve ever made. Thanks party people!!! 🙂

  12. dreamtime

    I’ve been meaning to get around to a pumpkin or squash soup with chorizo for a while now, thanks for the post. Anyone who has made this or a variation please let me know!

  13. Krissy

    It’s cold day in CO and I stumbled on this recipe today. I didn’t have squash but did have parsnips and it’s DEEE-licious! Thanks for posting.

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