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January 5, 2014

From Fear to Freedom in the Kitchen ~ Jennifer Radhika {Recipes}

There it sat waiting on the dining room table.

It looked so lonely in its uneven barbell-shaped form. Something needed to happen, not necessarily right away, but within the season. I muffed up the courage and finally asked my sister about the ubiquitous item that had captured my attention.

“So what’s your plan with the butternut squash?” I asked.

“Huh?” she innocently replied.

“The squash,” I repeated while directing her attention to the pale orange vegetable.

“Oh. Is that what it is? A student gave it to me. It scares me.”

Flashback:

I remember those days prior to embarking my karmic career as a vegan chef. I knew nothing of vegetables, fruits and herbs, or of their associated seasons. I thought oranges were eaten all year round. I thought plums and peaches were meant to be eaten when they were firm and hard like a rock, not soft and oozing with sweet nectar. And the darkest leafy greens I knew of were spinach. So when I was introduced to my first funky vegetable, the Swiss chard, I was fascinated. There was a whole world of edible plant life that I could have never dreamed up that nature so graciously provided.

I took this moment as a wonderful opportunity to share my love of vegetables with my sister. From dining room table to kitchen, with my sister in tow, I carried the mysterious shape. I then proceeded to transform this intimidating squash into something that she could approached with steadiness and ease.

Using a simple vegetable peeler, peel the skin off the squash.

Slice the squash in half lengthwise and alas, the seeds are exposed (a sign of possible new squashies or a delightful snack when cleaned and roasted).

Scoop the seeds and strings from the squash and reserve for future use.

Dice into ½” cubes.

With our prepped squash, there’s so much we could have done. But to keep things simple, we made the following impromptu bisque:

Coconut Ginger Butternut Squash Bisque

2 TB coconut oil

1 TB fresh diced ginger

1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced into ½” cubes

2 cups water or better yet, homemade vegetable stock

1 cup coconut milk

pinch of nutmeg

salt & pepper to taste

choice of fresh herbs for garnish (I recommend Italian flat-leaf parsley)

In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add ginger and cook until slightly brown. Stir in squash and allow the mixture to cook and meld for about 10 minutes. Stir in water or vegetable stock and allow to cook for about 10 more minutes, until squash is soft.  Remove the mixture from heat, pour into blender and puree until smooth. Return puree to saucepan and turn heat to low. Slowing stir in coconut milk, nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste. Allow to simmer for 5 more minutes. Serve with a few leaves of fresh herbs and enjoy with abandon.

“Yum,” was the first and last word I heard from my sister when she tasted, and then proceeded to finish, her bowl of  Coconut Ginger Butternut Bisque.  Ah… the delicious taste of freedom from fear of the unknown.

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Assistant Editor: Jennifer Moore/Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Craig Cloutier/ Flickr Commons

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