Butternut squash has a sweet nutty flavor that is delicious when roasted (as in this roasted butternut squash soup) or when baked into desserts (like this pie). But butternut squash can also go tropical - as in this rich savory soup made with creamy coconut milk. Pumpkin and squash "carries" like this one are popular in Thailand, but the Latin versions don't typically include curry powder, though a touch of chile pepper is always welcome.
Any winter squash works well in this soup. There are many options for garnishing this soup, such as crumbled queso fresco cheese, roasted corn kernels, chopped tomatoes, and cilantro, spicy aji salsa, or several boiled shrimp.
Peel butternut squash, then cut in half lengthwise and remove seeds (and the fibrous material around the seeds).
Roast seeds (optional): Separate seeds from the squash, and rinse well. Place seeds in a shallow pan with 1 tablespoon butter and 1/2 teaspoon salt and toast seeds in the oven at 350 F until dark golden brown and crispy, stirring once or twice, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove seeds from oven and set aside to let cool.
Chop squash into 1/2 inch cubes. Peel and dice onion. Peel sweet potato and chop into 1/2 inch cubes. Wash spinach, dry thoroughly, and roll it up tightly in a bunch. Slice spinach crosswise to make thin ribbons.
Place vegetable oil and remaining 1 tablespoon of butter in a heavy stockpot over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and cook, stirring, until onion is soft and fragrant.
Add the squash, sweet potatoes, cumin, cinnamon, and sugar to the skillet and cook, stirring often until vegetables are lightly browned.
Add the chicken stock, season with salt and pepper, then simmer vegetables over low heat until they are tender (about 15 minutes).
Once squash and sweet potatoes are cooked through, use a slotted spoon to transfer the vegetables to a blender (reserve cooking liquid). Add coconut milk and lime juice to the blender and process until it's smooth.
Add blended mixture back to the soup and whisk gently over low heat until evenly heated through. Stir in spinach ribbons and heat for 1 minute more. Season with salt and pepper to taste.