Spicy butternut squash soup with coconut milk and peppered croutons

I'm constantly searching for cures for the Sunday Scaries. Sundays begin with such promise—slowly, in bed, with coffee, drenched in morning light. But I find they always very quickly morph into day-before-Monday mode and suddenly feel daunting and depressing (dramatic but true). I like Sundays to be filled with just enough productivity to trick me into feeling like it's any other day, and just enough relaxation to slow the clock a little. My favorite solution so far, especially in the cooler weather of fall: cooking laid back low-and-slow meals or low maintenance soups. It's a leisurely way to be productive without the whirlwind feeling of cooking/eating/cleaning/digesting (and repeat) that so often comes along with cooking meals. 

Butternut squash is one of those seasonal foods that is so exciting to see again after so many months of not even thinking about it. It even looks like fall, with its beautiful orangey gold color. The thing is: I like it best when it's drenched in other things. And even though it's not a Thai ingredient, it lends itself really well to Thai flavors such as curry, coconut, and chiles. 

Spicy butternut squash soup with coconut milk

Yields about 5 servings
3 T olive oil
2 lb butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 sweet onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, chopped
3 T Thai red curry paste
1 tsp cumin
¼ tsp white pepper
1½ tsp salt
1 T Sriracha sauce
4 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock for vegetarian)
½ cup coconut milk for serving
Extra sriracha sauce for serving

Peppered croutons

Baguette (I used leftover baguette slices that I had frozen), cut into 16 1-inch cubes
1 T olive oil
¼ tsp salt
Freshly cracked black pepper

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium low heat. Add squash and onion and sauté until onions are translucent, about 8 minutes or so. Stir in garlic, red curry paste, cumin, white pepper, and salt and cook for a couple of minutes until garlic is fragrant. Add sriracha and chicken stock, and bring mixture to a boil over high heat. When it begins to boil, lower temperature and simmer for about 20 minutes until squash is fully cooked (meanwhile, make the croutons). 

Preheat the oven to low broil. Place bread cubes on a sheet pan and toss lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and a generous amount of freshly cracked black pepper. Broil for 3 minutes, then turn croutons over and broil for 2 minutes more until golden and crispy.

When squash is cooked through, turn off the heat and use an immersion blender (or regular blender) to blend mixture until smooth. If you're using a regular blender, be careful to not fill the blender or it might overflow because of the heat. 

Serve bisque in bowls, and swirl a few spoonfuls of coconut milk into each. Top with croutons and a couple dashes of extra Sriracha sauce.