Garbanzo Bean and Squash Soup

Serves 4

This nutritious soup is full of healthful ingredients.  Cooks in Morocco can purchase soaked  beans at the market or from street vendors, then must cook the beans before using them. You can do the same if you purchase dry beans. I opt for the convenience of organic, canned garbanzos. Any winter squash, or yellow fleshed squash will do.

1 pound Mediterranean, butternut, or acorn squash, or sugar pumpkin
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely diced
3 cups vegetable broth
One 15-ounce can garbanzo beans,  drained and  liquid reserved
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
Cilantro leaves (also called Chinese parsley or fresh coriander), for serving

Heat oven to 375 F. Place squash in oven-proof dish and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Bake until tender, 50 minutes to 1 hour. Let cool, then peel and seed squash, and scoop pulp from the shell in small chunks. Set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, heat the oil and cook the onion, stirring occasionally, 6 to 8 minutes. Let cool.

In a blender or food processor, puree in batches, the squash, onion, broth, reserved liquid from garbanzo beans, and half of garbanzo beans. Return puree to pan. Stir in tomato paste, salt, and pepper. Add cayenne, if using. Heat through and add remaining garbanzo beans. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.

From The Vegetarian Table: North Africa. Updated and copyrighted Kitty Morse 2008