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Thai style pumpkin soup with coconut milk & lime-cilantro topping

2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. mild olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
1 cup celery, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 quarts chicken broth (use homemade for best flavor)
2 tbsp. lemongrass, thinly sliced from the base end
1 tbsp. fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
3 tbsp. green curry paste
3 tbsp. nam pla (Thai fish sauce)
¼ tsp. cayenne powder (or to taste)
1 can (29 oz.) pureed pumpkin or 16 oz. pureed Butternut Squash
1 can (14 oz.) coconut milk (lite is okay)
juice from half of a lime
2 cups cooked chicken, cut into small dice, optional
salt and pepper, to taste
Lime-Cilantro Topping

Set aside ¼ cup of the coconut milk for the soup topping (see recipe below).

Heat the butter and olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and the celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are limp. When onions and celery are limp add the garlic, lemon grass and ginger and curry paste. Cook an additional minute or two or until ginger, lemongrass, etc. are aromatic. Do not let garlic brown. Put the onion mixture into the pitcher of a blender and add approximately one cup of the chicken broth. Process the onion mixture until it is completely pureed, then pour it into a large soup pot. Add remaining broth and stir to blend. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer 20 minutes.

Add the nam pla, cayenne, pumpkin OR butternut squash puree and remaining coconut milk; stir to blend. Allow the soup to heat but not boil; add the lime juice, the chicken if using, and salt and pepper to taste. Pour servings of fully heated soup into soup bowls, garnish with a large spoonful of Lime-Cilantro Topping. Serve immediately.* Makes 6 to 8 servings.

*Hot basmati or jasmine rice or toasted Tandoori bread is a good side dish with this soup.

Lime-Cilantro Topping
1 cup cilantro leaves (lightly packed), cleaned
1 tbsp. scallions, thinly sliced
juice from half of a lime
½ tsp. salt
¼ cup coconut milk

Place all ingredients into a blender or the bowl of a mini food processor. Process until pureed. Set aside in a small bowl or wrap and refrigerate for a day or two. Makes about 2/3 cup.

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