Friday recipe: butternut squash ginger soup

It’s a given in most people’s minds that medical students take courses on biochemistry and nutrition. But according to the American Medical Association, very few medical schools teach students how to apply those lessons in the kitchen. At the same time, levels of obesity among adults and children and rates of largely preventable chronic disease are skyrocketing. Doesn’t it make sense for future health care providers to know how to give their patients information and practical advice on what they’re eating, what they should eat and how to prepare it?

Good-lookin' cooking: DMU Wellness Specialist Nicole Frangopol, Wellness Director Joy Schiller and Professor David Spreadbury stir-fry vegetables while Associate Professor Wayne Wilson sets out rice.

Des Moines University thinks so. Wellness Director Joy Schiller, M.S., CHES, and David Spreadbury, Ph.D., chair of biochemistry and nutrition, co-teach a very popular “Nutrition 101” elective in DMU’s wellness center kitchen in which students learn how to stock their pantries and kitchens for healthful, quick meal preparation and gain hands-on lessons on cooking techniques. They also get a fabulous meal once a week, with themes ranging from Indian to Asian to Italian to Mediterranean.

On the seventh and final session of the course, students plan and prepare the meal. I recently had the great pleasure of observing these budding chefs at work and writing about the class in the spring issue of DMU Magazine, soon to be posted on the DMU website. You, too, can watch them in action on YouTube. The students agree the experience has taught them that vegetables are delicious, that cooking doesn’t have to be time-consuming and that basic techniques free them from having to slavishly follow recipes. They also feel better equipped to talk to future patients about their diets and to give them practical, realistic ways to eat better.

It’s with great pleasure that I serve up a recipe from that final class session, prepared by second-year osteopathic medical student Abhishek Karwa. Not only is it delicious and nutritious, this recipe – which he doubled for the class – makes a big batch, the perfect mix for a Sunday afternoon to freeze for the following week.

“The amount of soup I made easily can be equivalent to five full meals and costs me less than $10,” Abhishek says. “It is pretty awesome to get so much vegetable goodness in such a colorful way.”

Butternut squash ginger soup

  • 1 small butternut squash
  • 1 pound carrots (about 4-6 carrots)
  • 1 1/2-inch piece fresh ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 onion
  • Cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Roughly 3 cups water
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh chopped coriander (optional)

Roughly chop the onion. It doesn’t have to be perfect since you’ll blend the whole thing in the end. Crush the garlic cloves using the flat part of a knife and the base of your palm. Peel the butternut squash with a vegetable peeler. Cut in half lengthwise and remove the seeds with a spoon. Chop into large chunks.

In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil on medium-high. Sauté the chopped onion until it becomes transparent, about five minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for another 30 seconds. Add two cups water and the squash. Cover and allow it to come to a boil.

Meanwhile, peel the carrots and chop into inch-long pieces. Peel the ginger and slice into 1/8-inch pieces. Add carrots and ginger to the soup pot. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add a few shakes of cinnamon. Add enough water just to cover everything in the pot.

Stir, cover and simmer on medium-low heat for about 20 minutes. The vegetables should be soft and easily pierced with a knife. If not, cover and allow it to simmer longer.

Using a blender or food processor, blend the soup into a smooth puree. Garnish with chopped coriander if desired and serve.

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