Earthy, fragrant spices like allspice, cloves, and cinnamon make wonderful accents for the natural sweetness of butternut squash. Make sure to simmer the squash until very tender–the softer it gets, the silkier the puree.
- 4 pounds whole butternut squash
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 7 cups water
- 1/2 teaspoon whole allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 6 thyme sprigs
- 3 whole cloves
- 1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
- 1 star anise pod
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
- 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1/2 cup pomegranate arils
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1. Peel and seed squash, reserving peels, trimmings, and seeds. Cube peeled and seeded squash. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil; swirl to coat. Add squash scraps; sauté 8 minutes or until lightly browned. Add 7 cups water, allspice, and next 5 ingredients (through anise). Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 45 minutes. Strain mixture into a large bowl; discard solids.
2. Wipe pan clean with paper towels; heat over medium heat. Add remaining 3 tablespoons oil and onion; cover and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add cubed squash; cover and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add reserved broth and salt; bring to a boil. Cover and simmer 40 minutes or until squash is very tender.
3. Place half of squash mixture in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Pour into a large bowl. Repeat procedure with remaining squash mixture. Stir in vinegar and red pepper. Ladle soup into shallow bowls. Top evenly with pomegranate and cilantro.