Naturally, we've saved our sweetest and lightest for last--ladies, gentlemen, and possums, we present Ms. Padma Lakshmi.
Now, take at look at the cover of Ms. Lakshmi's cookbook, Easy Exotic. Our old, pre-gayhab selves would have had a field day with the title, but our newly sweet and light selves say, "Brava! Padma is definitely exotic. And she's easy...on the eyes!" See how that works? Our old selves would have made much of the patently phallic "stem" surging from the bunch of bananas toward Padma. Our new selves simply note how the curve of the stem echoes the curve of her lovely shoulder. Our old selves would have wondered about the artfully dissembled scar. Our new selves say, "Scar? What scar? Padma is immaculate."
Now take a look at this other photograph. Our old selves would have wondered if she was wearing a brassiere and noted that it must have been very cold where the photograph was taken. Our new selves use the photograph as an opportunity to highlight Padma's recipe for curried butternut squash soup, a soup that eats like a meal, especially for the woman with an always keen appetite and who, to judge from the list of ingredients, is a fan of herbs (and spices). We include the recipe below, but you can watch Padma make the soup with Martha Stewart, a pairing of curry and cream if ever there was one:
Curried Butternut Squash Soup
Serves 6 to 8
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup diced shallots
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup minced fresh peeled ginger
4 bay leaves
1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 1/2 pounds Butternut Squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks
1 1/3 teaspoons coarse salt
1 teaspoon curry powder
2 cups homemade or canned, store-bought low-sodium chicken stock, heated
One 1-inch chunk palm sugar (available in Asian grocery stores)
One 15-ounce can low-fat coconut milk
Freshly chopped chives, for garnish
Fresh curry leaves, for garnish
1. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic, and continue to stir; add ginger. Continue cooking until shallots are soft and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add bay leaves and red pepper; continue cooking for 1 minute more. Stir in squash, salt, and curry powder; cook for 10 minutes.
2. Raise the heat to medium-high, and add chicken stock. Cover, and bring to a boil. Immediately lower the heat, and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring and mashing every 5 minutes. Add the palm sugar and cook for 5 minutes. Add the coconut milk and continue cooking for 10 minutes.
3. Remove bay leaves from soup. Using an immersion blender or in batches using a bar blender, purée until smooth.
4. Reheat soup, seasoning with salt. Garnish with chives, and serve immediately.
Treat yourselves to this soup, possums, and let it warm your insides in the same way that, we hope, our week of sweetness and light has warmed you.