Cayenne pepper gives a little kick to this pretty curried squash soup, a first course that everyone seems to love. It can be made several days ahead to fit a busy schedule, then heated up whenever needed. —Evelyn Southwell, Etters, Pennsylvania
Preheat oven to 400°. Cut squash in half lengthwise; discard seeds. Place squash cut side down in a greased or foil-lined baking pan. Bake, uncovered, until tender, 40-50 minutes. When cool enough to handle, scoop out pulp; set aside.
In a large saucepan, saute onion and garlic in oil over medium heat until tender, 2-3 minutes. Add the flour, salt, curry powder and cayenne until blended. Stir in broth; add bay leaf. Bring to a boil; cook and stir until thickened, 2 minutes. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Cool to room temperature.
In a blender, combine half of the broth mixture and squash; cover and process until smooth. Repeat with remaining broth mixture and squash. Return to the saucepan; heat through. Combine the topping ingredients; place a dollop on each serving. If desired, sprinkle with additional fresh cilantro.