Monday, September 1, 2008

It's that time of year...

The beginning of squash soup season! I saw Kabocha squash in the grocery store last week and I was so excited it is quite pathetic. I bought a couple and have just been biding my time until the opportunity arose to make soup. And that opportunity is today.

I was never a huge squash fan in the past. My mother, sister, and even father (who eschews most vegetables) slurped it up, but I was indifferent. This all changed last fall when I went to a cooking demonstration by Greg Atkinson, and one of the items on the menu was Kabocha squash soup. One taste and I was in lovvvve. I immediately went out to buy my own squash and made soup all through the fall and winter, until the final winter squashes disappeared from the stores.

Last year the recipe was on Greg Atkinson's website, but now it's not, so you would either have to get his current cookbook, West Coast Cooking (which is very good, and he is a wonderful writer besides, so you can read all his books just like novels), or go with my slightly modified version, below.

Squash is wonderfully good for you. The different varieties of winter squash vary in their nutrition information, but I think I can safely say that a cup of plain cooked squash (before mashing) has less than 100 calories, tons of Vitamin A, lots of Vitamin C, and several grams of fiber. Squash is quite high in carbs, but it is a low glycemic food, so it's great for fueling without stimulating insulin production. Since this squash soup has only a tiny bit of butter and no cream, it's very nutritious and healthy as well.

You can use any kind of orange/yellow winter squash to make this soup, but the sweeter the squash, the more delicious the soup. Kabocha squash is the gold standard (in my mind), and it is available starting now and throughout the early fall. Sweet mama and buttercup are good variations, but they too will start to disappear by the time Thanksgiving rolls around. Delicata is quite wonderful, and will stick around through midwinter (but is a little bit of a pain to prepare due to its petite size and shape). Finally, once all the specialty squashes are gone, butternut squash is just fine and you can even get it in the summer.

So, here is the recipe!

Kabocha Squash Soup
  • One medium Kabocha squash, peeled, seeded and cubed (about 4+ cups, more if you prefer a thicker puree)
  • Six cups homemade turkey or chicken broth (or canned broth if you must, but I'm warning you, part of the wonderfulness is the flavor from the broth)
  • Medium or large yellow onion, peeled and sliced
  • 1-2 tablespoons butter, plus nonstick cooking spray if needed
  • Kosher salt and white pepper
  • Pumpkin seeds for garnish (look for Tamari pumpkin seeds, which are soy seasoned)
  1. Melt butter in a heavy cookpot. Saute the onion in the butter, adding cooking spray if needed, until the onion is soft.
  2. Add squash and broth. Adjust the amount of broth depending on how much squash you have. Throw in a couple teaspoons of kosher salt if you are using unsalted homemade broth.
  3. Simmer for about 15 minutes (or more) until squash is very tender.
  4. Puree in cookpot using an immersion blender (if you have one) or puree in batches using a regular blender. Be very careful not to put too much soup into the blender at one time or chaos will result. Do not try to skip the blending by just mashing it up. The blending turns a lumpy puree into molten gold. It is beautiful and just more delicious.
  5. Season to taste with white pepper and salt (if desired).
  6. Garnish with pumpkin seeds.
How to make easy broth: Simmer a leftover turkey breast or chicken carcass for an hour or two. Or simmer chicken pieces until cooked, then remove meat from bones roughly and cook bones for a while longer. The broth doesn't need to be as strongly flavored as it would if you were making chicken or turkey soup. The squash will give the soup flavor, and the hint of turkey or chicken flavor just enhances it! (If the broth seems very fatty, you might want to make it a day in advance and refrigerate so fat can be skimmed off.)

And now, I need to go finish making my soup!
Soup, beautiful soup! All ready for dinner. (I meant to have a squash in the picture too but forgot it.)


Deene said...

i harvested some of this squash in my garden last year, only i didn't know the name because i misplaced the seed packet. i love baked winter squash with butter and cinnamon.

Laura said...

What's the difference between kabocha squash and regular squash?

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