Monday, September 24, 2012

Fall Abundance, and a Recipe for Creamy Sweet Squash Soup

Fall is an exciting time of year. Nature is full of color and transformation as we prepare for the arrival of the colder weather. It is at this time of year that you will start finding a mesmerizing array of winter squash at the markets. I have a personal preference for Kabocha or buttercup squashes. I find them to be drier in texture and sweeter to the taste, and are richly satisfying however they are prepared.

Kabocha squash, onions, and cabbage, all ready to be long steamed!

Since not all squash are created equal, here are a few tips for picking a good one:
First, look for squash that have an orange spot; this is a sign that it ripened in the field, which gives it a sweeter taste. Feel the squash, make sure that it has some weight to it, which is a sign of vitality. Be sure to check the stem-- ideally you want to pick a squash that has a nice, dry stem. If you notice a little sap seeping through the skin of the squash, this is also a sign of sweetness.

No matter what you do with your squash, it is going to be delicious, especially if you follow my guidelines for picking a good one! Here are some of my favorite ways to prepare it:

Sweet and Delicious.
  • Long steaming- cut the squash into large chunks and steam until tender. 
  • Squash Butter- peel the squash, cut into 2” by 2” chunks, place in a pot with a small amount of water, cover, and slowly steam it over low heat for a few hours, adding water when necessary, until the squash is tender enough to mash with the back of a wooden spoon. Squash butter is delicious on a piece of steamed sourdough bread, or serve it as a vegetable side dish, or as a sweet snack. 
  • Sautéed and Simmered: prepare with other sweet vegetables such as carrots, onions, parsnips, leeks, etc 
  • Creamy Sweet Squash Soup, see recipe below 

Creamy Sweet Squash Soup
2 cups onion, diced
1/2 medium-sized squash, such as Kabocha, peeled and cut into chunks
6 cups of water
Sea salt
Fresh herbs or sautéed leeks for garnish, optional.

Place diced onions in a pot with water enough to cover onions by an inch.
Add a tiny pinch of salt and bring to a boil over medium flame, continue to cook onions for several minutes or until they become translucent.
Add squash and additional water to cover the vegetables by approximately one inch.
Add an additional generous pinch of sea salt, cover, and bring to a boil on a medium to medium-high flame.
When water begins to boil, reduce the flame and simmer on medium-low for approximately 20 minutes or until the squash is tender.
Using a hand food mill, puree all the ingredients.
Return the pureed vegetables to the pot.
Garnish with finely chopped fresh herbs (rosemary or parsley are especially good) or sautéed leeks.

The consistency of this soup may be adjusted by the amount of vegetables and water. If soup becomes too thick, add additional water until desired consistency is reached.

For a richer flavor, try frying the herbs until they are just crispy before garnishing the soup.

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