Yesterday it was 80 degrees, sunny and humid- this morning I huddled under the blankets for hours, trying to dare myself to creep out of bed and force my foot to make contact with the icy floor. So begins Fall in New England- abruptly. Say goodbye to days at the beach, and pull out a heavy sweater- you’re going to need it.
Luckily the beginning of autumn brings more than just cold- the leaves change into sunsets of color, apples ripen and cider and donuts are at every corner and hearty gourds and squashes become plentiful. Hidden among the more common butternut and buttercup squash is the beautiful green and orange, patterned kabocha squash.
Kabocha squash is a Japanese variety, becoming more and more common in other places. It is slightly drier than a butternut, and a little sweeter with subtle nutty flavors. The first time I ate it, it had been roasted over coffee (a delicious technique that I completely recommend), and something about it really stuck in my mind. It’s not that it is so different from the butternut and buttercups, but it is definitely just a little bit better- and it became the clear candidate for soup when I finally forced myself to the kitchen on the first day of fall. If you cannot find kabocha squash, either butternut or buttercup will be delicious in this soup.
This soup combines a creamy squash soup with a light, herbed cream and uses the squash’s own seeds to give a pleasant crunch to the top. I always love to use multiple parts of a vegetable in one dish- roasted beets in a beet green pesto, turnip greens sautéed and served with a spicy turnip puree- and squash soup served with its seeds is no exception. Once the seeds have been cleaned from what we used to call the “guts”, they can be roasted in the same manner as pumpkin seeds. In this recipe I boiled them first, to precook them and allow them to bake at the same temperature as the squash (normally they would roast at a lower heat).
Sunflower seed cream adds complexity to this dish- it is cold while the soup is warm, and it is light and spiced, using some of the spices that make a pumpkin pie so great. Used correctly, these spices work with most squash and are also easily translated from a sweet to a savory application. Swirl some in your soup, and enjoy a different cream/squash balance in every bite!
Kabocha Squash Soup with Spiced Sunflower Seed Cream
- 1 kabocha squash (around 3-4 lbs)
- 2-3 cloves of garlic
- 1 carrot
- ¼ purple onion
- 3 cups vegetable broth
- 1 tps. turmeric
- Salt, pepper and olive oil as needed
Sunflower Seed Cream
- 1 cup raw sunflower seeds
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp cumin
- ½ tsp coriander
- ¾ cup water
- Salt, to taste
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut your squash in half, and use a spoon to scrape out the seeds and stringy parts (much like how you clean out a pumpkin). Set the seeds aside- don’t throw them away, because you will use them later. Sprinkle the cut halves with salt and pepper. Crush and remove the skin from the garlic cloves. Add a little oil to the bottom of a baking dish, and place the garlic and squash in the pan. Cook for 45-60 minutes, until the squash is soft and can be easily pierced with a fork.
In the meantime, set the sunflower seeds to soak in water. Move on to the squash seeds, and begin by cleaning them of the orange, stringy squash innards. Set a small pot of water on the stove, and once it has boiled throw in the cleaned seeds for 10 minutes, before removing and straining them. Toss them lightly in olive oil and salt, before spreading them over a baking sheet and placing in the oven. Bake for 10-20 minutes, until they are starting to brown. Take out of the oven and set aside.
3. Dice the half onion and roughly chop the carrots. In a pot, saute the vegetables in olive oil for a few minutes before adding the vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer, cooking until the carrots are tender.
4. Strain all but ¾ cup of water from the sunflower seeds. Add them to a blender, along with the lemon juice and spices, and blend until it is smooth, soft, and creamy. Set aside.
5. Once the squash is cooked, remove from the oven and allow it to cool enough to handle. Scrape the squash away from the skin, and put the cooked squash directly into a food processor. Add the carrots, onions and broth, along with 1 tps. turmeric and blend until it is a smooth consistency. If it has become too cool, put the entire mixture back into a pot on the stove and allow it to warm.
6. Assemble the soup by pouring a ladle of the squash soup in a bowl, and topping with a scoop of the sunflower seed cream- you can try and spiral it if you’re feeling ambitious, but it tastes just as good plopped on top. Sprinkle a small handful of the toasted squash seeds on top, and enjoy.