kabocha squash: soup two ways

squash soup 2 ways

This week it feels like much of the city has been under the weather.  The real winter chill came back into the air after a mild December. I’ve been eating a ton of squash soup during the past few cold months.  Soup never captured my imagination before. I never felt satisfied after eating it and the ways to combined flavor and texture felt limited.  This is changing.

My habit started back in November with the first recipe here, for acorn squash soup.  A few weeks later, I went to the farmer’s market with Lucy.  We met our last year of college and became fast friends, both absorbed by food, literature and politics, wondering how to make sense of it all. After graduation, I moved back to New York after school while Lucy took off for Western Mass and various adventures in farming and farm education.  She makes it down to the city about once a month and we catch up over beer and whiskey.  I have yet to make it back upstate with her, but hopefully a visit will be in order soon.

Back in November, she introduced me to kabocha squash.  I picked it up at the market, holding it by the stem, examining it.  “What’s this?” I asked.  Lucy knows more about the culinary and medicinal uses of plants than anyone I know.  (I am addicted to the wild rose elixir she once gave me: pure delight).  “Kabocha squash, kind of meaty. Less sweet than butternut.”  I bought it and some broccoli raab, unsure how they would meet.  A couple of days later, I improvised a flexible soup of squash, chickpeas and greens. The squash and greens change depending on what looks good or what is cheap that day at the store or market.  Kabocha is my favorite, far and away.  It has a richness of flavor, nutty and full without the syrupy flavor of butternut. These soup recipes require the same group of ingredients cooked in different ways.  In the first, the soup is not puréed: cubes of squash, greens and chickpeas simmer in a ginger-coconut stock.  In the second, the squash gets puréed with half the chickpeas. The greens garnish the top of the soup. The second is prettier, a bit more refined, but both are delicious.  The greens are flexible in both.  For the rustic version, I like a heartier green like lacinato kale or broccoli raab. Spinach works beautifully mixed into the smooth soup at the end.

variation one
coconut oil
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cumin
chili flakes to taste
1 medium squash, peeled and cubed
4 cups stock
1 14oz can chickpeas
1 bunch hearty greens
kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
spicy chorizo (optional)

Heat coconut oil over medium heat in a soup pot. Separate the leaves and stalks of your greens. Cut the leaves into ribbons and set aside. Dice half the stalks and sauté with minced ginger and garlic until soft. Add spices, letting them toast in the oil for about thirty seconds, until fragrant.

Add cubed squash and stock to the pot. If the stock doesn’t quite cover the cubes of squash, top it off with water. Bring to a boil, then let simmer until the squash is tender, fifteen to twenty minutes. Mix in greens and chickpeas. Adjust for seasoning.

If desired, brown spicy chorizo in a separate pan and top the soup with it. The soup becomes more hearty and filling with the fat and smoked paprika from the sausage.

variation two
coconut oil
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cumin
chili flakes to taste
1 medium squash, peeled and cubed
3 cups stock
1 14oz can chickpeas
1 bunch mature spinach or 8oz baby spinach
kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
toasted coconut chips

Heat coconut oil over medium heat in a soup pot. Sauté minced ginger and garlic until soft. Add spices, letting them toast in the oil for about thirty seconds, until fragrant. Add cubed squash, half the chickpeas and stock to the pot. Bring to a boil, then let simmer until the squash is tender, fifteen to twenty minutes.

Meanwhile, clean the spinach and trim the stems (if using mature spinach – for baby spinach, just rinse out of the box). Heat coconut oil and chili flakes in a sauté pan. Wilt spinach and set aside.

Once the squash is tender, purée the soup until smooth. If too thick, add a little water. If too thin, bring to a boil and reduce for 5-10 minutes. Adjust for seasoning, then add the remaining chickpeas. Serve in warm bowls, topping each with a healthy dose of spinach and a sprinkling of toasted coconut chips.

kabocha squash: soup two ways

dunkers

photo 2

There were tins of cookies, 4-inch discs stacked on top of each other.  Peanut butter, oatmeal raisin, and dunkers.  I would rifle through the freezer in my grandparents’ garage looking for the containers a few hours before dinner, setting them on the counter to defrost before we sat down to eat. I was still a picky eater then, when steamed green beans were adventurous.  My family would finish eating whatever they had — maybe pork chops with apples followed by a big salad — while I would sit, waiting.  Eventually (finally!) I could clear the plates and rush bowls and spoons to the table.  Grandpa would produce a few quarts of ice cream and the tins of cookies sat at the center of the table.  I pawed through them, tossing peanut butter and oatmeal aside.  Dunkers were my grandmother’s specialty and have become a staple for me this time of year.  Cooking them is a kind of living memorial, an active remembrance of her sass and care.  I first found the recipe for them in a weathered cigar box of my father’s, written on a scrap of paper that could have slipped away.  I make a batch every Christmas that disappears in the night, consumed by hungry foragers.  In college, a couple dozen would inaugurate the onset of fall. They are regular ginger-molasses cookies: chewy and spiced.  The recipe below is how it appears on that scrap of paper, written down in a rush. I often play with the spice quantities and spices — some white pepper here is great, also a dash of cayenne.

dunkers

1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup oil
1 cup sugar

beat it.

4 tbsp molasses +/-
1 beaten egg

add.

2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp ginger
2 tsp cinnamon

sift and add.

bake at 350 or 325 until done.

dunkers