Purée genius: Kabocha squash and apple soup

Purée genius: Kabocha squash and apple soup

The onset of fall brings an array of gorgeous items to our local farmers’ markets and produce aisles, and that bounty includes squash. The orange, yellow and green-hued vegetable makes for great eats during the autumn and winter months and can be prepared in a variety of ways. Baked, braised, sauteed, steamed — you name the cooking technique and it can be applied to these members of the genus Cucurbita.

Squash is also a great addition to a healthy diet, as it’s a good source of fiber, vitamins A, B and C, iron and beta carotene, and is low in calories. It also makes an excellent lower-carb replacement for starches on your dinner plate.

The most common squashes used in cooking during this time of year are butternut and pumpkin. But c’mon folks, get a little more creative here — there are so many other types of squash to try!

That’s why I went with the kabocha (aka “Japanese pumpkin”) for the following soup recipe. The kabocha squash looks like a small green version of the common pumpkin. It’s a pain in the ass to peel, but definitely worth the effort as its meat is a bit sweeter than that of a pumpkin or butternut squash.

The kabocha squash pairs well with the flavor of apples (another fab fall fruit) so I decided to add some Gala apples, hard apple cider and Calvados (apple brandy) to the mix — because everything tastes better with booze.

Typically, you’ll see cinnamon used in this type of soup, but the often overlooked coriander and nutmeg make excellent flavor enhancers, balancing out the sweet notes with touches of savory ones.

As for garnish, I quickly caramelized some chopped Gala apples with brown sugar and cinnamon in a pan and sprinkled them on top. And forget drizzling cream or creme fraiche to finish it off (which is so overdone); sprinkle some crumbled blue cheese, like Maytag, on top. It pairs well with all of the warm flavors in this soup and lends it a tangy kick.

Get creative and experiment with different squashes in your cooking this season. From buttercup to delicata, from “Cinderella” to “Lunch Lady” varieties, there’s a world of flavors waiting for you in your produce aisle.

Kabocha squash and apple soup
Makes 6-8 servings

Ingredients:

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, divided

1 large yellow onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground coriander

4 pounds kabocha squash, peeled, seeded, cut into 1-inch cubes

3 teaspoons fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)

3 cups (or more) chicken or vegetable broth

3 Gala apples, peeled, cored, diced and divided

1 cup hard apple cider (or apple juice)

1/2 cup Calvados (apple brandy) or brandy

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Crumbled blue cheese (like Maytag), as needed

A pinch of ground nutmeg and coriander

Directions:

1. Melt 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) of butter in large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic and spices and sauté until the onion begins to turn translucent, about 5 minutes.

2. Add squash, thyme, all but one cup of chopped apple, broth and apple juice. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered until squash and apple are tender, about 30 minutes.

3. Working in batches, puree soup in blender or food processor until smooth. Return soup to pot and stir in the Calvados or brandy. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring soup to simmer and thin the soup with more broth if it’s too thick.

4. For the caramelized apple topping, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a small pan over medium-high heat and add the reserved chopped apple. Saute for a minute or two, then add the brown sugar and cinnamon. Cook until the sugar has melted and the apples are coated with caramel glaze. Remove from heat.

5. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with caramelized apples, blue cheese and a sprinkling of ground nutmeg and coriander.

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