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.
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