Have you come across “Kabocha” squash in the market? It’s a Japanese variety of winter squash, one that is heavy and thick-fleshed, similar in that way to butternut squash, with a deep, rich flavor.
Typically the outer skin is forest green, though some varieties are sunset orange and red as well.
My friend Kori gave me a kabocha squash this week, a big beautiful red one she grew in her garden. I had seen several peeking under the mess of sprawling vines and squash leaves when I visited her a while back.
They were already red, but not quite ready to pick. Apparently you have to wait for the vine to almost completely die back before picking the squash.
The thing about kabocha is that there is no better squash with which to make soup. Unlike many other varieties of winter squash such as pumpkins, kabocha squashes are almost all flesh.
The seeds can be scraped out and roasted like any pumpkin seed. But mostly what you get with a kabocha is thick, solid winter squash, which cooks up into the most flavorful soup.
I wanted to make sure we did well by this squash, and I think indeed we have!
This soup is thick and creamy without any cream, none is necessary to achieve the texture.
It’s flavored with fresh ginger root, ground cumin, and coriander. A splash of lime juice when ready to serve helps balance the natural sweetness of the squash. We’ve garnished with fresh cilantro, but if cilantro isn’t your thing you could easily skip it.
- A half a large kabocha squash, seeded (about 3 to 4 pounds for the half)
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 cups chopped or sliced onions
- 2 ribs of celery, sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped (about 1 Tbsp)
- 1 1/2-inch piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and grated
- 1 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 4 cups of chicken stock
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- Garnish with lime juice and chopped fresh cilantro
1 Roast the squash: Preheat oven to 400°F. Use a heavy chef’s knife or cleaver (it helps if you have a rubber mallet as well) to cut the kabocha squash half into a few large pieces. (Kabocha squash is thick and meaty and can be a challenge to cut. So take care! Make sure the squash is stable on your cutting board before you start to cut it.)
Scoop out the seeds (you can toast them like pumpkin seeds!) and stringy insides. Place the squash pieces on a foil or silpat lined roasting pan. Rub olive oil over all sides, and sprinkle with salt.
Put the squash pieces skin side up on the pan. Roast for 45 minutes to an hour, until completely cooked through, soft, and caramelized at the edges. Remove from oven and let sit.
2 Sauté onions, celery, garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander: Heat olive oil on medium high heat in a large (4 to 6 quart) thick-bottomed pan. Add the onions and celery. Lower the heat to medium and cook until softened, 8 to 10 minutes.
Add the garlic, ginger, cumin, and coriander and cook 2 minutes more.
3 Add squash, stock, salt, pepper, then simmer: Once squash is cool enough to handle, remove and discard the skin. Place the roasted kabocha squash flesh into the pot with the onions and celery mixture. Add the stock, salt and pepper. Increase heat to high to bring the soup to a simmer, then lower the heat to low, partially cover and cook 8 to 10 minutes.
4 Purée the soup: Remove from heat. Use an immersion blender (or work in batches with a standing blender, only filling the blender bowl 1/3 of the way each time) to purée the soup.
Add more salt to taste. Sprinkle with lime juice and chopped cilantro to serve.