Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Kabocha Squash Soup - serves 4

One of my favorite places in Texas is the Hill Country.  I love to bask in the laziness the country provides, the rolling hills, the amazing sunsets, the walks along the main drag in Fredrickburg, the vineyards and Navajo Grill.  This little jewel of a restaurant is worth the visit.  Located in Fredrickburg off the main highway, it has a Santa Fe feel, serving a great menu of fresh ingredients.  They have a fabulous outside bar with a fireplace, perfect for any setting.  The last time I was there, this past fall, we had the pleasure of eating this wonderful soup.  There have been some discrepancies on whether it was pumpkin or squash since we couldn't remember what the waiter had told us.  So, I decided to call last week and see if I could persuade them in giving me the recipe.  To my surprise, they did, thanks to Chef Josh.  I told him that I haven't stopped thinking of it since, and if he could give me the recipe, I definitely write about it in my blog.  I did tweak it just a bit and added the seeds of the squash, roasting them and adding them to the soup.  Josh uses Pepita seeds, which come from the great pumpkin. You can get these gems, called Kabocha squash, at Whole Foods.  I promise you, you'll love this soup as much as we did.

1 (4-lb) kabocha squash, cut into large chunks, seeds and membranes removed
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
1 clove garlic, minced or grated
2 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1(14 oz) cans light coconut milk
1 cup vegetable stock
2 tsp coarse salt
1/4 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 red or green jalapeno chile, halved lengthwise, seeded, and slivered crosswise
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

In a large pot with a steamer insert, steam the squash for 20 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a fork. Remove to a cutting board and cool.

Wipe the pot dry. Add the oil, place over medium-high heat, and heat the oil until hot enough to sizzle a piece of onion. Add the onion and cook over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon., for 3 minutes, or until the onion is translucent. Stir in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the cumin and cook for 30 seconds. Add the cumin and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Remove from the heat.

Scoop the cooled squash from the brittle skins and add it to the pot. Stir in the coconut milk.

Puree the soup with an immersion blender or in batches in a blender. Add the salt and pepper.

Reheat the soup over medium-low heat, stirring to prevent sticking, until steaming. Do not allow to boil. Stir in the lime juice, half of the chile, and 1 tablespoon of the cilantro. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt. Ladle into warmed bowls. Garnish with the remaining chile and roasted squash seeds (recipe below) and the remaining tablespoon of cilantro.

Roasting the seeds:
Take all the seeds from the squash and spread them on a lined baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and mix well.  Bake at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes, checking often to make sure they don't burn.  Remove from oven and sprinkle with sea salt.

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