It took until today, Sunday, for San Diego to finally get a full-on dose of blustery fall weather and I've been more than ready for it. Yesterday, I'd gone to Nijiya Market on Convoy for a few things, including a Kabocha squash. This Japanese squash is sweet, almost like a sweet potato, and I wanted to pair it with an acorn squash and some root vegetables for a roasted squash soup.
Now, I don't usually just post a recipe, but I'd mentioned on Twitter that I was planning on making the soup, which is a riff on my friend Karina Allrich's roasted vegetable chowder, and I'd gotten some Twitter requests to write it up. So, here we go, with apologies to my more competent recipe blogging friends.
I've been making winter squash soup for years and years but usually I peel the squash, cut it up, get rid of the seeds and cook it in stock before pureeing it. That's perfectly fine, but I wanted to find out if roasting the vegetables would bring out a more intense, earthy flavor.
So, instead of peeling the squash, I simply cut them into pieces, saving the seeds for toasting later, and also cut up a sweet potato and several carrots. I love roasted garlic, so I used the peeled cloves of half a head. All this went on a large baking sheet, tossed with olive oil, dried thyme and kosher salt. Ordinarily I would also include pepper but I'm giving some of this to my mom, who can't eat pepper. I then poured homemade chicken stock and Manzanilla sherry over the vegetables.
The vegetables went into a pre-heated 400-degree oven and roasted for about 45 minutes, until they were brown, soft and caramelized.
Once the vegetables cool a bit, you can easily pull the skin off the squash. While they were cooling, I pulled out my favorite blue Le Creuset dutch oven and added some olive oil. Once that had heated up, I added chopped leeks, minced garlic and grated ginger, sauteeing until they were just starting to turn golden. With the squash peeled, I added the roasted vegetables to the pot, incorporating them into the leek mixture. Then I added a quart of chicken stock and brought the soup to a slow boil. I turned down the heat and covered the pot, letting the soup simmer for about 15 minutes.
At that point, it's time to pull out the immersion blender and puree the soup. I like to leave it just a little chunky. Taste and adjust the seasonings, perhaps even add some water or more sherry if it's too thick.
And, remember those squash seeds? Don't let them go to waste. Rinse them thoroughly in a colander, removing as much of the stringy pulp as you can. Let them dry, then toss them in a bowl with just enough olive oil to coat them and perhaps some garlic salt (you could use any spice or herb, actually).
Spread them on a baking sheet and toast them for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees, periodically stirring them around. You want them nice and golden brown.
These are great for snacking, but, of course, I'm serving them on top of my soup, along with some sour cream (no time to run out for creme fraiche) and fresh thyme leaves from my garden. Thanks to my friend Angela, who is stopping by for dinner, I'll have a warm sourdough baguette from Bread & Cie to dunk with, along with butter from Spring Hill Jersey Cheese.
And, yes, roasting makes a big difference!
By the way, if you really have a fixation on squash soups, take a look at my Gourmet Club co-host Maureen Clancy's write up of her experience with Austrian kurbiscremesuppe (roasted pumpkin, butternut squash soup). It sounds amazing!
So, here's the recipe:
Roasted Winter Squash Soup
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
1 kabocha squash (about 3 lbs.)
1 acorn squash (about 1.5 lbs.)
1 medium-size sweet potato
½ head of garlic, peel cloves but leave whole
½ cup chicken stock
½ cup sherry (I used Manzanilla sherry)
¼ cup olive oil
1 tsp. dried thyme
½ tsp. kosher salt
¼ tsp freshly ground pepper (optional)
Cut squashes in half and spoon out seeds. Save seeds for later. Cut squash halves into quarters. Put on large roasting pan or large heavy sheet pan. Wash and cut carrots into 1-inch pieces. Add to squash pieces. Wash and cut sweet potato into large chunks and add to pan. Toss in garlic cloves. Drizzle olive oil on vegetables. Sprinkle thyme, salt and pepper on vegetables. Toss mixture with hands to coat vegetables. Add stock and sherry. Roast for 45 minutes or until the vegetables are soft and caramelizing, stirring about halfway through. When vegetables are out of the oven, let them cool, then pull off skin from squash pieces and discard.
2 leeks, trimmed of green, cleaned, and chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
½-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
¼ cup olive oil
1 quart chicken stock
Roasted vegetables from Step 1 above
1 tbl. fresh whole thyme leaves
Crème fraiche or sour cream
*Roasted squash seeds
In large heavy-bottom pot, heat olive oil and add leeks, ginger, and garlic. Saute until just turning golden. Add roasted vegetables and stir to mix. Add stock and bring to slow boil. Then cover and lower heat to simmer. Gently simmer for about 15 minutes. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup. Taste and adjust seasonings. If it’s too thick, add a little water to reach right consistency.
Serve with a dollop of crème fraiche and sprinkles of thyme leaves and roasted squash seeds.
*Roasted squash seeds
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Rinse seeds thoroughly in colander, removing stringy pulp. Let dry. Toss seeds in a bowl with just enough olive oil to coat along with a dash of garlic salt. Spread seeds in a single layer on an oiled baking sheet. Roast for about 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until golden brown. Great snacking but if you can hold out, sprinkle on the soup.