Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Delicata and Carrot Soup




I always think that my preferences for fruits and vegetables leans toward spring and summer--peaches and plums, strawberries, asparagus and corn, and, of course, tomatoes. And yet when I roam through farmers markets or places like Specialty Produce starting around October and see all the gorgeous variations of winter squash, I just fill up with joy. They're all so extravagantly colored and shaped. And the flavors are so specific to the time of year.


One of my favorite winter squashes is delicata. I love the sweet flavor and the fact that I don't have to peel it. The skin is thin and perfectly edible. And, I love the seeds. My dad taught me how to prep and roast pumpkin seeds when I was a little girl and I do it on almost every winter squash I buy. It's such a waste not to!

Delicata squash on the left
On Halloween I had a long striped Delicata squash whose future I was contemplating and decided it was meant for soup. But which way to go? If I have a complaint about winter squash it's that it can be kind of challenging to bring flavors to it that won't be overshadowed by its own flavor. So I rummaged through my fridge and came up four ingredients that I thought could pull it off--even if they didn't seem to go together: carrots, mirin (rice wine), white miso, and fresh lemongrass. I had shichimi togarashi spice seasoning, a spicy multi-ingredient Japanese mix that contains chili pepper, black sesame, white sesame, orange peel, basil, and szechuan pepper. And I had onions and garlic.

Since soup is one of those wonderful dishes that don't require precision, I figured I'd just go for it. I sliced up the carrots and roughly cut the onion. I minced the garlic and peeled off the tougher layers of the lemongrass and then chopped that. Pretty soon, ingredients were going into the medium-size blue Le Creuset pot my mom gave me when she moved out of her house. I added a little water to the sauteeing onion, garlic, and carrots to keep them from burning while I dismembered the squash and pulled out the next of seeds. Once I added the squash and the rest of the ingredients, along with water (I didn't have any stock on hand but you could use chicken or vegetable stock to make it even richer) I brought the pot ingredients to the boil, the reduced the heat to simmer for about an hour until the squash softened. And, oh, the aroma. It turns out combining mirin, miso, and lemongrass is, well, inspired. Sweet and salty and full of umami.

Now you could enjoy the soup as it was--a loose vegetable soup. But I prefer creamy soups so I pulled out my stick blender and puréed it to a silky consistency. I had some pumpkin seed oil from Vom Fass I had been waiting to use, so I drizzled that on my soup once I poured a serving into a bowl. And sighed after the first bite. Lucky me. I had plenty to enjoy with a hank of warm sourdough bread for a few more meals!



Delicata and Carrot Soup
(printable recipe)
Serves 2 to 4

Ingredients
Olive oil for sautéing
½ large onion
5 cloves garlic, minced
5 carrots, sliced
1 large Delicata squash, cut into cubes
¼ cup fresh lemongrass, roughly chopped
1 cup mirin
2 tablespoons white miso
1 tablespoon shichimi togarashi spice mix
Water or chicken or vegetable stock
Pumpkin seed oil (optional)

Directions

1. In a medium size pot, sauté half an onion and five cloves minced garlic. Add carrot slices. Add a little water to prevent burning while cutting up the squash (save seeds for roasting).
2. Add squash pieces, chopped lemongrass, mirin, white miso, togarashi, and water to cover.
3. Bring to the boil then simmer for about an hour until squash is soft.
4. Use an immersion blender to purée. Drizzle with pumpkin seed oil from Vom Fass. Serve with crusty sourdough bread.







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