Soup season is upon us – at least according to the calendar, if not the weather. I’ll be here wearing my turtlenecks and slurping soup, despite the 80 degree temps. I refuse to let such minor details put a damper on my favorite season. Least of all my love for all things squash.
If I had to choose one variety of squash or pumpkin, kabocha would be it. It has an earthy, sweet flavor and a fluffy texture, reminiscent of sweet potato. It is also rich in nutrients, including beta-carotene, iron, vitamins A and C and fiber. It is particularly delicious in soup form, as its fluffy, moist texture produces a velvety soup that is basically a warm hug in bowl form.
Squash soups, and especially butternut squash soups, are ubiquitous come autumn. You can’t really go wrong with any squash soup – it’s hard to mess up the sweet flavor and crowd-pleasing orange hue. However, I find most kind of one-note and a bit lackluster. In my experience, squash in any preparation needs to be balanced with other flavors — acidity, freshness, a jolt of spice and earthy umami — to save it from cloying sweetness.
This soup is the perfect example of balancing and enhancing squash’s natural flavor. Fresh, slightly tart apple, earthy miso, a hit of acid in the form of apple cider vinegar, onion, ginger and thyme all combine in a complex harmony of flavors that is so delicious. The flavor is anything but lackluster. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the secret creamy ingredient — almond butter! I mean, why not? I love almond butter with apple and squash separately, so I decided to combine all three in this soup, and it totally works. The almond butter lends creaminess and richness, without any actual cream. I also love the slight nuttiness it lends to the soup’s flavor.
Ok, this all sounds great, you may be thinking, but what about the elephant in the room? The terrifying prospect of cutting said squash. Cutting into a kabocha is, indeed, not for the faint of heart. For this very reason, this recipe only requires you to cut the squash in half and roast it. I never even think about peeling this intimidating veggie, as its tough skin makes it a near impossible chore. And I’d like to keep each of my fingers, thank you very much. So just one cut – you can do it. Use your largest, sharpest knife on a stable cutting surface. If your cutting board is prone to sliding around, place it on a silicone baking mat or a damp kitchen towel.
Roasting the squash not only makes the process easier, but it also intensifies the squash’s flavor. You can also do the roasting step a day or two in advance. Once the roasting is done, this soup comes together very quickly. It’s the perfect warming soup for the cozy season ahead. Serve it with crusty bread or atop your grain of choice. I swirled in a bit of coconut yogurt, topped with watercress and sprinkled with sesame seeds and flaky salt.
Enjoy! xx Maggie