Fall is wonderful time for cooking. It's not too hot to turn on the oven, and there's plenty of fruit, root vegetables and squash to keep things interesting all season. KCET Food will be presenting a series of autumn recipes in the next couple of months - as perfect for any blustery day as they are on a holiday table.
Kabocha is also known as Japanese pumpkin. The vegetable has been popular in Asia since the 1500s, and it's only fairly recently become common here. We encourage you to seek it out: it is, in our humble opinion, the queen of all squashes.
Kabocha Squash and Fennel Soup with Crème Fraîche and Candied Pumpkin Seeds
2 pounds Kabocha squash
2 medium bulbs fennel
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teapoons fennel seeds
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups sliced onions
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
2 chiles de árbol
1 bay leaf
3/4 cup sherry
10 cups chicken or vegetable stock or water
1/4 cup crème fraîche
Candied pumpkin seeds (recipe follows)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Cut the squash in half lengthwise, and remove the seeds. Place the squash
cut side down on a cutting board, and use a sharp knife to remove the peel. Slice
the squash into 1-inch-thick wedges. Cut the fennel in half lengthwise and then
into 1/2-inch-thick wedges.
Toss the squash and fennel with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and some
freshly ground black pepper. Place the vegetables ﬂat on a baking sheet and roast
about 35 minutes, until tender and slightly caramelized.
Meanwhile, toast the fennel seeds in a small pan over medium heat 2 to 3
minutes, until the seeds release their aroma and are lightly browned. Pound
them coarsely in a mortar.
Heat a Dutch oven or soup pot over high heat for 2 minutes. Add the butter,
and when it foams, add the onions, fennel seeds, thyme, chiles, bay leaf, 1 teaspoon salt, and a good amount of freshly ground black pepper. Reduce the heat to
medium-high, and cook about 10 minutes, stirring often, until the onions are
soft, translucent, and starting to color.
Add the squash and fennel, and stir to coat with the onions for a minute.
Turn the heat back up to high and pour in the sherry. Let it reduce for a minute or
two, and then add the stock and 1 tablespoon salt. Bring to a boil, turn down the
heat, and simmer 20 minutes.
Strain the soup in a colander set in a pot. Put a third of the solids into a
blender with 1/2 cup of the broth. (You will need to purée the soup in batches.)
Process at the lowest speed until the squash mixture is puréed. Add another
1/2 cup broth and then turn the speed up to high and pour in more liquid, a little
at a time, until the soup has the consistency of heavy cream. Blend at least a
minute on high speed, until the soup is completely smooth and very creamy.
Transfer to a container, and repeat with the rest of the ingredients. You may not
need all the liquid. Taste for balance and seasoning.
Pour the soup into six bowls, spoon some crème fraîche in the center of
each, and scatter the pumpkin seeds over the top. Or serve family-style in a
tureen with the crème fraîche and pumpkin seeds on the side.
candied pumpkin seeds
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
Generous pinch each of ground cinnamon, paprika, and cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon honey
Toast the cumin seeds in a small pan over medium heat 2 to 3 minutes, until
the seeds release their aroma and are lightly browned. Pound them coarsely in a
Melt the butter in the cumin pan over medium heat. Add the pumpkin seeds
and sugar, then sprinkle the spices and a healthy pinch of salt over them. Toss the
pumpkin seeds to coat them well with the butter, and cook a few minutes, until
just after they begin to pop and color slightly.
Turn off the heat, and wait 30 seconds. Add the honey, tossing well to coat
the pumpkin seeds. Spread on a plate and let them cool.
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