Kabocha Squash Soup with Hazelnut and Sage

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kabocha

My favorite part of autumn is the culinary permission I get to cook with winter squashes. Pumpkin, Butternut, Acorn, and my favorite, the Kabocha, make there way into side dishes, desserts, salads, and lots of great soup.   Feel free to use your favorite winter squash here, and your favorite nut, for that matter. See the Variations below for some classic combos.

Ingredients

1 small kabocha squash

¼- ½ cup olive oil, divided

6-8 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon unrefined salt – try Persian blue, any sel gris, Japanese shio, or a salt infused with garlic, sage, or hazelnuts

¼ cup hazelnuts

½ large yellow onion

1-2 cups vegetable broth, chicken broth, or water

6-8 large fried sage leaves

1 cup half and half

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Cut squash into quarters and scoop out seeds. Coat the interior with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Set on baking sheet cut side up and roast until tender, about 1 hour.
  2. Meanwhile, place the garlic in foil, drizzle with oil, then wrap tight and roast in the same oven until the tender, about 30 minutes.   Peel the onion and cut into 6-8 wedges, with the root intact. Place on a baking sheet, drizzle with oil, and roast in the same until browned and tender, about 30 minutes.
  3. Place hazelnuts on a dry baking sheet and roast in the same oven until fragrant and browned, about 5 minutes. When each element is cooked as directed, cool them all.
  4. Roughly chop the cooled nuts with a pinch of salt, then set aside for garnish. Scoop squash out of its skin, and into a blender with the roasted garlic. Slice the root end off of each roasted onion, and add to blender.   Puree until smooth, adding broth or water as necessary to facilitate blending, but not too much – it should be a thick soup consistency.
  5. Pass the puree through a fine mesh strainer, and into a saucepan. Warm gently over medium heat. Add the half and half and season with more salt as necessary.   Keep warm.
  6. Heat 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil in a separate small sauté pan. When hot, add the sage leaves, and fry until the sizzling stops, and they are crisp and toasted, about 20 seconds. Drain on paper towels. Serve the soup warm, with a sprinkle of chopped hazelnut and a couple of fried sage leaves, and a pinch of your chosen salt.

Variation

Pumpkin – Try this recipe using pumpkin, and garnish with toasted pepitas (aka pumpkin seeds).

Italianate – Use butternut squash, and add a tablespoon or two of fresh chopped rosemary to the roasting pan. Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese, toasted almonds, or crumbled amoretti cookies.

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