Yes, it’s that time of year. I’m still mourning the disappearance of my beloved peaches and have reluctantly moved on to apples and hard squash. Red kuri squash is very popular in Japanese cuisine and for good reason. It has a mellow flavor and the skin is thin enough that you don’t have to peel it; it softens up when it’s cooked. If you can’t find red kuri, try this recipe with kabocha or butternut squash. This is another super quick and easy recipe: sauté, simmer, blend. Garnish can be either black sesame seeds or an assortment of traditional Japanese spice mixes such as nanami togarashi, which can be found in Asian grocery stores or even the Asian food section of your supermarket.
Red Kuri Squash Soup
makes about 8 cups
1 medium red kuri squash, about 2 1/4 pounds
1 Tablespoon neutral oil (canola, peanut, sunflower)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup sake (optional)
5 cups water
2 teaspoons red miso
2 Tablespoons tahini
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 lemon, halved
1. To prepare the squash, carefully cut it in half and scoop out the seeds. Cut off the hard stem end and the green flowering end. Cut the squash into 2-inch pieces.
2. Set a large soup pot over medium heat and add the oil and onions. Sauté for about 10 minutes or until the onion is soft and translucent. Add the ginger and carrots and cook another 5 minutes. If the onions start to brown, turn down the heat. Add the garlic and cook one more minute.
3. Add the sake to deglaze and let cook for a minute. Then add the water and squash. Bring to a simmer and cover the pot. Simmer for about 15 minutes or until the squash and carrots are very soft.
4. Turn the heat off and add the miso, salt, and tahini. Using a blender or immersion blender, purée the soup, adding more water if necessary if you want a thinner consistency. Taste for salt, adding more if necessary, and finish with a squeeze of lemon. Garnish with black sesame seeds and, if you want to add some spice, a dash of nanami togarashi.