Monday, February 6, 2012

Kuri Squash Soup with Kale Pesto

February can bring many kinds of weather to us northcoasters:  The ubiquitous rain, of course; frosty mornings; sometimes snow, but also the occasional sunny day to remind us that spring is not far off, no matter what the groundhog saw in your neck of the woods.

So on a recent day, when the sun shone and the temperature reached a balmy 55-degrees, it occured to me that I should use up the remainder of the winter squashes whose presence on my kitchen counter throughout the winter months instills a sense of culinary bounty in my heart.

The squashes I used here were a combination of red kuri and one called Cinderella, which is a French variety, but you can use any orange winter squash that is available to you.  Mine were on the small side, so I used three of them.  I encourage you to use locally grown and organic if you can.

Got pesto?  Swirling a dollop into each serving makes for a nicely visual, and healthy presentation.

Kuri Squash Soup with Kale Pesto
Christine's original recipe
Serves 6-8 generous portions
5 lbs peeled and seeded deep orange squash, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 large yellow onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
4-6 small cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
1.5-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 very ripe Bosc pear, cored and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc (juice of 1 lemon may be substituted)
1 1/2 to 2 quarts home made or low sodium chicken stock
1 teaspoon porcini powder
1 tablespoon Italian herb blend
olive oil for the sauté (butter is optional)
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Assemble and prep your ingredients as listed above.
In a large soup pot, add about 1 tablespoon olive oil or unsalted butter, or a combination of both.
When the oil is hot, lower the heat to medium and add the chopped onions, garlic, ginger and pear.
Stir well and adjust the heat so things will not burn; cover and sweat for about 5 minutes or until the onions are very soft but not caramelized.
Pour in the white wine, scraping the bottom of the pot to loosen any stuck bits, then add the stock, squash, porcini powder and Italian herb mix.
Bring the mixture up to almost boiling, stir, lower the heat so the soup is maintained at a simmer, cover with a lid and allow to cook until the squash is very tender and falls apart when stuck with a fork.
Remove the soup from the heat and allow it to cool for about 5 minutes then purée it with an immersion blender until it is very, very smooth.
Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper if you choose.  Stir well.
Serve with a dollop of kale pesto swirled in and enjoy.

The Italian herb mix that I reach for during the winter months is made by Frontier. It's organic and is available at many natural food stores and co-ops and also in my Amazon Store.
I use a locally made dried porcini powder from the Arcata-based company Hasta be Pasta and I just found out it can be purchased from Amazon so I've put it in my Amazon Store.
The bosc pear:  It had been left on the counter too long and was becoming way too soft for eating out of hand. And while the chickens would have thought it a great treat, it made a nice addition to this soup. What the heck: a squash is a fruit; a pear is a fruit. It worked. End of story.

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