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Despite my love of fall produce, especially cranberries, for some reason I’m not quite ready for autumn just yet.  Ready or not, the temperatures are dropping, the rain and wind have definitely arrived, and so have the seasonal offerings at the market.

Since I can’t hold it back, this rich, just barely gingery bisque of kabocha squash is a great start toward embracing the inevitable.  I roasted the diced squash first for extra depth, and separately toasted the seeds with butter and five-spice powder for a crunchy garnish.  Apple cider mixed with the vegetable stock and diced apples in the garnish added a hint of sweetness and brought out even more of the squash flavor.

Although it was the backbone of a very casual rainy-day dinner tonight, the smooth simplicity and seasonally-appropriate colors of this soup would make it a great first course for your Thanksgiving dinner.

Five Spice Seeds

Roasted Kabocha Squash Soup with Apple and Five-Spice Seeds
Serves 4

1 small (2-lb) kabocha squash
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
1 tablespoon each unsalted butter and olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
2 cups vegetable stock
1 cup apple cider
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
Salt and pepper
1 eating apple (preferably Honeycrisp or Fuji)
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Preheat oven to 400 F.  Line two baking sheets with foil.

Peel and empty out the squash, reserving the seeds.  Chop the peeled squash into 1-inch dice and toss with canola oil, then spread onto sheet in single layer.  Bake until tender and beginning to brown at the edges, 30-35 minutes, stirring once or twice.  Remove from oven and reduce oven temperature to 375 F.

Remove the seeds from the squash pulp, clean well in a bowl of water, and pat dry between paper towels.  Stir the salt and five-spice powder into the melted butter, add to the cleaned seeds, and toss to combine.  Spread onto the second sheet and roast until golden and crisp.  Set aside to cool.

Heat the butter and olive oil in a heavy stock pot over medium heat.  Saute the onion and celery until translucent, then add roasted squash and ginger cook a few minutes more.  Add stock, cider, salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil, then cover and lower heat, simmering for 30 minutes.

Using an immersion or regular blender, puree the soup until smooth. Taste and correct with additional salt and pepper as needed.

Peel and dice the apple, tossing with the lemon juice, then mix with the roasted seeds. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with the seed and apple garnish.

Notes:

Any orange squash, from butternut to pumpkin, could be substituted here, although pumpkin seeds are tougher and more fibrous than kabocha.  In that case, I would use toasted pecans in the garnish instead, as I did when I first made this soup with sweet potatoes, which was also great.


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