It’s cool, misty and very fall like-my kind of weather. I’m always looking for an opportunity to make comfort food and our upcoming dinner party seemed like the perfect time for a soup. I envisioned it being served in big cups as we sat around the family room chatting, before moving to the dinner table. J. likes to call it “walk around soup”.
You know the saying “best laid plans”, well those were the plans. The table was set, all the food was made but the dinner party did not take place due to an unplanned major headache. The soup, however, was the perfect antidote for what was ailing me.
Kabocha Squash and Fennel Soup with Candied Pumpkin Seeds
2 pounds kabocha squash
2 medium bulbs fennel
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons fennel seed
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups sliced onions
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
2 chiles de arbol
1 bay leaf
3/4 cup sherry
10 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/4 cup creme fraiche
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
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 round cinnamon, paprika and cayenne
1 teaspoon honey
Toast the cumin seeds in a small saucepan over medium heat, until the seeds release their aroma and are slightly browned. Pound them coarsely in a mortar or a spice grinder.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan 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 for a few minutes, until just after they begin to pop.
Turn off the heat and wait 30 seconds. Add the honey, tossing well to coat the seeds. Spread out on a parchment lined baking sheet and let them cool.
Preheat the oven to 400°.
Cut the squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Place cut side down on a cutting board and use a sharp knife (or a really good peeler) to remove the peel. Slice the squash into 1″ thick wedges. Cut the fennel in half lengthwise and then into 1/2″ thick wedges. Toss the squash and fennel with the oil, 1 teaspoon salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Place the vegetables on a baking sheet and roast for 35 minutes, until tender and slightly carmelized.
Meanwhile, toast the fennel seeds in a small pan over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes, until the seeds release their aroma. Pound them coarsely in a mortar or in a spice grinder.
Heat a Dutch oven over high 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 ground black pepper. Reduce the heat to medium-high and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring often, until the onions are soft and 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 for 20 minutes.
Strain the soup into a colander set in a pot. Put a third of the solids into a blender with 1/2 cup broth (you’ll need to puree the soup in batches). Process on the lowest speed until the squash mixture is pureed. Add another 1/2 cup of broth and turn the speed up to high and pour in more broth a little at a time, until the soup has the consistency of heavy cream. Blend about a minute at high speed until the soup is completely smooth and very creamy. You may not need all of the broth. Taste for balance and seasoning.
Pour the soup into a bowl, and top with a dollop of creme fraiche and scatter some pumpkin seeds on top. Serves: 6
This recipe comes from one of my favorite books-Sunday Suppers at Lucques.
Come with me to Italy-check out Cook with Panini Girl in Italy up above the header.