Kabocha Soup

I was in the mood for something nourishing and warm and easy. This hit the spot. I didn't measure anything. It's another "key recipe." Just add and subtract stuff till it suits you.

* 1/2 kabocha, scooped, peeled and cut into 1" (3 cm) cubes.

* 1 tomato

* 1/2 onion

* about 1 liter chicken stock or 2 bouillon cubes + 1 liter water.

* 1/2 package frozen green beans

* 4-5 small sausages. I used "Arabic wiener," expecting something like merguez, but they weren't spicy at all (surprise surprise in the land of "Dear goodness! That Cream of Wheat was karai!!")

* Potato flakes (I dunno ... like a handful or two)

* Milk (about 1/4 liter, maybe a bit less)

* Paprika, salt, black pepper

1. Prepare the kabocha if you haven't already. Also, slice the top off the tomato and dice the onion. Cut the sausages into long slices (instead of cutting perpendicularly, slice at an angle).

2. Add some olive oil to a wok or deep skillet. Fry the sausage for a bit. When it starts to cook, toss in the onions and cook those until they turn translucent and fragrant.

3. Don't worry if residue is sticking to your pan, because you're gonna fix that in this step: pour in a little of your stock or water and work your spatula against the bottom of the pan to un-stick the fried residue. Now that you've gently lowered the temperature of your pan, you can add the rest of the water or chicken stock. Toss in your bouillon if you're gonna use it. Work it around until it's dissolved.

4. Add the kabocha chunks. Bring it to a boil. Toss in your tomato, skin and all. You're going to use the soup to blanch it. After about a minute, retrieve the tomato. The skin should slip off. You can then return it to the pot and mash it up a bit.

5. Now reduce the pan's heat to low. The surface should still be simmering. Let that cook until the kabocha begins to get soft. Whisk/mash it around if you want a puree. Otherwise, don't.

6. Ideally, you don't want to cook this too long because the heat will break down a lot of the nutrients in the vegetables you've added. On the other hand, the soup needs to simmer a bit if you want the kabocha to be creamy. Use your own judgment on this. Add the green beans. It's okay if they're still frozen. Let it all cook until the green beans start to get soft. Then add your potato flakes. They add a certain heartiness, I think, and they also thicken it all. And they're easier than throwing in a potato and cooking it. Potatoes take freakin' forever to cook. I almost exclusively microwave them these days.

7. So now you should have all of the major ingredients incorporated. Here is where you add the milk (dairy doesn't generally handle long cooking spells well). Just stir it in until you like the color and the flavor.

8. Another thing that does not hold up well to long cooking are dried herbs and powdered spices. Now is the time to add these. I use the paprika mostly for garnish cuz it looks cool...but I stirred a little in for the pungency it adds. Sage is a classic match for butternut squash (which tastes the same as acorn squash, which is the most commonly found form of kabocha.) but I didn't have any sage. So I didn't use it. Also, now's the time to add salt + pepper, unless you prefer to salt/pepper at the table. Be advised that both potatoes and, to a lesser degree, tomatoes, counter salt. So if you added a lot of either, you'll need to add more salt.

9. Once everything is cooked through to the texture you like, and once you've seasoned it, you're ready to chow down. I would say this can be done in under an hour. I think it only takes about 30 minutes to cook over a gas flame.


I ate like 6 cups of it when I was hung over from Lizzie's birthday and it made me feel 100% more human again :o)