This is the perfect soup recipe for early fall. The winter squashes are just coming off of the vines, so they have a lovely, herbacious flavor that is unique to slightly underripe squash. Squash is typically stored for a few months after harvest to develop the sweetest, most intense flavor, but I adore the unique flavor of freshly harvested Kabocha. By pairing it with just a little ginger and lemongrass, its light and bright flavor can shine through. It’s also worth noting that kabocha flesh has a very bold color, so it makes the most beautiful soup.
Of course you can make this soup any time of year with any variety of winter squash. It’s really incredible (and wonderful) how differently squashes can taste. If you’re working with an older squash, consider caramelizing the onion rather than sweating it as I do in this recipe. It will help develop a richer, sweeter flavor that will pair well with a more mature squash. You might also double the lemongrass and ginger in this case, allowing their flavors more of a chance to compete in the end.
Kabocha Squash Soup with Ginger & Lemongrass:
*makes 8 cups*
2 Tbsp. coconut oil
1 medium sweet onion, large dice
1 stalk of lemongrass (see below for instructions)
¾ inch piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped (about 1 Tbsp.)
1 medium kabocha squash, about 2 ½ pounds
4 – 5 C. water
While still whole, peel the squash with a vegetable peeler or paring knife. Carefully cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Chop the squash into roughly 1 inch pieces, and set aside.
Next, roughly chop the onion. In a large stockpot over medium-low heat, melt the coconut oil. Add the onion along with a very generous pinch of coarse salt and sweat (that means no browning), for about 5 minutes or until soft.
While the onion sweats, prepare the ginger and lemongrass. For the lemongrass, start by cutting off about 1 inch of the base as well as the thin, dry top. Then cut the remaining stalk into 4 or 5 lengths, and cut each piece through lengthwise. These will be used to infuse the soup, and the tender, inner bits will be pulled out later to become part of the puree.
Once the onion is soft, add the ginger and lemongrass and cook for a few more minutes until fragrant, again, avoiding any browning.
Lastly, add all of the squash chunks and pour over the water to just cover everything.
Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat and simmer for 25 minutes or until the squash is very tender.
Allow the soup to cool for one hour, stirring occasionally to release steam. Once it is cool enough to do so, pull out the lemongrass pieces one by one. Check each piece to see if the innermost layers are tender enough to puree – they should be soft enough for your fingernail to easily cut through. Return the soft bits to the pot (there won’t be much), and discard the tough, outer layers.
Puree the soup in batches until smooth. You can optionally pass it through a sieve if you desire a perfectly velvety soup.
Rewarm the soup on the stovetop until just steaming, or store for an easy weeknight dinner. Perfection!