Ton-Ton's Journey: Vancouver 2007 will continue on Wednesday, December 12, 2007.)
Rain has finally come to Southern California, bringing with it the opportunity for me to engage in my favorite cold weather activity; sitting by the window in a comfy chair with a piping hot bowl of soup and a good book. Since I never know how long I have until the sun will be back, I prefer a simple recipe that doesn't take too long. I also like a thick, starchy soup that will help keep me warm as I enjoy the sound of falling rain drops.
Japanese Kabocha Pumpkin Soup is my hearty fare of choice for a grey day. Velvety and rich, it's an entire meal in and of itself. The base recipe is easy, requires few ingredients, and can be finished in less than 30 minutes. I include the skin, which contains most of the vitamins and essential nutrients. The pumpkin's own seeds are roasted to make a salty, crispy garnish. An optional blend of yuzu zest, yuzu juice, and extra virgin olive oil can be drizzled onto the soup to brighten the flavors and add sizzle.
Japanese Kabocha Pumpkin Soup
1 Chinese cleaver
1 cutting board
1 large pot or sauté pan with fitted lid
1 mixing bowl
1 non-stick baking sheet (or regular baking sheet and parchment paper)
1 blender or food processor
1 fine mesh sieve (optional)
1 Japanese Kabocha pumpkin
1 large yellow onion (Substitute with vegetable stock to make vegetarian.)
3 cups of chicken stock
1 cup of whole milk (Substitute with unflavored unsweetened soy milk to make vegan.)
1 tbsp of butter (Substitute with vegetable oil to make vegan. I like rice bran oil.)
1 tbsp of vegetable oil (For roasting the seeds.)
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste
Juice and zest of one yuzu mixed with 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil (optional)
- Wash the pumpkin, scrubbing it with a stiff brush or clean bristle pad. Do not use soap.
- Using a heavy cleaver, split the pumpkin in half. Remove the stem and woody base. Reserve the seeds.
- Chop the pumpkin into large, 1-inch chunks.
- Peel the onion, halve, and thinly slice.
Instructions (Pumpkin Seed Garnish):
Place an oven rack in the middle of your oven. Heat the oven to 350°F.
Remove any large pulp chunks from the pumpkin seeds but save the pulp. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil over high heat. Add 3 tablespoons of Kosher salt, then stir in the seeds. Drop the heat to medium or medium-low and let simmer for around 10 minutes. Remove from heat and drain well.
Place a tablespoon of the reserved pulp in the mixing bowl and mash into a paste using your fingers or a fork. Add the seeds and vegetable oil. Mix well, then spread out onto the baking sheet in a single layer. Let the seeds group together to create abstract shapes. Place the baking sheet in the middle rack of your oven and roast the seeds for 20-30 minutes until golden and crisp. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let cool to room temperature.
Instructions (Japanese Kabocha Pumpkin Soup):
Melt a tablespoon of butter (or vegetable oil) in your pot over medium heat until it shimmers.
Add the sliced onion and sauté until pale and translucent. Do not let the onions brown.
Turn the heat up to high and add both the chicken (or vegetable) stock and pumpkin chunks. The stock should just cover the surface of the pumpkin. You can add a water if necessary.
Let the stock come up to a boil, then drop the heat to medium or medium-low and simmer under the pumpkin is tender. Should take about 20-30 minutes.
Once the pumpkin is tender, puree the soup in your blender until smooth. For a silkier texture, pass the soup through a sieve. Return the soup to the pot, stir in the milk (or soy milk), and bring back up to a simmer over medium or medium-low heat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let simmer for five more minutes, stirring frequently.
Serve the soup with a sheet of your roasted pumpkin seeds. A drizzle of the optional yuzu and olive oil mixture really helps brighten it up.