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The Warm Up: Your Winter Squash Fix

A Mediterranean recipe for kabocha squash soup from the chef behind A Zest for Life

In the Spanish town of Valencia, Spain, they love their soups year-round. It’s not at all surprising: Hot or cold, hearty or light, Valencian soups blend the best of Mediterranean cuisine—they’re easy to make, flavorful and packed with nutrients—and I’m in love. The kabocha squash (or Japanese pumpkin), the saffron, the perfectly ripe pears melting in the broth…the flavors are addictive. On my current Mediterranean cuisine kick, I’m all about adapting the flavors of what grows in the region and sourcing really wonderful extra virgin olive oil. The result is a healthy, satisfying bowl of Mediterranean Gypsy Soup containing a rich assortment of spices from India and Europe.

Soups are perfect for people with busy schedules. They take little preparation time and can be made in large batches, frozen, and then heated up on another day when you have little time but still want to enjoy a homemade soup. I’ve eaten this soup three days in a row and experience a warming, sunny, zesty taste sensation every time. azestforlife.com

Mediterranean Gypsy Soup

Kabocha Squash, used in this recipe, is a Japanese variety with a bright orange hue. Can substitute Jewell Sweet Potatoes, Sugar Pumpkins or Butternut Squash.

Serving Size: 6

3 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 cup onion, peeled, 1/3″ dice
1 tablespoon fresh garlic, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon tumeric
1/4 teaspoon fresh saffron
3/4 teaspoon juniper berries, ground
1/2 teaspoon himalayan pink salt
2 large plum tomatoes , or 1 cup canned petite diced, drained
1  tablespoon unsalted butter
3 cups squash or pumpkin, kabocha squash, cooked, peeled 1/3″
3/4 cup garbanzo beans, cooked
1/2 cup white beans, cooked
1 large ripe pear, peeled, cored, 1/3″ dice (such as bartlett)
5 cups vegetable broth
3/4 cup red chard or kale, cleaned, thinly sliced

In a heavy large soup pot, heat 2 t. olive oil. Add onion and garlic and cook over moderate heat until softened, but not colored, about 5 minutes.

Add all 5 seasonings (paprika through salt) and 1 t. olive oil, stir and cook to release their flavors, about 2 minutes. Cut plum tomatoes in half crosswise. Grate using the largest holes, discarding the skin. Add to pot, cook over moderate heat a few minutes until the juices are dry.

Add the butter, squash, garbanzo beans, white beans and pear. Stir and cook 2 minutes.

Add the broth, raise heat to high and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce now to a simmer, and cook uncovered about 15 minutes. Add the thinly sliced greens, and stir one minute.

Slightly cool and taste for seasonings. Serve with mint slivers or sprigs.

To bake kabocha squash: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut a medium sized squash into four pieces. Place in a baking pan to hold with 1″ of water underneath.   Cover with heavy foil and bake for 45 minutes, or until just softened. Cool, then peel and discard the skin. Cut into 1/3″ dice.

Photos by Gus Cantavero
Table top by Simon Pearce