When it’s cold outside, don’t you want to stay warm and cozy and fill your home up with wonderful aromas? I know I do. Once I’m home at the end of a long day, and it’s dark and cold out, the last thing I want to do is head out again for dinner, or to the store to pick up ingredients. This is great, because it encourages me to cook more.
When cooking with whole foods, cooking for ourselves is better for us than going out – we know what’s going into our meal, we can make it nutritious, and prepare enough to have leftovers, for continued nourishment throughout the week. This helps us stay away from eating less nutritious meals outside of the home, and prevents us from eating unhealthy, processed foods on the fly.
This is why I have a well-stocked pantry and freezer. Canned tomatoes, seaweeds, coconut milk, and dried beans all have permanent residency on my shelves. Containers of grains, nuts and seeds live in my freezer (along with knobs of ginger), because keeping them away from light and heat extends their shelf life.
This time of year, I keep a few winter squash on hand, too. Squash keep for up to six months in a dry cool (50-55 degrees) environment. By having squash in my larder, and a few other items in stock, it’s easy to create a filling nourishing meal, and reap the benefits of squash’s nutrients – beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A to support immunity, along with iron, potassium, vitamin C and some B vitamins.
Be sure to select squash that are heavy for their size, and that are firm. And don’t be thrown off by thick skin. It’s a great source of fiber and is tender and delicious. In fact, many winter squash have edible skins, even if the skin is thick, so be sure to taste before tossing. In this recipe, I use squash skin as a striking garnish. You can use the leftover squash skin as part of a side dish or salad – just tear or cut the skin into bite size pieces, and toss with winter greens like radicchio, endive or watercress. The sweet and bitter balance each other nicely. Add a nice drizzle of sweet balsamic vinegar, some olive oil, a pinch of sea salt and some hazelnuts.
Kabocha Squash Soup
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced small
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1 3-pound Kabocha squash
4 cups broth of your choice
1 can coconut milk
1 tablespoon Grade B maple syrup
¼ teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Carefully slice the squash in half, by inserting a sharp chef’s knife or a cleaver right next to the stem, and slicing down to the root side. Scoop out the seeds and discard/compost – they are too fibrous to eat. Place the squash halves in a roasting dish flesh side up and cook for 35-40 minutes, until the flesh is tender and the skin can easily be peeled away from the flesh. Set aside to cool.
Heat the oil in a large soup pot. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until it begins to soften and turn translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the ginger, then add the flesh of the squash by scooping it out of the skin with a large spoon (reserve the skin for garnish), broth, coconut milk, maple syrup and smoked paprika. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes.
Use an immersion blender to purée soup. Alternatively, let the soup cool slightly and carefully purée in batches in a traditional blender, then transfer back to pot. Bring back to a simmer over medium heat. Add the vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.
Slice the skin into thin 1-inch long pieces and use to garnish the individual bowls of soup.