This is the only vegetable stock recipe you need to know. I usually do not make blanket statements like this, but when it comes to vegetable stock, this one is the only one worth using. The technique used to pull out as much flavor from the vegetables is so genius and obvious, I often wish I thought of it myself. What makes this stock so wonderful and puts all other vegetable stock recipes to shame? The brilliant idea of roasting the vegetables before you simmer them in water.
This is Mark Bittman’s recipe for vegetable stock from, How to Cook Everything. In his cookbook, Mark Bittman writes about his technique of roasting the vegetables before simmering them in the stockpot as the one step he always does when making vegetable stock. He has the talent for paring down a recipe to include only the essential techniques to get the most amount of flavor. Yet, for making vegetable stock, he adds an extra step and it is essential. Because Mark Bittman is often so nonchalant about things, that when he says, “This is the one thing to do when making vegetable stock,” I do not question his wisdom. I follow.
Building Extra Flavor
Once you roast the vegetables then simmer them for stock, you will see how important this step is. When vegetables roast in the oven, their flavor concentrates and browning occurs. This browning adds extra body and flavor on top of the flavor you get from roasting. If Emeril Lagasse was making this recipe he would shout out, “Bam,” and with a flick of his wrist, like its a magic wand, present this vegetable stock masterpiece.
Honestly, there are two extra steps because you must deglaze the pan after roasting the vegetables then add all that extra flavor into the stock.
Another bonus with deglazing the pan is, it helps with the cleanup later on. All the baked on goodness, (I know you are looking at the photo and thinking clean-up is going to be a bitch) dissolves into the warm water as you scrape it off the bottom of the pan. Voila, half the clean up is done before you finish the stock.
Vegetables for Vegetable Stock
“Vegetable for Vegetable Stock” sounds like a political campaign slogan. Though I am not on a political crusade, I am on a homemade vegetable stock crusade. The essential vegetables for making stock are celery, carrots, onions, and leeks. Use the onion skins because they add great color to the stock. Feel free to use the whole plant, roots and all. Carrot tops and celery leaves I add later to the simmering stock with the herbs, But everything else roasts together in one roasting pan.
Other vegetables depend on what you are making and have on hand. What is important to keep in mind is, whatever vegetable you use will influence the flavor of the stock. If you use broccoli stems, the stock will taste like broccoli. If you use asparagus ends, the stock will taste like asparagus and have a khaki green glow. Sometimes bitter vegetables get more bitter when roasted or cooked. So, keep in mind what you are making with the vegetable stock and add extra vegetables to complement the meal. If you are making vegetable stock for broccoli soup, then broccoli stems are perfect in the stock. If you are making mushroom risotto, then using broccoli is not the best choice, but reconstituted mushrooms and fresh mushrooms are along with the essential vegetables.
For my vegetable stock I generally use, celery, carrots, onions, leeks, garlic cloves, parsnip, turnip, and mushrooms with fresh herbs. Sometimes I add fennel stalks, but not too many.
Potatoes are common vegetables in stock, but I have yet to use them. Instead of potatoes, I like to use parsnips and turnips. What concerns me about using potatoes is I do not want the stock to get cloudy and I believe the starches in potatoes will cause that to happen. Also, I do not want my stock to taste like potatoes.
Cutting Back on Food Waste and Make Stock
To cut back on food waste, I keep a stash of vegetable scraps in my freezer specifically to use in chicken and vegetable stock. It is great to save on food items you frequently cook with, like mushrooms stems and the dark green parts of cleaned leeks instead of throwing them away. Fennel scraps get thrown in there as well. Recently I froze a bunch of swiss chard stalks from my Savory Tart of Swiss Chard and Butternut Squash and used them in my vegetable stock. Whatever vegetable scraps I do not use I compost even though I do not have a vegetable garden. Composting your kitchen scraps help reduce the carbon emissions in the atmosphere.
Read here for more information about Food Waste
For the first time, make the vegetable stock using the recommended vegetables and discover the vegetable flavor developed from the recipe. Once you get familiar with making stock, you can experiment with using different vegetables and come up with your own varieties.
Mark Bittman lists white wine as one of the ingredients in the stock. If I have a dry white wine like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio on hand I use it. If not, I don’t. The wine does make the flavors brighter but is not so important that you need to make a special trip to the liquor store.
Discovering this vegetable stock recipe was a life changer for me. Up until then, store-bought vegetable stock tasted meh and the flavor unreliable. Any homemade version tasted just a step up from water. I like using vegetable stock in meals like risotto and vegetable stews because chicken stock sometimes is too strong a flavor. Sure, you can use chicken stock in all these foods, especially if you are not cooking for a person eating a plant-based diet, but it makes everything taste like chicken soup. As much as I love chicken soup, I do not want everything to taste like it. Having a good vegetable stock recipe is a necessity.
Use vegetable stock in these recipes:
Roasted Vegetable Stock
You can use most vegetables for making stock, just keep in mind that the stock will taste like the vegetables you made it with. The essential vegetable stock ingredients are celery, onion, carrots, and leeks. Any additional vegetables are bonuses. I happen to love the flavor of parsnips and turnips in stocks and use them often. Parsnips have a distinct and sweet flavor, that I believe gives vegetable stock a unique flavor.
This recipe is from, How to Cook Everything By Mark Bittman.
Makes 3 quarts
- 2 washed leeks cut in half or 2 onions quartered with the peel intact.
- 3 carrots peeled and cut in half
- 3 celery stalks cut in half, add some celery leaves during the simmer
- 2 parsnips peeled and cut in half optional
- 2 white turnips peeled and quartered optional
- 2 potatoes peeled or well washed and quartered optional and use if you do not use parsnips or turnips
- 1 cup (250 ml) mushrooms or mushroom stems. Or ¼ cup (60 ml) reconstituted dried mushrooms with soaking liquid)
- 6 garlic cloves still in its papery skin or shallots
- 4 TBS extra virgin olive oil
- 3 bay leaves
- 10 sprigs parsley
- 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 10 peppercorns
- ¼ cup 60 ml dry white wine
- Kosher salt to taste
- 2 quarts (2 liters) water, plus 4 cups (1 liter) of water for deglazing
Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Place the vegetables on a rimmed baking sheet or large roasting pan. Do not add reconstituted mushrooms or fresh herbs at this time. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan. Use two sheet or roasting pans if necessary. Drizzle the vegetables with the extra virgin olive oil and Kosher salt. Toss the vegetables with your clean hands to evenly coat.
Roast the vegetables in the oven until they are browned and soft. Check the vegetables every twenty minutes and turn them around with a thin metal spatula. The vegetables should take around 45 minutes to finish roasting.
Remove the vegetables from the roasting pan and place all the ingredients in a large stockpot. Add the remaining vegetables, fresh herbs, bay leaves, peppercorns, wine, and 2 quarts of water. Turn on the heat to high.
Place the roasting pan over two burners and pour in the remaining water. Begin with 2 cups (500 ml) of water as it is easier to pour back into the stock pot from the roasting pan. Turn the heat to high and bring the water to a boil. Use a wooden spoon and scrape off the browned bits on the bottom and sides of the pan. Pour the liquid into the stockpot with the vegetables and add remaining water. It is awkward handling a large sheet pan or roasting pan filled with water, so be careful.
Bring the stock to a just about a boil, turn down the heat and cover the pot with a lid part way. Maintain the temperature at a low simmer. You should see a few bubbles reaching the surface at a time. Cook until the vegetables are very soft and tender. This can take from 30 -45 minutes. Taste.
Place a colander over a large bowl big enough to hold 3 quarts. Pour out the vegetables into the colander and drain the stock in the bowl. Press down on the vegetables to extract as much stock as possible without pressing in any solids into the stock. Taste and adjust for salt if needed.
Refrigerate and chill for a couple of hours then skim off any hardened fat floating on the surface if you like. Store in the refrigerator for 4-5 days or freeze for a couple of months.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
A friend approached Joe and said, “Joe, I just tried this great soup. It is called pasta ee fa-gee-oli. You have to try it.”
Joe responds laughing, “That’s not how you say it. It is pronounced pasta fazool.”
“No Joe. It’s pasta ee fa-gee-ol-ee.” It is pasta and bean soup and it is delicious.”
“I’ve eaten pasta fazool my whole life. It is Dad’s favorite soup and he loves to make it. In our house, we call it, pasta fazool.”
How do you say, “Pasta e Fagioli”?
Actually, according to online reference, you do not pronounce the “e” and fagioli has two syllables, fa-joli. The pronunciation is very lyrical and dances off the tongue with the accent on the “joli”. Saying “fagioli” is fun and so is saying “fazool”. The rhythm of the Italian word is upbeat and more captivating than the English translation, “beans”. Yet no matter how you say it, pasta e fagioli is delicious and needs to be in your soup repertoire. It is an Italian soup made with pantry staples of beans and pasta created out of necessity from humble origins. At its core, the soup is made with only four ingredients, beans, pasta, onion, and garlic. 5 ingredients if you count the water. 6 if you count the parmesan cheese. In my household, we always count the parmesan cheese.
Pasta e Fagioli
From my research, there are as many versions of pasta e fagioli as there are neighborhoods in Italy. Traditionally, pasta e fagioli has a stew-like consistency, somewhere in the middle of thick and thin. Too thick and it tastes gloppy, too thin and it is less filling. If Goldilocks were Italian, the three bears would leave pasta fagioli instead of porridge for Goldilocks to sample. She would taste each bowl of pasta fagioli to find the one that was “just right”, with the proper consistency and texture. Whether pasta e fagioli is thick like a stew or not, it is a magical soup with comforting flavor from the beans, pasta, aromatics, and parmesan cheese. Like Mac and Cheese, pasta e fagioli is pure comfort food and not only fuels the body but soothes the soul.
Italian heritage of Pasta e Fagioli.
Switching It Up
Traditional pasta fagioli recipe does not use stock because the soup’s foundation is the same water that cooks the beans and pasta along with aromatics and leftover rinds of parmesan cheese. Cooking everything in one pot helps develop the stew-like consistency of the soup. Plus, using rinds from parmesan cheese adds a nutty and cheese flavor to the water that is really lovely. It is a great technique to use when you need to bump of the flavor of a mild tasting broth or soup.
For my version, I made the soup with a thinner consistency, but it is loaded with lots of pasta, beans, and tomatoes. I chose not to cook the pasta and beans together but cooked them separately. Often, pasta gets gummy in soups because they become saturated and overcooked. I find this very unappetizing and do my best to avoid gummy pasta whenever possible.
Additionally, I made this soup with fresh cranberry beans and the cooking liquid turns dull and grey. I worried that the bean cooking liquid would make the soup unappealing. So, erring on the side of caution, I cooked the beans separately as well. By cooking the pasta and beans separately this gave me more control over the lifespan of the cooked pasta, the consistency of the soup, as well as the color and overall appearance.
Instead of using plain water, I combined vegetable broth, pasta water and the bean cooking liquid to make up the soups’ stock. This mixture keeps the traditional elements but lightens it up both in flavor and viscosity. I chose vegetable stock over chicken stock because chicken stock makes everything made with it taste like chicken soup.
Cranberry beans are stunning to look at with its’ ivory color and magenta splatter. Unfortunately, the beans lose their fun purple appeal as they cook, creating beans with an ivory-grey tone and ugly grey-beige liquid. The vibrant colorful appearance is gone. Have no fear, despite the dull cooked appearance, cranberry beans have a lovely mild and herbal flavor from the aromatics in the cooking liquid. When you cook fresh beans, do not salt the water. Instead add onions, garlic, and herbs to season the liquid. The cranberry beans will absorb all the aromatics and taste wonderful.
If you can find cranberry beans, buy them. This time of year, fresh cranberry beans are available at Farmer’s markets or specialty grocery stores. A pound and a half of cranberry beans in their shell will give you enough beans for this soup. The bonus of using fresh beans over dried beans is they do not take as long to cook, and there is no need for the overnight soaking.
To save time, use canned cannellini beans, reserving their liquid for the stock and rinsing them. Look for the low salt, or no salt variety as canned foods are often high in salt.
More soup recipes
Not only does pasta fazool have the power to nourish the body for a day of hard work, but it also has the power to heal emotionally. Eating soup is grounding, comforting and uplifting on any given day. I am not sure why all I know is how I feel after eating a bowl of soup. While eating soup there is a sense of timelessness and that might be the reason for the feeling of calm and comfort.
Making soup gives me the same satisfaction and reassurance. I find it to be a meditative process with a delicious outcome. What I love about making soup is I can use up odd and end pieces of food like vegetables, chicken or fish and give them new life. Pasta fagioli is the perfect foundation for such an activity. You won’t get the traditional soup, but the premise is the same. Use what you have in the pantry or the refrigerator, even if it is just pasta and beans, and transform those leftovers into a substantial meal.
I dedicate this post in loving memory to my father-in-law, Phil Palumbo. There is no special occasion for this dedication other than I cannot say pasta fazool or enjoy eating this soup without thinking of him and feeling his love.
Pasta e Fagioli
Some people say "Cheese" when having their pictures taken, but in our family, we say, "Pasta Fazool." It is a family tradition started from Joe's dad because it is such a fun word to say. No matter how you say it, Pasta e Fagioli, Pasta Fazool, or Pasta and Beans is a hearty heartwarming soup made from pantry ingredients and just hits the spot when every you need a pick-me-up.
It may look like a lot of ingredients in this recipe for such a basic soup, but each ingredient is consistent with the Italian tradition of using simple pantry ingredients and creating something magical. You can make this as easy as you wish by using store-bought stock and canned beans, or follow my lead and make everything from scratch. Yet, I hope one day, when you are stuck inside from bad weather, you take the time and make this soup from scratch. There is nothing like a homemade soup and its heartwarming lift you get from spending the day creating something delicious to eat for your family.
Cooked pasta absorbs a lot of the liquid in the soup. As a result, some people add warm pasta to individual bowls of the soup instead of the pot. This prevents the pasta from getting gummy from overcooking. But I believe the pasta adds flavor and a nice consistency to the soup, so I do not do that. To prevent the pasta from overcooking, make sure you cook it al dente because the pasta will continue to cook in the warm soup. Also, when I heat up leftovers of pasta fagioli, I add more vegetable stock to loosen it up.
- 2 cups (500 ml) dried cannellini beans or great northern soaked overnight Or, fresh cranberry beans
- 1 onion cut in quarters
- 3 garlic cloves peeled and smashed
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 sprigs rosemary or one sprig sage
- 1 rind parmesan
Pasta e Fagioli
- 6 slices bacon cooked and cut into ½ inch pieces optional -see notes for substitutes
- 4 TB (1/4 cup / 60 ml) extra virgin olive oil or you can use a combination of rendered bacon fat and olive oil
- 2 celery stalks diced
- 1 onion, cut in small dice
- ½ tsp red pepper flakes
- 3 large cloves garlic, minced
- 3 bay leaves
- Bouquet garni of 3 parsley sprigs, 1 sprig sage, 2 sprigs rosemary
- Beans from the bean recipe, drained from their liquid. Or 1-14.5 oz can cannellini beans, great northern beans, or kidney beans
- 2 Parmesan rinds, plus grated or shaved for serving
- 4 cups (1 liter) vegetable stock
- 2 cups (500 ml) water, or a combination of pasta water and the bean's cooking liquid
- 1 - 14.5 oz (425 g) can diced tomatoes with liquid
- 4 - 6 oz (125 -175 g) dried pasta such as ditalini, small elbows, or small tube-shaped pasta
- Parmesan Reggiano cheese grated or shaved
If you are using fresh cranberry beans you won’t need to soak them overnight as they have not been dried out.
If you are using dried beans and forgot to soak them overnight, place the beans in a large pot filled with water. Bring the pot of water to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and soak for one hour. Drain the water and proceed as directed for cooking the cranberry beans.
If you are using canned beans, drain and reserve the bean liquid. Rinse the beans. Begin the recipe at step 1 under Pasta e Fagioli.
Place the fresh cranberry beans or soaked beans in a large pot and add the quartered onion, 3 cloves of garlic smashed, 3 bay leaves, 2 sprigs of rosemary. Bring to a boil then turn down the heat to a simmer. Cook until tender, but not breaking apart, about 35 minutes for fresh cranberry beans, or 1 hour or longer for the dried beans. Check the beans frequently so you do not overcook them.
Remove the aromatics, onion, garlic, herbs, pour the beans into the bowl of a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl to catch the liquids. Drain the beans and reserve the bean water. Set aside.
Pasta e Fagioli
In a 5 qt Dutch oven or large stock pot, add the olive oil, (or a combination of olive oil and rendered bacon fat to equal 4 TBS (1/4 cup / 60 ml)), set over medium heat. Heat up the oil to melt the bacon fat if using. Add the onions and celery and a Kosher salt. Sauté until the vegetables are soft and transparent, being careful not to brown the vegetables, about 5-8 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes and minced garlic and sauté until for about 1 minute.
Once the vegetables are soft, add the vegetable stock, and 2 cups water (or a combination of pasta water, bean cooking liquid, and water). Add the bay leaves, bouquet garni, parmesan rinds, and chopped tomatoes with their liquid. Bring the soup to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.
Continue to simmer the stock and add the cooked beans and crispy bacon pieces. Simmer for ten to twenty minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. Add the cooked noodles and cook until they are warmed through.
Serve hot with thin slices, or finely grated Parmesan Reggiano.
Pasta e fagioli is best eaten the day it is made but it can be reheated on the stove or in a microwave. You may want to add some extra stock when heating up leftover soup, as the beans and pasta will absorb the liquid in the soup.
Joe's dad often added scraps of meat like ham to the soup to make it more substantial or cook the beans with a ham bone. According to Joe, Dad often used the soup to use up odds and ends of food that was leftover in the refrigerator or the pantry.
I like bacon in this soup as it adds a lovely smokey flavor. Pieces of fried prosciutto are a nice addition as well, but it does not have the smoky flavor of bacon.
If you do not eat pork, a traditional substitute is anchovy filets. Add 4-6 fillets to the sautéed onion and celery when you add the red pepper flakes. You want to cook them down so they melt into the oil before you add any liquids.
For a plant based version, omit the bacon, anchovies, and parmesan cheese rind. You will need additional seasoning to add more body and flavor to the pasta fagioli, which can come from additional garlic and herbs. Or maybe a small amount of miso though not too much to change the soup's Italian flavorings. I have yet to try nutritional yeast, but that is another option as well.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
Oh baby it’s cold outside and nothing warms up a numb body better than a steaming hot bowl of soup. Purée of vegetable soup is an easy recipe made with ingredients typically found in a well-stocked pantry and refrigerator. Canned tomatoes, canned or fresh cannellini beans, onions, carrots and celery make up the foundation for this hearty soup. The additional ingredients, like herbs, spices and other vegetables, add extra body and flavor for a bright tasting vegetable soup with great depth of flavor.
My original intention was to create a hearty tomato soup recipe. I love tomato soup, especially when paired with a grilled cheese sandwich. Essentially, I did develop a tomato soup, but one with a blended flavor of tomatoes, aromatics and legumes. As a result, compared to a traditional tomato soup, the tomato flavor is less pronounced. I found the generous amount of mixed vegetables softens the tomato flavor, creating a hearty and fresh tasting blend of garden delights.
I love living where there are four distinct seasons, but during this dark and chilly winter, I sometimes need a reminder of the sunny and warm days to come. These short days with harsh and biting temperatures can make a person feel sad and extra hungry. Do you find your appetite increases during the winter? Mine does. I believe the body needs extra calories to maintain a normal body temperature. That is my theory but some scientists disagree.
If you find you are always craving something extra during the winter, instead of reaching for a bunch of crackers, or cookies, make a bowl of vegetable soup. Not only will it provide sustenance and warm you up, the bright color and taste will lighten your winter mood and give hope for the spring days to come.
Warming winter foods:
Purée of Vegetable Soup
- 2 TB extra virgin olive oil
- 1 onion (about 9 oz / 254 g), minced
- 3 celery stalks about 8 oz /223 g, minced
- 2 carrots about 6 oz/ 165 g, minced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 tsp Herbs de Provence
- 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
- 1/2 fennel bulb about 7 oz / 219 g, minced (optional)
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/4 cup 60 ml dry white wine
- 1- 28 oz can 800 g whole peeled tomatoes in purée
- 1- 15 oz can 425 g cannellini beans
- 2 1/2 cups 625 ml vegetable broth
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 TB raisins
- 2 TB chopped walnuts
- 2 TB chopped celery leaves
- 1 TB extra virgin olive oil
- 1-2 tsp sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
- Small pinch of salt
Heat extra virgin olive oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add the minced onion, celery, carrots and bay leaf. Cook the vegetables until they begin to get soft but not browned, about 5 minutes. While cooking occasionally stir the vegetables so they don't brown or stick to the bottom of the pan.
Add the fennel and cook for 5 more minutes, or until the vegetables are soft.
Add the minced garlic and red pepper flakes, cook until the garlic becomes fragrant, about one minute.
Add the white wine and cook until almost evaporated.
Cut up the tomatoes into 3-4 irregular size pieces and add them and their juices to the vegetables. Add the vegetable stock and cannellini beans. Cook for about 15-20 minutes or until the vegetables are very soft. Taste the soup after 7 minutes and correct the seasoning with more Kosher salt and or fresh ground black pepper.
Turn off the heat and remove the pot from the stove. Remove the bay leaf and discard.
Purée the soup with a blender or an immersion blender, until smooth or to your desired consistency.
Taste and correct the seasoning with salt and black pepper.
Garnish with croutons, your favorite garnish, or the celery raisin walnut garnish.
Put all the ingredients into a small bowl and mix together. Taste and correct the seasoning. Let the garnish sit for 15 minutes before serving. Serve room temperature with the soup.
You can make this soup any consistency you like. If you do not own a blender or food processor, keep it chunky. Add more stock to thin it out if you think it needs it.
To make it smooth with chunks of vegetables, strain out about 2 cups (500 ml) of the cooked vegetables from the soup before you purée it. Once the soup is puréed to your desired consistency, add the mixed vegetables back in.
For more pronounced tomato flavor, add a tablespoon of tomato paste to the pot of cooked vegetables before you add the tomatoes and other liquid ingredients. You may need more stock to thin out the consistency.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
Whenever I try a new food or learn a new trick I like to share it with you on my blog. This week I discovered a winter squash I never had before, kabocha squash. It is a gnarly looking green winter squash like a small pumpkin, and tastes like a blend of sweet potato and pumpkin. Kabocha is sweet and dense like a sweet potato, but with as silkier texture. Compared to a sugar pumpkin, it has a deeper burnt orange color, smoother texture, and a richer sweet squash flavor. It is not a new variety, but one that is gaining in popularity throughout the US. Like most winter squashes, you can substitute Kabocha in most recipes using winter squash.
My curiosity was piqued after reading a recipe for Red Curry Ginger Squash Soup. In the recipe the author described Kabocha squash as the sweetest of winter squashes available. Of course, I had to test her statement and bought it to make her soup. This soup is made up of some of my favorite flavor combinations, Thai red curry paste, coconut milk, fresh ginger, and lemongrass. I have a weakness for Thai coconut curries and love stews and soups made with them. With that in mind, I knew this soup recipe is a winner.
Red Curry Ginger Squash Soup comes from Meyers and Chang At Home, by Joanne Chang and Karen Akunowicz. This is a wonderful cookbook featuring dishes from the restaurant Meyers and Chang in Boston’s South End neighborhood. The book is filled with amazing recipes celebrating Taiwanese food and Joanne Chang’s Taiwanese American heritage. For their ginger curry soup recipe, they recommend using one of three different winter squashes, with Kabocha high on their list. I found soup is a great meal to make when trying an unfamiliar vegetable. In the event you are not totally in love with the flavor, it is easier to doctor-up soup into something preferable. Fortunately, kabocha’s flavor satisfied like I thought it would, and required no doctoring. The rich and sweet flavor, and silky texture of the kabocha was perfect with the fresh ginger and Thai curry paste. This soup is giving my all-time favorite pumpkin soup some competition.
This is an easy soup to make, but there are a couple of considerations.
How to peel Kabocha squash 2 ways
Like a lot of winter squash, Kabocha has a very tough outer skin. Peeling off the skin is tricky. You need a good cutting board and sturdy surface, and a sharp chef’s knife.
First, cut the kabocha squash in half, then pull the two sides apart. Then scoop out the seeds like you would for a pumpkin. Scrape out as many stringy strands too. Once cleaned, cut each half into 3 or 4 wedges depending on how big your kabocha is. Finally, lay each wedge on its side with the skin facing out, and run your knife down along the outer side, slicing along the curve of the wedge.
The alternative method is to roast the Kabocha then slice away the peel. First, cut the kabocha in half, scoop out the seeds, then slice in wedges like the method above. Place the wedges on a sheet pan. Drizzle a little olive oil over the kabocha wedges and sprinkle with some Kosher salt. Place the sheet pan in a pre-heated 400°F/ 204°C oven. Roast the squash until the flesh is very tender, about 40 minutes to an hour. Using a spoon or a knife, scoop or cut out the flesh away from the peel. This method cooks and peels the vegetable at the same time.
More delicious Asian Cuisine inspired recipes:
Tips for making Kabocha Coconut Curry Soup
The other consideration is keeping the coconut milk from separating or curdling. This happens when the coconut milk reaches a certain temperature and the proteins that link the fat to the water change shape, denaturing of the protein, and no longer stay emulsified. It is a natural process and does not cause coconut milk to go bad. It just looks unappetizing. To prevent the coconut milk from curdling it is important to make sure the coconut milk is at room temperature and the ingredients in the pot are not boiling. I work at controlling the temperature, so the coconut milk stays emulsified and smooth. Stirring the soup helps with this as well.
While making this soup, I lowered the temperature after the kabocha became tender and mushy. Then I let the liquids in the pot cool down to barely a simmer. Once the soup cooled, but remained warm, I added the coconut milk while stirring constantly until the coconut milk incorporated. Once the coconut milk is added, the soup needs to cook for an additional 30 minutes. It is important to control the soup’s temperature, so it does not boil. I slightly turned up the heat to a low simmer and continued to stir the soup at regular intervals.
I have yet to determine if Kabocha is the sweetest of winter squashes around, but I am eager to continue testing that theory. My next kabocha adventure might be adding it in my pumpkin pie recipe, or my sweet potato cake recipe. What is your favorite Kabocha or winter squash recipe? Let me know in the comments section below the recipe.
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Kabocha Coconut Curry Soup
- 2 TB olive oil or butter
- 1 small yellow onion chopped
- 2 TB fresh ginger peeled and minced
- 1 TB Thai Red Curry Paste
- 1 1/2 - 2 lbs 750 g - 1 k Kabocha or butternut squash, peeled and cut into 2" chunks
- 1 stalk lemongrass
- Zest from 2 limes (or preferable if you have access to Asian markets 2 makrut lime leaves)
- 1 13.5 oz 403 ml can of coconut milk
- 2 TB fresh squeezed lime juice more to taste
- 1 tsp sugar plus more to taste
- 1/2 - 1 tsp Kosher salt more to taste
Heat a large stock pot over medium high heat. Add the olive oil and heat for about a minute. Add the onion and garlic and gently cook until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. While the vegetables cook, stir frequently to prevent the onions and ginger from sticking to the bottom.
Add the curry paste and stir until incorporated. Cook for about 1 minute.
Add the kabocha, or butternut squash, and 2 cups (500 ml) of water. Bring to a gentle boil and cook until the squash is tender and mushy. About 15 minutes.
Prepare the lemongrass. Peel off the outer papery layer and discard. If your lemongrass is not already trimmed, cut off the top 2/3 of the stalk, leaving about 6-7 inches of a pale and pliable piece. Cut off the dense base of the stalk. Slice the stalk down the center lengthwise.
Turn down the heat to low. Add the lemongrass and lime zest, or lime leaf if using.
Once the soup ingredients stop boiling and cooled to a low simmer, add the coconut milk. Constantly stir until the coconut milk is thoroughly mixed in. Be careful not to allow the soup to a boil, or the coconut milk will curdle. Frequent stirring will also prevent the coconut milk from curdling.
Turn the heat up to medium-low and cook for about 30 minutes. Make sure the temperature does not get above a gentle simmer. Stir the soup at frequent intervals to prevent curdling.
When done, remove the lime leaves (if using) and lemongrass from the soup. Use a fork to help fish out any loose lemongrass strings.
Purée the soup. In a blender, food processor or immersion blender, process the soup until smooth. If you are using a blender leave a vent for the heat to escape. Also purée the soup in batches so the soup does not explode. I used my immersion blender with good results and avoided possible explosions with a blender. However, blenders do a better job at getting a smoother purée.
Once puréed, pass the soup through a fine mesh strainer.
Place your soup back in your stock pot and taste, and turn the temperature to medium low. Add the lime juice and correct the seasoning with the sugar and salt. Taste and adjust the seasoning. When adding the sugar and Kosher salt, start with less amounts then taste. You can easily add more. Add more lime juice if needed. Also, add more water if the soup is too thick. The texture should be light and smooth and not too thick.
Serve warm right away.
Can be made 2 days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, or freeze up to 2 weeks.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.