One of the biggest clichés in food writing is the idea of cooking with love. It’s abstract, vague, overly sentimental.
And yet, there’s something about it that makes sense to me, especially when I’m making soup. You can cook with a lot of love when you’re making soup. You can take the time to strain it, for example, to make it extra smooth. You can take the time to make stock from scratch, instead of using stock from a box. Most people won’t notice the difference, but you’ll know that you took the time to do it. So what else to call that except cooking with love?
The love even starts with the food shopping: taking the time to go to the farmer’s market on your Sunday morning, instead of sleeping in.
On a recent trip to the Hollywood farmer’s market, two Sundays ago, I stumbled upon these honeynut squash at the Weiser Farm’s stand. They’re like adorable mini butternut squashes; prized for their sweetness and how cute they look on your counter.
When I got them home, I sliced them in half vertically, scooped out the insides, rubbed them all over with olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper, and roasted in a 425 oven until golden brown all over, flipping halfway through.
I served that as a side dish one night and, to cut the treacle of this post, I’ll tell you that Craig isn’t a fan of “mealy” foods — roasted squash fits that category so he didn’t even finish his. The nerve! He said, “I’d like it better in a soup.”
The point was noted. I refrigerated the leftover squash and then, on Monday night, I took the squash out of the fridge, along with a few other ingredients I had laying around, including some roasted Japanese yams from a steak dinner (Craig will enjoy yams if they’re cut into cubes), and yellow miso that I picked up at McCall’s Meat and Fish.
I also happened to have a roast chicken leftover from the previous Sunday. An idea started to form: what if I made a REALLY quick stock with the chicken carcass, an onion, carrot, and some celery? (Really quick because I was starting this project at 6:30.)
It was as simple as putting the whole chicken carcass, half an onion (skin on), the celery, the carrot, and fresh thyme in a pot, covering everything with water, and bringing it to a boil. Normally, you don’t boil stock (it can make it gritty), but the circumstances here were extenuating. I let that burble away for almost an hour and then strained. Look at that color!
It’s a great lesson in never throwing away your leftover roasted chicken carcass. Another quick note: the less water you use to make the stock, the more concentrated it’ll be. So a small pot, in this situation, is ideal.
To be kind to myself, I used that same pot (one less dish to clean), now emptied, melted some butter in it with a splash of olive oil and added chopped onion, carrot, celery, a green apple, and a healthy amount of ginger.
I cooked that for a bit with a big pinch of salt, then added the yams and cooked squash, skin-on.
Once everything was nicely heated up, I added the stock to cover and simmered for 30 minutes. Then, into the blender it all went, with a healthy spoonful of the yellow miso.
I probably filled the blender too much, but I was careful to start it slowly, keeping a kitchen towel over the top so the whole thing wouldn’t explode.
After blending for a few minutes, I strained (cooking with love!), then added back to the pot.
HOLY HELL was that delicious. I was a bit flabbergasted. I thought I was going to have to add more butter or cream or maple syrup for sweetness, but it was absolutely perfect, and maybe even, dare I say?, healthy (ignoring the little bit of butter that’s in it).
The apples leant their sweetness, the ginger leant the heat, the burnt bits on the squash skin gave it depth, and the yellow miso gave it lots of interesting umami flavor.
It’s a soup for the ages — good enough to be dinner on its own, though I did serve it with some grilled bread — and the secret ingredient was, after all, (everybody groan)… LOVE.
Roasted Honeynut Squash Soup with Apples, Ginger, and Yellow Miso
- 4 honeynut squash, halved, seeded This recipe will also work with any kind of roasted squash.
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
- 1 to 2 celery, roughly chopped
- 1 to 2 carrots, roughly chopped
- 1 Granny Smith apple, cored, roughly chopped (skin-on)
- 2-inch piece ginger, peeled, roughly chopped
- 4 – 6 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade; see post for the quick way)
- 1/2 cup yellow miso
- Maple syrup (optional)
- Heat the oven to 425. Coat the squash in olive oil (about 1/4 cup), sprinkle with lots of salt and pepper, and roast on a cookie sheet 20 to 30 minutes, flipping the squash halfway through. Keep an eye on it as it roasts; you want it deep, dark brown all over, but not burnt. Allow to cool and then roughly chop, skin-on.
- In a large pot, melt the butter along with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. When hot, add the chopped onions, celery, carrots, apple, and ginger. Stir all around with a pinch of salt and when everything is softened and fragrant, add the squash. Stir all around until the squash is thoroughly mixed in with everything else.
- Add just enough stock to cover everything (you can always add more later). Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, add a pinch of salt and cook at a low simmer for 30 minutes. You'll know you're ready when everything mushes easily against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon.
- Pour the mixture into a blender, add the yellow miso, and CAREFULLY turn the blender on, being sure to start slow and to cover the hole at the top with a kitchen towel. Slowly crank up the speed and blend on high speed for a good minute or two.
- Strain the mixture back into your pot and taste. Adjust with salt and pepper and, if for some reason it's not sweet enough, add a splash of maple syrup. If it's not rich enough, you can add cream or butter. And if it's not funky enough, add more miso. Enjoy!
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