Today my colleagues at the Garden were kind enough to let me take home one of the two kabocha squash that we harvested. I regret that I didn't photograph it, but my colleague Elisabeth provided this photo of another of our beautiful kabochas (surrounded by tomatillos). Wikepedia informed me, with its usual degree of authority, that Kabocha squash is also called "Japanese pumpkin". Indeed, as you see, it is very pumpkin-like. We also harvested two sugar pumpkins from our "Three Sisters" plot today, and our kabocha looked like they could easily have been their unripe cousins.
Elisabeth reminded me about an amazing soup that uses kabocha, along with tomatillos. I recalled the recipe, too, the minute she mentioned it yet, inexplicably, it's been over 10 years since I last prepared it. It's "Tomatillo and Squash Soup" from Anna Thomas' "The New Vegetarian Epicure". It is probably the best soup I've ever made, or eaten. How on earth have I lived without it, let alone forgotten about it, for all these years?! I'm quite sure that the last time I made it was in the late 90's. Kabocha squash and tomatillos were relatively hard to come by back then. As we reminisced in the Garden today, you had to search for tomatillos at "Bread and Checkbook", and they cost a lot, and even the 12 required by the recipe were not necessarily in stock when you needed them. Kabocha squash, with its firm very deep orange flesh and unique flavor (and tough constitution…you'd better have a good knife!), was not particularly easy to find either.
In our Garden, a tomatillo shortage is NOT an issue. Our two tomatillo plants are thriving, and we have more tomatillos than we know what to do with! (Until today, I've just been skewering and grilling them…delicious, yes, but so is anything that's skewered and grilled, no?).
So, arriving home with my tomatillos (about twice as many as specified in the recipe; this is my standard practice…I double up on the components I love the most) and my kabocha (deceptively small in appearance, as it turns out..it weighed in at just about the 2 lbs suggested by the recipe), I dug out my copy of Anna Thomas' classic book and got to it. This soup is somewhat labor intensive, and heats up your kitchen, but it is so, so worth it! I roasted the tomatillos, along with our own Garden tomatoes and about a dozen garlic cloves* until lightly charred in the oven, cooled them a bit, and then blasted them in the food processor. Meanwhile, I simmered the peeled and diced squash to extreme tenderness in Trader Joe's organic vegetable broth, skipping the additional water the recipe suggests. Once these components were all cooked, I left them sitting and ran out to buy onions. (Unfortunately, onions from our Garden are not large enough; they're mainly bunching onions — yummy in their own right, but not for this recipe). I was able to find organic sweet onions at Trader Joes. I then carmelized the onions, along with one mashed garlic clove and a bit of salt, in EVOO. At this point, it was time to toast, according to the book, "2 dried red serrano or other hot peppers" on the stovetop, chop them, and add them to the soup. Instead of dried peppers, I first selected two fresh hot red peppers from the Garden. But, when I charred them and processed them (in my mini-food prep Cuisinart), they, despite my having removed the seeds, gave off such strong hot pepper fumes that, honestly, I was afraid to put them in the soup — in fact I could barely breathe without coughing (guys, what ARE those peppers we're growing??). I love this soup so much and, while I appreciate hot peppers, they can so easily overwhelm. So, I discarded most of the hot pepper into my compost pile (sorry!). I then went to the cupboard and selected a half dried Guajillo pepper from Penzey's, which describes it as as "not hot but rich, smoky and complex". If I'd planned enough in advance I would have soaked it a bit but, instead, I just ground it up in the mini-prep (along with a small bit of the juice and pulp from our Garden hot peppers). This is what went into the soup, along with some of our Garden cilantro and sea salt. That's all. Heated it through and, yes, it was still, after all these years, wonderful! Still is, in fact..we have enough for lunch tomorrow. Elisabeth, thank-you for reminding me about this soup that I used to love so much! It's extraordinary!
Along with our Tomatillo and Squash soup for dinner tonight, John and I had a little cole slaw that I made, also inspired by a suggestion of Elisabeth's. I prepared the cole slaw with a tiny little cabbage, the result of a Garden experiment (see Lisa's post "The Great Cabbage Experiment", 08/01/2011). I sliced it and combined it with one of our yellow carrots (coarse grated), our bunching onions (sliced thin) and a dressing of: mayonnaise (Trader Joe's organic), cider vinegar, sea salt, black pepper and celery salt. After mixing it all together, I decided to also add a bit of minced pineapple to temper the vinegar taste a bit. Came out pretty good, if I say so myself. Elisabeth, thanks for suggesting the cole slaw and, also, especially, for suggesting the original experiment that led to these sweet baby "2nd gen" cabbages!
Well that was our dinner tonight, along with some fresh, still sweet corn from Busa's, our beloved neighborhood farm. The ingredients were mostly from the Garden, with some help from Busa's and TJ's. Oh, yeah, and the perfect wine to accompany this feast was something crispy and cold from Enzed. We bought it from either: Menotomy Beer and Wine, TJs in Cambridge or Busa's Liquor..we don't quite recall where we got this one, but it was just right tonight.
* Garlic cloves are not yet available from the Garden, but stay tuned! Now that we have been granted permission to keep the garden open through the winter, we will be planting some. In the meantime, I used organic garlic from Trader Joe's.