Roasted Red Kuri Squash Soup and Tart

Monday, January 30, 2012

The weather has been a bit cold lately.  When it becomes chilly, I long for warm soup.  Warm and comforting.  I found two red kuri squashes hidden in the back of my fridge.  Long forgotten from my farmer’s market trip back in December. Red kuri squash looks similar to a small pumpkin.  It has thick orange skin but lacks defined ridges.  The taste is a marriage between butternut squash and sweet potato.   I like roasting the kuri squash with a bit of butter until it caramelizes to get the sweet and starchy flavor and it is not a struggle removing the flesh from the skin.  

Two kuri squashes would yield too much soup so I decided to use the second one for a tart.  I have never made a tart from scratch and decided to adapt the recipe for tart dough from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook.  It was a workout rolling the dough.  It took me hours to finally create a piece of dough that fitted my tart pan.  I had to roll out 4 smaller rectangles of dough and pieced them together.  The next few days, my forearms remained sore, like I had played tennis for the first time in months. I could barely hold my toothbrush.  I decided to be adventurous and added mascarpone cheese to my tart recipe.   All my hard work was paid off handsomely.  

The soup was light, delicious, and comforting.  Perfect for a cold, chilly afternoon.  I slurped up the bowl of soup while wrapped up in a thick blanket.  

Then I moved onto the tart. 

It reminded me of pumpkin pie but tasted more nutty with a mousse like consistency, probably the doing of the mascarpone cheese.  What a satisfying meal!  This was my first time cooking with red kuri squash and I cannot wait to try it in future recipes.   

Red Kuri Squash Puree
2 1-1.5 lbs kuri squashes
3 tbsps unsalted butter, melted

1. Cut the kuri squashes into quarters and scoop out the seeds.
2. Place the squash pieces, cut-side up onto a baking tray.  Drizzle with butter and bake for 45-60 minutes at 400˚F or until the squash is soft and starts to brown.
3. Remove the flesh from the skin and add to the blender and blend until smooth

Roasted Red Kuri Squash Soup
2 ½ cups of kuri squash puree
½ cup white onion, chopped
2 tbsp butter
1 cup chicken stock
½ cup heavy cream
1 tbsp sugar
2 oz of pancetta
Sour cream and pepper, to serve

1. In a sauce pan, add the butter and sautee the onion on medium heat until golden brown.      
2. Add the sautéed onion and squash puree to a blender and blend until smooth.
3. Return the blended squash and onion to the saucepan.  Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil.
4. Add heavy cream and sugar and continue stirring.  Let it simmer gently to let the flavors meld, about 15 minutes.
5. Season to taste with salt and pepper.   Keep warm until ready to serve. 
6. Place the pancetta pieces in the oven until the meat becomes just crunchy.  Cut the roasted pancetta into small pieces.
7. Ladle the soup into serving bowls.  Add a few pieces of pancetta to the soup.  Garnish with a tablespoon of sour cream and pepper.

Roasted Red Kuri Squash Tart


6 tbsp butter, cubed and room temperature

½ cup powdered sugar
2 egg yolks

1 ¼ cups all purpose flour

Pinch of salt

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. In a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the powdered sugar and butter together until creamy.
3. Add egg yolks and mix until well incorporated.
4. Add ¾ cup of flour and mix on low speed until combined.  Add the remaining ¾ cup of flour and salt and beat until the flour is combined.
5. Turn the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap and shape into a flattened disk.  Wrap the dough and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.   The dough can be frozen up to a month.
6. On a lightly floured piece of parchment paper, roll out the dough to a 16 by 7-inch rectangle.  Fit the dough into a 14 by 4.5-inch tart pan and press it into the edges.  Trim the overhang and discard.  Put the tart pan into the freezer for 15 minutes.
7. Remove the tart pan from the freezer and place a piece of parchment paper over the dough and fill with pie weights or dried beans.  Bake until the edges are just beginning to turn golden, 15-20 minutes.
8. Remove parchment and weights.  Return crust to the oven and continue baking until light golden all over, another 15-20 minutes.  Cool completely on a wire rack.


8 oz mascarpone cheese
1 ½ cup roasted kuri squash puree
1 egg
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
2 tbsps all-purpose flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
Whipping cream for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Beat mascarpone cheese until smooth. Add kuri squash puree, egg, sugar and the spices. Add flour and vanilla. Beat together until well combined.
3. Pour into crust.  Spread out evenly and place oven for 45-60 minutes until the surface starts to crack.
4. Remove from the oven and let sit for 15 minutes.  Refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake for My Birthday

Thursday, January 12, 2012

My new year started off with a few hitches.  Vu slammed the door against my thumb but luckily nothing was broken.  Then a few days ago, I was exiting the freeway and the car in front of me made a sudden stop. I heard a loud boom.  Yes, I had hit it.  I had not slam on my brake fast enough.  I sat there, dazed. My first accident.  Then panic overwhelmed me.  Were the people in the other car hurt?  They were ok.  I was ok.  I drove home, still shaken but feeling incredibly grateful that it was only a fender-bender.  Then yesterday, my birthday arrived.  The last year of my 20s before the big 3-0 as Vu had put it.  When I came home, he greeted me with a big bouquet of hydrangeas, one of my favorite flowers. We celebrated with a simple dinner of shrimp cocktail, lobster rolls, and best of all, a lemon poppy seed cake and strawberry passion fruit cream for dessert.  This was the first cake that I have ever made.  

It was moist and the brightness of lemon flavor came through.  Like a burst of sunshine. Rather than making a vanilla pastry cream that the recipe calls for, I made a strawberry passion fruit cream.  The strawberry passion fruit cream was fragrant and light.  The pairing was delightful.  It was a perfect birthday.  Simple and relaxing.  Exactly what I needed after a long week of work.  I am looking forward to enjoying the last year of my 20s, to self discoveries, growth, and a new chapter in my life.

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake (Adapted from Extraordinary Cakes)
1 cup cake flour (can substitute with all purpose flour)
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 stick unsalted butter, cubed and room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
¼ cup sour cream
1 tbsp grated lemon zest
¼ cup lemon juice, strained
2 tbsps poppy seed

1. Preheat the oven to 325˚F. Grease the bottom and side of two 5-by-2-inch round cake pans with butter.  Line the bottom with parchment paper.
2. Sift together flour, salt, and baking powder.
3. In a bow of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together sugar and butter until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Switch to a whisk attachment and add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until well incorporated.  Add the sour cream, lemon zest and juice.
4. Mix the sifted ingredients in several additions until combined.
5. Add the poppy seeds and mix until blended, but be careful not to overmix, as the poppy seeds can change the batter color.
6. Pour the batter into the pans and bake until the top of the cake is slightly golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 45 minutes.
7. Remove the cakes from the oven and allow to cool to room temp.
8. Once cooled, remove the cakes from the pans and peel the parchment paper from the bottom of the cake.

Strawberry Passion Fruit Cream
8 ripe passion fruits, about 1 cup
8 oz mascarpone cheese
1 cup heavy whipping cream
½ cup icing sugar
½ cup strawberries, hulled and diced

1. Halve the passion fruits and scoop out the pulp and seeds into a small pan.
2. Boil the passion fruit until the volume is reduced by half.  Strain the juice through a sieve and chill in the refrigerator.  This step concentrates the flavor of passion fruit.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the heavy cream until light and fluffy.  Add the icing sugar and continue beating.
4. Beat in the mascarpone cheese until well blended.
5. Mix in the passion fruit reduction.
6. Use a spatula, fold in the diced strawberry.

1. Use a long serrated knife, slice off the top ¼ inch of the cakes to even out the top.  Slice each cake into 2 even layers.
2. Place the first piece of cake on a cake stand.  Using an offset spatula, spread 1/3 cup of strawberry passion fruit cream evenly onto the cake.
3. Place another piece of cake on top of the cream and repeat the previous steps with the remaining pieces of cake.
4. After the final piece of cake is topped with cream, garnish with lemon zest.