Roasted kabocha soup

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

A few weeks ago I caught a bad cold, or so I thought. It started with a sore throat and progressed to complete exhaustion, nausea, and vomiting. I knew something was wrong when I could barely move or eat. My husband drove me to urgent care and I was diagnosed with Strep throat. I had to take time off from work, was put on antibiotic, and quarantined myself. The first three days were the worst. I felt like there were pins poking at my throat everytime I tried to talk or eat. My mom’s kabocha soup came to the rescue. 

Made with roasted kabocha squash, scented with lemongrass and ginger, and enriched by coconut milk, my mom’s soup was the perfect antidote to my sore throat. Her kabocha squash soup is one of my favorites not only for those times I’m feeling under the weather but for those chilly, autumn and winter days.  

Roasted kabocha squash soup

1 2-lb kabocha squash, quartered

2 tbsps olive oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 knob of ginger, peeled and crushed
1 stalk of lemongrass, cut into 2 inches, crushed
1 can of 14 oz coconut creme
1 cup of water
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp sugar
Micogreen for serving
Freshly ground pepper for serving

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. To prepare the squash, scoop out the seeds and remove as much of the soft, sticky pulp as possible. Brush the squash pieces with olive oil, place cut side down on a roasting tray, and roast in the oven for 60 minutes, turning halfway through.

3. Remove the squash from the oven, remove the skin with a knife, and chop the squash into chunks.  Reserve 1/2 a cup of squash chunks for serving.

4. Heat the remaining olive oil in a saucepan on medium heat. Add shallot and garlic and saute until fragrant. Add the ginger and lemongrass.

5. Add in the coconut milk and water and bring to a boil.

6. Add in the squash and let it simmer for 15 minutes.

7. Remove the ginger and lemongrass pieces and set aside.

8. Use a handheld blender and puree to a smooth consistency. Add back the ginger and lemongrass.

9. Season with fish sauce and sugar and let it simmer on low heat for another 15 minutes.

10. Ladle soup into serving bowls, top with squash chunks, microgreens and freshly ground pepper, and serve immediately.

Salted Caramel Quince Tarte Tatin

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

A few weeks ago, I took a short trip to Seattle and fell in love with the Emerald City all over again. I had forgotten how gorgeous fall in Seattle is with all the red, orange, and ochre foliage lining streets and city parks. The rain, fog, and its melancholy made me miss the bay area, where I grew up. I spent a lot of time meandering different parts of Seattle, from Pioneer Square, Belltown, Capitol Hill to Ballard, popping in random shops and restaurants.  My favorite meal was at Lark where I indulged in oysters and ended the night with a delicious quince tarte tatin, smothered in salted caramel sauce and topped with old fashion vanilla ice cream.  It was probably the best thing I ate on that trip!

 The next day, I drove around Seattle for looking for quinces and totally lucked out on my way to the airport. I stopped by a gas station and spied a small market across the street. With three hours to spare, I made my way to the market.  It had a nice selection of fruits and to my delight a huge bin of pineapple quinces. I probably bought about five pounds and carefully stuffed them in my carry on. Instead of taking a nap on the plane, my thoughts were occupied with how to recreate the salted caramel tarte tatin from Lark.

When I came home, I left the quinces in my kitchen and let their heavenly fragrance fill my favorite space. After a few days, I dug out an old recipe for apple tarte tatin and substituted the quince for the apple. I altered the cooking time for my tarte tatin since quinces are virtually inedible raw and required a little more cooking than apples. It’s a bit of work to make this classic French upside-down dessert but worth every bite. The quince tarte tatin that I had at Lark was paired with vanilla ice cream and I wouldn’t eat it any other way. Enjoy!

Salted Caramel Tarte Tatin 

4 small quinces, peeled, cored, and halved
¼ tsp salt
½ cup of sugar
2 tbsps of water
½ stick of unsalted butter, cubed
1 lb all butter puff pastry
All purpose flour for dusting
Vanilla ice cream for serving
One 8” flameproof tart pan or heavy-based, oven proof pan

1. In a flameproof tart pan, on low heat, add water, salt and sugar, and cook gently until sugar has dissolved.

2. Increase heat to medium and bring to boil. Cook without stirring for 7 minutes or until light golden.

3. Add the butter and stir until melted and well combined.

4. Put the quinces, cut side up, into the pan. Return to low heat and cook for 10 minutes.

5. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

6. Using a rolling pin, roll the pastry on a floured surface. Cut a round circle slightly bigger than the pan.

7. Place the pastry circle over the quinces and fold the edges under to tuck in the apples. Use a small knife, make 3 small slits in the center of the pastry.

8. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the pastry is golden.

9. Let the tarte tatin stand for 10 minutes. Use a knife to loosen the edges and carefully turn out the tarte tatin onto a serving plate. 

10. Serve immediately with vanilla ice cream. The tart is best eaten on the day of baking but will keep for 1 day.