Sunday, November 21, 2010

Kabocha Squash Soup with Toasted Cumin and Chile for "Simple Comforts" Review and Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

Have I mentioned the large pile of review books that has been steadily growing taller in my house? I am so behind! I usually try to "road test" at least four to five recipes from each book before reviewing, but time is not on my side so you may see some reviews with one or two recipes as I struggle to catch up. This little cookbook, "Simple Comforts: 50 Heart Warming Recipes" by Sur la Table made it's way to the top of the pile this week and I'm glad it did as it produced a delicious, sunny-hued bowl of Kabocha Squash Soup with Toasted Cumin and Chiles, that we will talk more about in a minute.

I used to haunt the original Sur la Table store when I lived in Seattle and when they author a cookbook, you know it is going to include some delicious recipes. "Simple Comforts" follows the premise that we all crave comfort food because comfort foods are "the best things about childhood in edible form"--so true!

The book has sections on Sweet Breads, Savory Breads, Soups, Stews, and Sandwiches, Main Dishes, Side Dishes, and Desserts. Recipes I tagged to make included Banana Chocolate Chip Bread with Chocolate Icing, Parmesan-Herb Popovers, Tomato Soup with Saffron Cream, Stilton-Stuffed Burgers with Caramelized Red Onions in Balsamic Vinegar, Luxuriously Retro Beef Stroganoff, Apple and Ginger Spiced Sweet Potatoes, and Apricot-Cherry Almond Cobbler. Drooling yet?

The book includes color photos for most recipes and the recipes are easy to follow. In addition to the soup, I road tested one other recipe, these Chewy Oatmeal Cookies--simple and good, flavored with cinnamon and studded with bright cranberries. They were perfectly crispy and chewy too.

"Simple Comforts" is a great little book that would be a fun stocking stuffer or hostess gift, or paired with a casserole dish, popover pan, or cookie sheets. I'll let you know how that Banana Chocolate Chip Bread with Chocolate Icing turns out or you can try it yourself here.

And now on to the soup:

"Comfort Foods" says, "The Japanese kabocha squash is squat and round, and has nubby, dark green skin and dense, sweet flesh. Use a large heavy chef's knife to cut the squash into big chunks. Because the skin is too thick and brittle to peel, the squash is cooked and then the flesh is scooped from the skin. Pureed with coconut milk, it makes a rich, golden soup. Balance the richness with a generous addition of fresh lime juice, slivered chiles, and a shower of chopped cilantro."

Kabocha Squash Soup with Toasted Cumin and Chiles
"Simple Comforts" by Sur la Table
(Serves 4-6)

1 (4-lb) kabocha squash, cut into large chunks, seeds and membranes removed
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
1 clove garlic, minced or grated
2 1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 (14 oz) cans light or regular coconut milk
2 tsp coarse salt
1/4 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 red or green jalapeno chile, halved lengthwise, seeded, and slivered crosswise
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

In a large pot with a steamer insert, steam the squash for 20 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a fork. Remove to a cutting board and cool.

Wipe the pot dry. Add the oil, place over medium-high heat, and heat the oil until hot enough to sizzle a piece of onion. Add the onion and cook over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon., for 3 minutes, or until the onion is translucent. Stir in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the cumin and cook for 30 seconds. Add the cumin and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Remove from the heat.

Scoop the cooled squash from the brittle skins and add it to the pot. Stir in the coconut milk.

Puree the soup with an immersion blender or in batches in a blender. Add the salt and pepper.

Reheat the soup over medium-low heat, stirring to prevent sticking, until steaming. Do not allow to boil. Stir in the lime juice, half of the chile, and 1 tablespoon of the cilantro. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt. Ladle into warmed bowls. Garnish with the remaining chile and the remaining tablespoon of cilantro.

Notes/Results: I knew I would love this one as it marries the kabocha squash with some of my favorite ingredients and southwest flavors like chile, cumin, coconut milk and lime. It has a great texture and it so pretty in the bowl. I did make a couple changes--I halved and roasted my squash for about an hour in the oven instead of steaming it--I like roasted squash better and was already using my oven. I also cleaned the kabocha seeds and roasted them with olive oil and a mixture of cumin, coriander, cayenne and salt and used them to top the soup for a little crunch. A small bowl of this soup would be a great starter to a fall meal. I will make this again.

The Souper Sunday kitchen is chock-full of great recipes today, so let's take a look.

First off, I somehow skipped a soup the lovely Pam at Sidewalk Shoes made last week, so I want to make sure it goes up front and center this week. This St. John's Club Kale Soup comes from Emeril and Pam says, "It got down to 28 degrees last night people!! What happened to fall? Really, I was totally enjoying fall, not quite ready for frost on my windshield. So, anyway, FROST. Frost requires soup. Spicy, warm, comforting soup to be exact. This soup. I didn’t think there was a way to improve on a kale, bean soup, but there is. Chorizo. Just look at that amber goodness in the broth!"

Debby from A Feast For the Eyes has gotten over her aversion to butternut squash with this golden Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Soup inspired by a Tyler Florence version she tasted recently. She says, "This soup is not bitter, in the least. It's creamy and it doesn't have my beloved heavy cream. The acidity of the white wine and apple cider, balances out the savory of the butternut squash. The curry marries the sweet and savory with a very subtle "what is the wonderful flavor" in the background. My husband and son liked it. I'm taking some to work tomorrow and looking forward to it."

Ahkeela at Torview made a warming Indian Sambar (Lentil and Vegetable Soup), full of vegetables like eggplant, pumpkin, and carrots and flavored with red chile, fenugreek, turmeric, coriander and tamarind. She says that when making this soup you "can use any combination of these vegetables. Can also use mysoor or split red lentil instead of toor dal. Usually served with dosa."

Rachel from Rachel's Bite tried Rachel Ray's Sausage and Broccoli Rabe Stroup and says , "And I love making things like this on the weekend, when the house can smell all good while it's cooking, and then taking it for lunch. In addition, this uses broccoli raab which is something I've been trying to eat more of (dark green leafy veggies). All the flavors come together great in this dish. And in fact, it's a bit spicy! If you are sensitive to heat you may want to cut down on the chili pepper. But for me, it made it even better"

Corina from Searching for Spice made herself a Curried Bean Soup and says, "This is another of my meals for one that I make when I am home alone. Baked beans and sweetcorn are two of my husband’s worst ingredients. In his eyes I could only have made this dish worse by adding tinned tuna, which you’ll be pleased to know I didn’t . As nice as tuna is, there are too many ingredients in here already, and I doubt it would have gone quite so well with the baked beans. Anyway, I love dishes like this, partly as they are so easy, but also as they are great for using up leftover vegetables."

Nicole at Cocoa and Coriander made a Creamy Potato Porcini Soup that was perfect for a rainy day in Portland this week. She says, "The soup has a beautiful texture; it is really creamy like whipped potatoes because ... that is mostly what it is. The strongest flavor is the delicious porcini, but the marjoram and the black pepper give it a nice spicy, floral profile. This is definitely comfort food, but it has slightly complex flavors while still being simple due to the short list of ingredients."

Gwen at Simply Healthy Family has a theory that if you "give a kid a straw" they will drink anything--even healthy vegetables and tried it with this sippable Simple Chilled Gazpacho, that she makes for breakfast. Gwen says, "This is a powerhouse of vitamins and protein! So many good things for you in this zesty little glass of juice. Some of you may still be thinking, 'Gazpacho for breakfast, I don't think so.' and that's o.k. I was stubborn too once, you'll come around if you know what's good for you! I started having this for an early lunch then once I realized how yummy it was and how good it made me feel I started drinking it for breakfast, not first thing but after my coffee... first things first."

Roz from la bella vita brought back childhood memories with Pastina Chicken Soup and says, "Here's a soup that is near and dear to my heart that evokes childhood memories of my mother's cooking. Made with homemade chicken broth, it is extremely easy to prepare and will warm not only your heart but also your children's hearts. I say that this is easy with the caveat that simplicity comes after the broth is made. My mother made her version of chicken noodle soup with homemade chicken broth and tiny, tiny little pasta shaped in the form of stars . . . known as 'pastina'."

Reeni from Cinnamon Spice & Everything Nice tried her hand at the Olive Garden's very popular soup and says, "Recipes for Zuppa Toscana have been cropping up everywhere! On some of my very favorite blogs. Given my extreme love of soup I knew it was only a matter of time before it wound up on my dinner table.Crispy bacon and spicy Italian sausage give it sensational flavor. Meaty potatoes and fresh kale round it out to make a completely balanced meal. It has an air of indulgence to it with a finish of heavy cream. Serve it with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and a wedge of crusty bread for a tasty, inspired and satisfying meal!"

It's nice to have Carla from RecipeAddict back with us this week and with this hearty Pasta e Ceci soup to share. Carla says, "I went outside of my comfort zone on this one and you know what? I was quite pleasantly surprised. This is one bowlful of fall/winter LOVE. Originally, I thought I wouldn't like this soup simply because it sounded like it needed to have sausage in it for it to be substantial enough, (even though it has garbanzo beans in it, which I love). I was so wrong! Warm, comforting, and fulfilling is all I can tell you. If you get snow where you are, this is a real warmer upper. For those of you unfamiliar, in Italian ceci is garbanzo."

Danielle from Cooking for My Peace of Mind morphed three recipes together with her own touches for this Pom-Roasted Butternut Squash Soup and says, "I love creamy soups. The weird thing is...I didn't always even know that I love just sorta snuck up on me. I especially love creamy squash soups. Butternut squash in particular. ... Now....Let me forewarn you....this is not difficult to make...but it is time consuming with several steps. It could easily be something you start one day and finish up the next...either roast the squash ahead of time or do it all up to the point where you've creamed the's up to you. With that said...let me also add that it is worth Every. Minute. Spent."

Christine from Kits Chow has a soup and sandwich combo, her Cheat's Beef and Barley Soup and Bahn Mi Op La (Vietnamese Fried Egg Sandwich). Christine says, "Nothing beats soup and a sandwich for lunch on a winter's day. I made Cheat's beef and barley soup from 2 cups of wine sauce and a piece of short rib, leftover from last night's Vietnamese braised short ribs with wine.So basically, this is a thinned sauce with bits of vegetables and barley. But my, the soup was delicious. The wine sauce gave the soup a rich flavour."

For the sandwich, she says "A friend described a sandwich she ate in Vietnam which sounded like a fried egg sandwich. She raved about it so often that I decided to make it. Note: I often do things backwards. After we had eaten the sandwich, I went online for information on bahn mi op la. I discovered that the sandwich is usually made with fried eggs and greens. Cilantro, cucumber and other greens are added to it. I'll have to remember that next time. And there will be many more times. Who knew a simple fried egg sandwich could taste so good!"

If I gave a "Soup Princess" award out, it would have to go to my pal girlichef who made three different soups this week and managed to throw in a sandwich made with egg salad too. And I thought I was soup crazy. ;-)

Starting with a childhood favorite revised and improved, her Chicken Corn Chowder, girlichef says, "I have this almost unexplainable excitement over certain foods. Foods that remind me of that remind me of something I loved so much as a child. I mean, I guess it's not unexplainable...everybody gets those flashes of nostalgia, right? But when I hear these three words together----chicken---corn---chowder----a certain giddiness washes over me! ... Go ahead. Grab a big bowl of nostalgia. There's nothing quite as sweet."

Next, girlichef tried her hand at the Brazilian classic Caldo Verde. She says, "It happened on a familiar visit at one of my regular haunts, Souper Sundays. I was just there...taking in the soups, fantasizing over oxtails...when I spied it. Wish you were here. It was so seductive with its white creamy potato base peeking out from the dark green kale that surrounded it. There were even a few pieces of golden-orange chorizo nestled on top. I just know I got googly eyes."

Her third soup, Spicy Southwest Tortilla Soup was made with a FoodBuzz Tastemaker trial of Pace picante sauce. girlichef says, "I knew immediately that I would use it for a quick version of Tortilla know me...I'm on a quest and all. The result? "I liked it! It had a great amount of heat and the corn and beans added some great texture. The picante sauce was a quick, simple way to add a lot of flavor with no effort."

Finally, she had three successes with her soups but not so much on the sandwich, Giada's Egg Salad with Gorgonzola and Bacon. girlichef says, "I love gorgonzola. And bacon. And a good hard-boiled egg. And I think if I had just stuck to these and left out that questionable lemon zest, the world from my eyes may have been okay. But I told myself I was gonna let Giada have her way this week. I was gonna go ahead and add that zest to the egg salad. Blyyyeeccchhh! Yucka. Serious yucka. Sure, I ate a whole sammich. I hate wasting food."
Ah well, three out of four at least. ;-)

And we of course have a couple of lovely salads this week. The first, from Janet at The Taste Space, is this colorful and filling Black Bean and Tomato Quinoa Salad. She says, "Here, I made a Mexican quinoa salad bursting with flavour from tomatoes, green onions and black beans with a minty-lime vinaigrette. The flavour depends entirely on the flavour of your fresh tomatoes. The dressing is a bit subtle, but a nice supporting cast. The salad is deceivingly filling, so I ate it as a main course salad."

Megha at Live to eat!!! has a tasty, crunchy Mixed Salad with Peanut Dressing and says, "I'm not a big fan of peanut butter and this is not the famous Indonesian salad, Gado Gado. My visit to the Farmers Market on Sunday, motivated me to prepare a pest-free salad. I do give some credit to the lady selling salad at a food counter in the Farmers Market for cropping the peanut dressing idea...... I've used peanuts before in a dry powdered form; but never have I used it as a paste. Though I have tasted peanut chutney and raita made of chutney, which is mostly coconut and mint based, common in South India; but never have I thought of using it in a salad. There are no restrictions on what kind of veggies you would like to use...go ahead and use anything that you like or prefer."

Wow--so many delicious soups, salads and sandwiches to choose from this week! Mahalo (thank you) to everyone who joined in! If you have a soup, salad or sandwich that you would like to share, just click on the Souper Sundays logo for all of the details.

Have a great week!


  1. I'm so disorganized I didn't even realize my entry wasn't up last week!!

  2. i agree - roasting the squash intensifies the flavor, rather than simply steaming it. delicious soup, debbie!

  3. Can I just pretend? I totally want that title...Heather the Soup Princess...I like it ;) !! That soup looks fantastic...I love all of those flavors..and the garnish- so pretty. The cookies look perfect, as well :D YUM!

  4. Deb, the soup you made looks like a winner. I was once given a kabocha and couldn't think of what to make with it. Had I seen this, it would have been my choice. I love the idea of coconut soup and lime, and that Southwestern flavor added to it.
    The rest of the entries are all mouth-watering. I love it when you post these! Thanks.

  5. man! what a delicious round-up! am particularly drooling over the egg gorgonzola salad...ideas ideas!!

  6. Incredible flavors for this kabocha squash soup, with the roasted squash and the toasted cumin, and the chile! Excellent!

  7. great soup and I admire you reviewing all the books its work

  8. so flavourful and delicious soup ! lovely roundup!!

  9. Pam--whoops! ;-) Thanks for joining in!

    Annie--Thank you & thanks for stopping by. ;-)

    girlichef--The title is yours--wear it proudly! ;-)

    Debby--thank you and thanks for joining in. Squash was a popular ingredient this week. ;-)

    Kat--thank you! I always get great ideas for what everyone submits. ;-)

    Natasha--thank you! The flavors were really nice in this one.

    Rebecca--thank you! I am l;ucky to get so many to review. ;-)

    Priya--Thank you! ;-)

  10. I totally agree, comfort food is really just everything you love about childhood in food form. All the excess, creamy deliciousness. This soup sounds absolutely lovely, especially with the coconut milk infused into it!

  11. That soup sounds so good! Most of my squash soups have gotten a little to sweet for me. I bet the spices in this balance the coconut milk nicely. Yum!

  12. Wow Deb, your round-up this week is incredible; where does one begin preparing recipes from fellow bloggers? Heather at girlichef amazes me with her kitchen productivity! Your squash soup sounds delicious and the cranberry oatmeal cookies are just perfect for this time of year! Great job! I hope that you have a beautiful Thanksgiving! Mahalo!

  13. Great round up. Your soup has an amazing color. I would make it just for its color.

  14. soup looks fabulous
    the roundup of dishes yummy checking it out

  15. A large pile of review books that is steadily growing sounds like a dream come true! I'm looking forward to all your reviews. Good call roasting the squash, way more flavor than steaming. The soup looks really pretty with all the garnishes on top!
    Hmmmm...banana chocolate chip bread with chocolate icing - wow does that sound great!

    This was truly a delicious roundup. All of the soups caught my eye and everyone did a great job with their presentations!

  16. Your soup sounds like one that I could easily love! And oatmeal cookies with cranberries are one of my absolute favorites! I am loving all these wonderful soup recipes - they give me so many ideas. Thanks for including me!

  17. That book sounds like one to look out for - the sandwich on the cover has me convinced!

  18. I've already eaten dinner....but I wouldn't turn any of these away if placed in front of me right now. Everything looks wonderful! And yes...roasting really kicks up the squash flavor

  19. Joanne--It is a great soup--creamy and good flavor too. ;-)

    Lori-between the chili and the lime this one is a nice change from sweet. ;-)

    Roz--thank you and thanks for joining in! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving too. ;-)

    Katerina--thank you! It is such a nice bright, sunny color. ;-)

    Torview--thank you!

    Kim--Thanks! ;-) The pile of books is only a problem in that it makes me feel guilty. ;-)

    Reeni--thank you and mahalo for joining in! ;-)

    Foodycat--yes that sandwich is pretty drool-worthy isn't it?! ;-)

    Danielle--thank you! ;-)


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