I never thought it would come to this but I am COOKED OUT! This unusual feeling stems from the fact that I'm still recuperating from 4 beautiful, snow-packed days in Mammoth with 11 friends and family members. We laughed, we drank, we danced and we certainly ate. Normally on such a trip I divide the meals among the guests (you know, to divvy up the work), but this year my controlling brain took over and I decided to be in charge of all 4 dinners. That's right, every single one with enough to feed 11 people. I clearly wasn't in my right mind. Oh, and of course with my persnickety penchant for only organic ingredients, I had to bring everything with me. So when Gray and I stuffed the car with two coolers full of chicken, beef, an 8-pound pork shoulder and 10 heads of kale, I knew two things: One, my husband was a saint for dealing with my food insanity, and two, I had bitten off way more than I wanted to chew. And yet, despite all my Jewish-mother worrying, many guests volunteered as sous chefs and everything turned out fantastic (and yes we had enough). They eagerly took my orders, accepted my crazy cook antics, and didn't balk too much when I showed them how to wash the lettuce my way or chop the kale just so.
And now I am home in my own little kitchen, desperately missing all their help. Who wants to come over and be my sous chef? Since getting home on Saturday, I've done little more than make salad and reheat Mammoth leftovers. Gotta love leftovers. But when yesterday rolled around I knew I had to cooking something fresh. You can only eat beef chili and chicken tagine for so many days in a row, no matter how delicious it is. So off I went to the farmers market to grab ingredients for a soup. I didn't know what kind of soup...all I knew was that I wanted to throw stuff into a pot and call it a day.
Before I get into my recipe, first let me preface: I adore mushrooms! Their meaty texture and deep flavor have always entranced my taste-buds, especially as a child when I often downed copious amounts of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup. (I actually once requested it at a friend's house to which her mother replied,"Really? We only use mushroom soup when mixing it with green beans." To which I responded, "Gross!" I don't remember being invited over for dinner again.) Another reason I love mushrooms is that they add a heartiness and sense of satiety to dishes which is ideal when going meat-free. And so, I grabbed a mixed bag of trumpet, oyster and shittake mushrooms from my favorite mushroom lady, remembering they would pair well with the unused kabocha squash I had sitting at home.
What emerged after 30 minutes of them co-mingling in the pot was sweet, unctuous and shockingly decadent. Wow! To avoid a sad soup that tasted like salty, boiled vegetables I first roasted the kabocha squash with ginger and lemon and sauteed the mushrooms with onions and garlic to get the good umami flavor going. Freaking good. To add a bit of protein, and what I like to think of as my 'pièce de résistance', I topped each bowl with a fried egg. A poached or soft boiled egg works just as well depending on your preference, or if you have leftover brown rice, white beans or shredded chicken, you could throw those in as well.
The options are endless when starting with this base so feel free to play around with whatever is in the fridge. I love a quick, warming soup during the winter and have a sneaking suspicion this particular one will be making an appearance again very soon. Enjoy!
Mushroom and Kabocha Squash Soup
1 small kabocha squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed
1/2 teaspoon ginger powder
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 small red onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
3/4 pound mixed mushrooms (oyster, trumpet, shittake, chantrelles, etc.), chopped
5 cups water
2 teaspoons fish sauce (I use Golden Boy. Whichever one you choose, make sure there are no added preservatives or MSG.)
1 teaspoon toasted unrefined sesame oil
1 handful cilantro
Preheat the oven to 415 degrees. Place the cubed squash into a baking dish and mix with 1 tablespoon olive oil, ginger powder, lemon juice , and sea salt. Roast for 4o minutes until the squash is nicely browned. Set aside.
In a large stock pot, warm the remaining olive oil. Add the onions and cook until nicely browned. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or so. Mix in the chopped mushrooms with a pinch of salt and cover for 3-5 minutes. Remove the cover and toss the mushrooms to make sure they are evenly cooking and wilted a bit. Add the water and squash, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook, partially covered, for 10 minutes.
Taste the broth and add a bit of salt if needed. Add the tamari and fish sauce and let cook for another 3 minutes. Mix in the sesame oil and taste for flavor. Add a bit more tamari and fish sauce if needed. Toss in the cilantro leaves and serve. Enjoy!