September 1 marks an important day in food culture: It’s the day it becomes socially acceptable to put pumpkin in everything. But, the real star of fall should be kabocha squash. Its light, velvety texture and sweet, nutty notes make it the perfect mash-up between a sweet potato and a pumpkin.
You can find this underrated winter squash (also known as a Japanese pumpkin) at farmers’ markets, Asian grocers, and stores like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. Its peak season is late summer and fall, though you may find it year-round.
The sweetness of the kabocha squash shines in this soup and is underscored by a sweetness from juicy Fuji apples. There’s a little heat from Thai chile peppers and a pungency from fresh ginger and lemongrass. The result is a harmoniously flavored soup that is light yet creamy, making it the ideal starter at your Thanksgiving table.
1 1/2tbspgrapeseed oil or other neutral high-heat cooking oil
1large yellow oniondiced
2-inchpiece fresh gingergrated or minced
3Thai green chile peppersthinly sliced (seeded for a milder heat or omit entirely)
4cupslow sodium vegetable broth
2large Fuji applesunpeeled and roughly chopped
1 1/2tspkosher salt
13.5ouncefull fat coconut milk 1 can
1tbspreduced- sodium tamari or soy sauce
2pieceslemongrass stalkstough outer layers removed and stalks cut into 6-inch, optional but highly recommended
1 to 2tspfresh lime juiceto taste
Sautéed shiitake mushrooms
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Using a large, sharp knife, halve the squash through the stem and cut off the stem. You may need to microwave the whole squash for 2 to 3 minutes to soften it and make it easier to slice. Once halved, use a large spoon to scoop out the seeds and gunk. Cut each half into 3 or 4 wedges, lay each wedge flat on its side, and use a knife to cut the peel off. Then, cut the squash into 1 1/2-inch chunks. You should end up with about 5 cups of squash.
Select the Sauté setting on the Instant Pot and, after a few minutes, add the oil. Once the display reads “HOT,” add the onion and carrots and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion begins to brown.
Add the garlic, ginger, and chiles (if using) and cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently.
Pour in the vegetable broth to deglaze the pan and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot. Add the kabocha squash, apples, salt, coconut milk, tamari, and lemongrass. Stir to combine well. Select the Cancel setting.
Secure the lid and set the Pressure Release to Sealing. Select the Soup setting at high pressure and set the cook time to 12 minutes.
Once the 12-minute timer has completed and beeps, allow a natural pressure release for 5 minutes and then switch the Pressure Release knob from Sealing to Venting to release any remaining steam.
Open the pot and discard the lemongrass stalks. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup for a few minutes until you have a thick and creamy soup. (Alternatively, blend the soup in batches in a high-powered blender. Be sure to remove the center cap from the blender lid to vent steam, but cover the hole with a kitchen towel.)
Stir in 1 tsp lime juice and taste. Add another tsp of lime juice, if desired, and adjust the seasonings accordingly. Transfer the soup to bowls and garnish as desired.
As much as I love kabocha squash in this soup, if you can’t find it, you can replace it with butternut squash or sweet potatoes. Butternut squash is earthier and less sweet than kabocha, so I recommend adding either a tablespoon of maple syrup or 2 more Fuji apples. Sweet potatoes are sweeter, so you can omit the apples.