On Sukkot, which begins tomorrow night, Jewish families around the world will head outside to eat under the stars. As the Jewish calendar’s harvest festival holiday, there is a tradition of building temporary outdoor huts called sukkahs, which serve as al fresco dining rooms during the weeklong holiday.
As wonderful as it is to have an excuse to dine in the great outdoors, autumn can be an iffy time of year — sometimes gloriously crisp, other times uncomfortably chilly. To bring a bit of warmth to the table, Sukkot cooks traditionally serve a variety of steaming stews, soups, and casseroles that feature the hearty root vegetables and squash available this time of year.
In recent years, butternut squash soup has become a favorite Sukkot dish. But with so many other types of squash showing up at the farmer’s market these days, I felt inspired to try something different. I swapped out the butternut for kabocha — an Asian winter squash with dense, creamy flesh and a delicately earthy flavor.
Next I added sautéed Gala apples to sweeten the pot, and stirred in a last minute hit of coconut milk for richness.
Sprinkled with a colorful and crunchy garnish of pomegranate seeds and toasted pepitas, this soup might just become my new Sukkot classic.
Kabocha Squash Soup with Pomegranate and Pepitas
1 small kabocha squash, halved lengthwise and seeds removed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 medium shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
3 medium Gala apples (about 1 pound) peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
5 cups vegetable stock, plus more if needed
1 medium russet potato (about 1/2 pound), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/3 cup coconut milk
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pure maple syrup, toasted pepitas and pomegranate arils, for serving
Preheat the oven to 400°F and line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Place the squash cut side down on baking sheet, and roast until completely tender when pierced with a knife, 45 to 60 minutes. Remove from oven and let it cool to the touch. Scoop out 2 cups of flesh and set aside, reserving remaining squash for another use. (This step can be completed up to 2 days in advance.)
Heat oil in a large pot set over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the apples and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in thyme and cinnamon and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add the vinegar, stock, potato, and reserved roasted squash. Raise the heat to medium high and bring to a simmer; reduce heat to low and cook, uncovered, until the potatoes are very tender, about 15 minutes.
Remove the pot from heat and let cool slightly. Puree the soup until smooth using an immersion blender or working in batches in a standard blender. (Don't forget to hold the blender lid tightly with a folded towel when blending hot soup!) Stir in the coconut milk, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Divide the soup between bowls. Drizzle with a little maple syrup and top with toasted pepitas and pomegranate seeds.
(Images: Leah Koenig)