I first discovered potimarron one fall when I was living in Provence, wandering the village market on a day off. The heirloom squash the farmer held up for me to behold captivated me with its sunset orange skin and plump shape.
It seemed that just as I was mourning the disappearance of late summer fruit and vegetables, potimarron arrived to cheer me up.
First, to learn its flavor, I roasted it simply with a drizzle of olive oil until it was tender to the touch and caramelized along the edges. The flesh tasted rich and sweet, of pumpkin with a hint of chestnut, or marron. (Potimarron is also known as kuri, or chestnut in Japanese.)
Later -- again and again -- I transformed the squash into a lovely soup: a Thai-style curried coconut version. The trick is roasting the squash along with the garlic and shallots to deepen and sweeten the flavors.
Serve this soup with a swirl of cilantro lime pistou -- a bright counterbalance to the sweet and savory soup – and a sprinkle of toasted seeds for texture.
For the soup:
1 Red Kuri squash, halved, seeds scooped out and reserved for toasting
4-6 cloves garlic, peels on
4 shallots, peels on (or 1 onion chopped, sauteed in the oil before you add the aromatics)
1 1-inch knob fresh turmeric or 1 tablespoon dried powdered turmeric or yellow curry powder
1 1-inch piece ginger, peeled, grated or minced
1 stalk lemongrass, trimmed, sliced thin
4 cups water or vegetable stock
1 13.5-ounce can coconut milk
For the pistou:
1 bunch cilantro
1 garlic clove, peeled
Juice from ½ lime
1/4 cup neutral oil, such as grapeseed
For the garnish:
Toasted squash seeds
1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
2. Brush the squash halves with a little oil and place them cut side down with the garlic and shallots tucked away under the cavities. Roast until the flesh is tender to the touch and the edges are caramelized, about 30 minutes. When cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh. Reserve the skins for another use (I like to sprinkle them with salt and pepper and snack on them while I cook. You can also chop them up and use them as a garnish on a salad or grain bowl.) Peel shallots and garlic cloves.
3. Heat a a couple tablespoons of oil in a soup pot. Add the turmeric, if using, ginger and lemongrass. Cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add squash flesh along with any juices from the pan, shallots, roasted garlic and water or stock. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until the vegetables are very soft and the flavors meld, about 20 minutes. Puree with a blender. Stir in the coconut milk Season with salt and pepper. (If the soup seems too thick, thin it out with a little water or stock.)
4. Make pistou: In a food processor, process the garlic until finely minced. Add the cilantro and lime juice and pulse until a paste forms, scraping down the sides with a rubber spatula as you go. With the machine running, drizzle in the oil and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
5. Garnish the soup with a swirl of pistou and a sprinkle of toasted seeds.