I awoke this morning wondering (among other things) what to do with the half of a red kuri squash which had been lounging in my fridge for a week. I knew that, while it was still good, it wasn’t getting any better and needed to be used. As far as I’m concerned, winter squash and miso soup are made for each other. For one thing, winter squash is in season as the days grow cooler, just as our appetites turn to soup. For another, their natural sweetness contrasts wonderfully with miso’s mellow saltiness. And while all winter squash are versatile and easy to like, I find red kuris to be especially sweet and flavorful (I’ve written about them here). Having said that, if you find an especially good looking butternut, kabocha, or buttercup squash at your market, any of those would be a fine substitute. You’ll also appreciate that, aside from the squash and green onions, the ingredients in this recipe you probably have in your pantry already. Try this soup for breakfast, lunch or dinner– it’s a comforting addition to any meal.
Photos: Top–the finished soup. Middle Photo–Buttercup squash, top; red kuri botton. Photo just above–the few ingredients you will need (I forgot to include the sea vegetable, wakame, in the photo).
For flavor complexity, I recommend using two kinds of miso in soup. Light yellow or white miso is sweeter and milder, red or brown miso is usually saltier and more strongly flavored. Play around with these two types of miso until you achieve the balance of sweet and salt which you like best.
8 cups (2 quarts) water
4-5 dried shiitake mushrooms
tiny pinch of salt
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 medium white or yellow onion, peeled, cut in half and thinly sliced
1/2 medium red kuri squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/2 tablespoon dried, shredded wakame (buy it in a package already shredded)
2 tablespoons white miso, or to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons red or brown barley or rice miso, or to taste
1 or 2 green onions trimmed and cut thinly on the diagonal
1. Pour the water into a roomy soup pot, add the shiitakes, salt and soy sauce. Bring just to a boil.
2. While the water is coming to a boil, prep the onion and squash. When the water boils, scoop out the shiitakes, and add the onion, squash and wakame.
3. Trim the stems off the shiitakes and discard. Thinly slice the shiitakes and add them back into the pot.
4. Reduce heat until the soup is simmering gently. Simmer 30-35 minutes or until the squash is very tender. If you like, mash some of the squash with a potato masher (this thickens the body of the soup).
5. Remove the pot from the fire. Put the miso into a fine mesh strainer, dip this into the soup and dissolve the miso into the soup by pushing it through. Stir. Taste and adjust seasonings by adding more soy sauce or miso as needed.
6. Ladle into bowls and garnish with the green onions. As a variation, cut 1/4 pound tofu into 1/4-inch dice and use as a secondary garnish.