Pureed Squash and Pear Soup with Kale

So we had one 50 degree day last Friday and everyone rejoiced.  New Yorkers came out of hibernation and filled the streets for one fleeting day of warmth, hoping that it marked the end of this painful winter.  Sadly, we were all wrong.  It’s still February, and I’m still FREEZING!  Back to the puffy jacket, hats and gloves…back to dreams of warm weather.
In light of such disappointment, I suggest cheering up with a steamy bowl of soup.  If you close your eyes, you can even pretend you’re in Miami or LA.  (For those of you who are, consider yourselves privileged!)  Soup is one of my favorite things to make because it’s cheap, filling, and one pot will last you a few days.  It’s also super healthy…you can thank me next week when you’re feeling skinny and rich!
As I always advocate eating locally and seasonally, this recipe is especially good because it incorporates winter squash.  It’s coming to the end of its season so enjoy it while you still can!  The combination of the acorn squash and pear gives the soup some sweetness, and the ginger and 5-spice add an interesting twist.  Definitely don’t skip out on the mushrooms – they’re the best part.  If you don’t have shiitakes, any variety will do.
I have to admit that peeling the squash was the most difficult part of the process, so be sure to leave yourself at least an extra 20 minutes for that step alone.  The best method is to cut the squash in half, remove the seeds, then cut it into smaller chunks and peel each one individually.  The end justifies the means, I promise.
If you’re really feeling frisky, I recommend toasting the squash seeds instead of throwing them away.  You can season them as you like and use them as a soup topping or an anytime snack.  They’re a great source of protein and incredibly tasty.  See recipe below…
Pureed Squash and Pear soup with Kale
Adapted from Veganomicon
  • 4 Tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion sliced thin
  • 1 red pepper sliced thin
  • 1 teaspoon of ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon Chinese 5-spice powder
  • 2 acorn squashes, seeded, peeled, cut into 3/4 inch chunks
  • 2 firm pears, peeled, seeded and cut into thin slices
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 4 stalks of kale, stems discarded roughly chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups of shiitake mushrooms, sliced in half
  • 1 tablespoon of soy sauce

Preheat 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat.  Saute the onions and peppers for about 10 minutes until lightly browned.  Add the ginger and garlic and cook for another minute.  Add the salt, 5-spice, squash, and pears and stir to incorporate the ingredients.  Add the vegetable stock and bring to a boil.

Once boiling, lower the heat to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes or until the squash is tender.  Take a bite…it shouldn’t be crunchy.  Puree and return soup to the pot.  (The best way to do this is in batches.  Puree half, pour it into a bowl, then do the other half.  If you’re using a blender, be careful not to burn yourself since the tops have a habit of popping off.  Trust me…squash soup explosions are painful and messy.)  Add the kale and cook until it softens.

In a separate pan, heat the remaining 2 Tbsp of olive oil.  Add the mushrooms and cook for about 5-7 minutes until they’re soft.  Add the soy sauce and cook until absorbed.  Top each bowl of soup with some shiitakes.  Enjoy!

Variation: For a heartier soup, add one can of any type of bean.  I’ve tried it with adzuki beans and they were delicious.  White beans, red beans, mung beans would also be great.  Add them in at the same time as the kale.

Toasted Squash (or Pumpkin) Seeds

  • 1/2 cup seeds
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Combine the ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.  Drain seeds and place on a greased cookie sheet.  Add additional seasoning, if desired.  Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.