Collecting colorful winter squash and cooking up a batch of soup without having to first go to the store is one of my fall pleasures. Here’s a basic recipe to get you going. Any winter squash will do, just aim for about 2 pounds.
Be sure to taste your chicken broth, as you can ruin all your hard work with a bad brand. Homemade stock is always best, and you can make it from as little as a rotisserie chicken carcass and a carrot. As a last resort, use water and a couple Rapunzel or Edward & Sons vegetable bouillon cubes.
2 pounds winter squash
1 tablespoon unsalted butt er
1 yellow onion, diced
2 Hungarian black peppers or 1 jalapeño, flesh minced, seeds discarded
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Maple Pepitas (recipe below)
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Wash squash, slice off the stem end, cut in half, and scoop out and discard seeds. Place squash, flesh-side down, in a glass or ceramic baking dish. Add water to a 1-inch depth, cover dish tightly with foil, and bake until soft , about 45 minutes to 1 hour for most varieties (check early for Kabocha; it cooks faster than most).
Heat butter in a soup pot or Dutch oven. Add diced onion and peppers and cook, covered on low heat, for 10–15 minutes, until onions are soft but not browned. Scoop fl esh from cooked squash halves and add to the onions. Add broth, cumin, and salt and simmer gently for 30 minutes, then remove pot from heat and let cool slightly. Purée the soup using a blender. (If you use a regular blender rather than an immersion blender, be careful and do it in batches so you don’t blow the top!) Garnish with Maple Pepitas, crème fraîche, black pepper, and nutmeg.
Heat a medium skillet over moderate heat and add ⅓ cup raw pepitas. Shake pan as the pepitas brown and begin to pop. Sprinkle with a pinch of flaky salt, drizzle in 1 teaspoon maple syrup, and cook, stirring, for a minute to caramelize. Transfer to a Silpat- or parchment-lined plate or sheet pan to harden and cool. Break apart with your fingers and use as a garnish.