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Annie Somerville talks about vegetables

A Fall Soup with Asian Flavors

Kabocha Squash Soup with Coconut Milk and Lime Leaves
Vegetable Stock

It is fitting that Asian influences are prevalent on the menu at Greens, a vegetarian restaurant that has been a fixture in San Francisco since the late 1970s. The restaurant was founded by the Zen Center and obtains much of its produce from Green Gulch Farm, another Bay Area institution owned and operated by Zen Buddhists.    

This recipe infused with Asian flavors is from Everyday Greens, a cookbook published in 2004 by the restaurant's head chef, Annie Somerville. It is “well worth the trip to an Asian market to find the ingredients,” she writes. "With its thick skin and firm, dense flesh, kabocha squash was born to be roasted. It soaks up the rich exotic flavors of coconut milk, lime leaves, lemongrass and Thai basil, which adds a spicy touch." If you can't find Thai basil, she recommends using regular basil or cilantro instead. And if kabocha squash isn’t available, red kuri, butternut, or another winter squash will do as a replacement.

The recipe also calls for another Asian specialty ingredient, kefir (or kaffir) lime leaves (Citrus hystrix).  Asian groceries usually carry them, and they can also sometimes be found at farmers markets amidst displays of Asian vegetables.

The vegetable stock that is the base for the squash soup can serve many other purposes. “The versatile stock is surprisingly rich, adding tremendous depth to many of our favorite dishes,” Somerville writes. “It is just right for risotto and all kinds of soups and stews, both delicate and hearty. It’s great for thinning leftover soups, ragouts, and pasta dishes, so double the recipe and freeze half of it for later. It keeps nearly indefinitely in the freezer, but only a day or two in the refrigerator.


Kabocha Squash Soup 
with Coconut Milk and Lime Leaves

(Makes about 2 quarts )

Vegetable stock, 5 cups
1 medium kabocha squash, about 3 pounds, cut in half, seeds removed
1 tablespoon vegetable oil or olive oil
1 large onion, chopped, about 2 cups
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3 stalks lemongrass, tough tops and outer leaves removed, finely chopped, about ⅓ cup
1 or 2 kefir lime leaves
1 14-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
10 to 15 Thai basil leaves, bundled and cut in thin ribbons, about 2 tablespoons


1.
Preheat the oven to 400º

2. Make the stock and keep it warm over low heat.

3. Place the squash, cut side down, in a baking dish with a little water. Cover and roast until tender, 35 to 40 minutes. When the squash is cool enough to handle, scoop it out of the skin. You should have about 4 cups.

 4. Heat the oil in a soup pot and add the onions, 1 teaspoon salt, and a pinch of pepper and cook until they begin to soften, about three minutes. Add the garlic, lemongrass and ginger and cook for 2 minutes. Add the squash, the stock, and the lime leaf and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, about 30 minutes.

5. Remove the lime leaf and puree the squash mixture in a blender until smooth. Pass through a food mill and return to the pot over medium-low heat. Add the coconut milk and cook for 5 to 10 minutes. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish each serving with Thai basil.  

Vegetable Stock
(Makes about 2 quarts )

1 large yellow onion, sliced
2 to 3 leek tops, chopped and washed
3 celery ribs, slices
2 large carrots, sliced
1 pound white mushrooms sliced
1 large potato, sliced
6 garlic cloves, smashed with the flat side of a knife, skins left on
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon peppercorns
6 parsley sprigs
3 to 4 fresh thyme sprigs
2 fresh oregano or marjoram sprigs
5 fresh sage leaves
1 bay leaf
10 cups cold water

1. Combine all the ingredients in a stockpot and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 45 minutes, stirring as needed. 

2. Pour the stock through a strainer, pressing as much liquid from the vegetables as possible, then discard them.


Copyright 2005 Seasonal Chef