Date Night Metamorphosis, or How an Ugly Duckling Became a Beautiful Swan

From In the Kitchen with Bossygirl archives.

Don’t worry – this post is not about my magical transformation for date night. I was in yoga pants and Brooks running shoes the whole time.

No, this post is about how this:

Became this:

One thing I love about our weekly organic CSA farm share is that we’re given foods we either A) don’t think we like (kale), B) don’t know what to do with (garlic scapes) or C) don’t know what they are. This week’s mystery item falls squarely into category C.

So what is it? A red kuri squash. It looks like a small, technicolor cousin of the pumpkin, but it’s actually related to the Hubbards. Hey, me too actually! It’s described as having a chestnut-like flavor, and while I can’t really vouch for that (being a once-a-year chestnut eater), Ben and I both found it more flavorful and less one-note than butternut squash.

Last night we found ourselves alone, at home, with no children (woohoo!), but tired and still recovering from the seasonal crud. Sad as it may seem to some of you, we couldn’t imagine anything more delicious than a quiet, beautiful dinner at home followed by a little Cardinals baseball. You get older, you get lame. What can I say?

So, what to do with my red kuri squash? It was metamorphosed into the simplest, most gorgeous, most light-yet-satisfying soup. I used a recipe contributed by Alice Waters to Food & Wine. I figured Alice Waters ... how could I go wrong? She did not disappoint!

A few notes: this recipe couldn’t be easier from an ingredient standpoint. It’s literally cubed squash, half an onion, one bay leaf and some water. Simmer, purée, done. Garnish with roasted fennel (what a revelation!), toasted pecans and a swirl of olive oil. Perfection in a bowl.

However, if you’re not comfortable in the kitchen, then this recipe does leave some details out. First, it calls for squash “peeled and cubed.” So, the squash isn’t remotely easy to peel (I used an Oxo peeler) and it neglects to mention that you’ll need to scoop and deseed the center (just like a pumpkin). Not technical, but more time consuming that one might imagine.

Second, it calls for a medium fennel bulb “cored and cut into thin wedges.” Have you ever cored fennel? This was my first fennel experience, so I ended up on YouTube searching for “how to core a fennel bulb.” Easy as can be, not at all technical, but I had no idea what that meant.

That said, the soup was incredibly flavorful, gorgeous in color and remarkably dynamic given its simplicity. The garnish is key.

I served this with sourdough bread, Fromager d’Affinois (one of my favorite double creams), and a simple salad made with delicate skyphos butter lettuce (another CSA favorite), avocado, cucumber and a white wine vinaigrette.

All in all, a huge date night success (and I didn’t even have to change out of my yoga pants)!