When I was growing up, little to no emphasis was put on seasonal foods. When I moved to Japan, the lack of apple cider, caramel apples, elephant ears and even candy canes stood out in my mind against the Japanese seasonal advertising.  Now that I'm in Canada, the lack of readily-available Japanese seasonal foods is saddening, but not a huge problem.

Different from the orange jack-o-lantern pumpkins we're all familiar with, kabocha (かぼちゃ - Japanese pumpkin) are small, have dark green skin and taste mildly sweet when ripe. Kabocha soup is an autumn staple in Japan, served alongside everything from salads to fried rice.

To make your own, find a kabocha at the market.  They're becoming more common in everyday grocery stores and are usually fresh with the squash in the produce section.  Try to find a good-sized one, about 8 inches (20 cm) in diameter.  You'll only need half for the recipe, so if you can only find smaller ones, that's fine too.

かぼちゃスープ Kabocha Soup
1/2 kabocha, seeds removed (save the seeds for toasting!)
1/2 onion, sliced
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
2 chicken bullion cubes
2 cups water
1 cup milk
salt & pepper to taste (optional)

Wrap the cut end of the kabocha with plastic wrap and heat it in the microwave for four minutes, wrap-side down. Carefully (it's hot!!!) remove the green skin and slice the kabocha thinly.  Discard the skins or reserve for composting.  Heat the butter or margarine in a pan and sauté the onions on medium-high heat until they begin to soften.  Before the onions begin to brown, add the kabocha and sauté just until kabocha begins browning, being careful to avoid burning the onions.  Add the chicken bullion and water and simmer until kabocha is softened (it looks darker when it's cooked).  Use an immersion blender or food processor to purée the soup, then return to the pan.  Stir in the milk and add pepper and/or salt to taste.

Personally, I don't add any salt or pepper, but your tastes may differ.  Sometimes I also put a spring of parsley on top for color.  The swirl on top in the photo is milk drizzled from a spoon.
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