We’re right in the thick of fall. It’s time to start dusting off those slippers or moccasins and pull out the thin sweaters. Let’s roll out the winter squash, and let’s make some warm soup.
This month’s theme for The Recipe Redux is “Spooky Spices,” using spices, herbs, or rubs that have been lurking in our drawers for a long time. I knew exactly the perfect spice in my kitchen that fit the bill: star anise.
Star anise is one of those spices that you usually find in Chinese households. Not to be confused with aniseeds, star anise is also one of the spices in Chinese five-spice powder (one of my favorite spice blends). My mom frequently threw them in stews and braised meat dishes to enhance the flavor of meat. Whenever this happened, the star anise released such a strong flavor around the house that there was no missing it. It just hits you right in the face right when you enter the house.
To be quite honest, I have no clue why I decided to pick this up at the supermarket. But I did, and there they were, collecting dust in my spice drawer for months.
Instead of using star anise to flavor meat dishes, I decided to use it to flavor a vegetarian soup. I’m envisioning my mother shaking her head with disapproval.
As the star anise unfurled its aroma throughout every inch of my apartment, the memories and familiar smells from childhood started rushing back in: mini me standing around the kitchen, wondering why the heck my mom just threw some stars into the food. There were so many Chinese herbs and spices tucked away in my mother’s pantry that I didn’t bother to ask what they were for. All I knew was that they were “good” for me.
I was quite shocked by how well the star anise and acorn squash worked together in this soup. The spice gave the soup a rich savory flavor, as if I had used meat or bones to flavor the broth. Slice up that baguette, and get ready to dip it in this simple acorn squash soup!
Roasted Acorn Squash Soup with Star Anise
Roasted Acorn Squash
- 1 large acorn squash, about 21oz/600g
- 1 and 1/2 TBS olive oil
- pinch of salt
- 2 TBS olive oil
- 1 large leek, white part only, sliced
- 1 large carrot, sliced
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 2 and 1/2 cups, ~600ml chicken stock
- 4 star anise
- 1 cup ~240ml lowfat milk
- salt to taste, I used 3 tsp kosher salt
- sour cream or yogurt
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Chop the acorn squash in half and remove the seeds. Brush the olive oil on the squash and sprinkle some salt over it. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the flesh is easily pliable with a fork. Let the acorn squash cool while you prepare the rest of the soup.
- In a medium pot, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. When the pot is heated, add the leeks, carrots, and garlic. We want to sweat out the flavors of these vegetables, so let it cook for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently so that the vegetables don’t burn.
- Pour in the chicken stock, add the star anise, and bring everything to boil. Once the stock is boiling, reduce the heat to medium low, and add the milk and salt. Simmer the soup for another 10 to 15 minutes, then turn off the heat. Remove the star anise from the soup.
- Using a fork, remove the flesh from the acorn squash, and mix it with the other ingredients. Blend the soup with an immersion blender or a regular blender.
- Garnish the soup with cayenne, chives, sour cream, or yogurt. Enjoy!