Autumn came suddenly the day of our move. It had been 25+ degrees of sweltering, humid July weather up until then. A violent storm took out the last of summer and it has been scarves and boots weather since- perfect for nesting.
My new roomie comes with a 9-month-old sourdough starter, and nothing inspires soup like some good, fresh bread to go with it. So when she suggested we try this butternut squash and fennel soup with miso (from Kale & Caramel), it was an easy sell. I had a hard time imagining how fennel and miso would taste together. They are two key ingredients I work with all the time, but in very different cuisines. Fennel is for salads and crunch, subtle sweetness and green, herbaceous notes that cut through salty, fatty, smoky things. Miso is for adding a tang of fermentation and umami depth to more neutral grains and beans, complementing earthy mushrooms and offsetting sticky-sweet glazes. They both have such strong personalities that they make unlikely bedfellows.
But it was her turn to cook, and I haven’t met a squash I didn’t like. So we gave it a whirl. Together, I discovered, miso and fennel offer a unique balance of flavours that make the sometimes unctuousness of butternut squash sing. Instead of cloying, as squash soups with sweeter flavours from apple and cinnamon sometimes are, this one is purely savoury. Try it on your squash-hating friends, you can blame me if they don’t like it.
Fennel Butternut Squash Miso Soup With Toasted Seeds
from Lily Diamond’s Kale & Caramel
For the soup:
3 cups roasted or steamed butternut squash (canned is also fine)
1 medium onion, sliced
1 medium fennel bulb, washed and sliced, plus
¼ cup minced fennel fronds for garnish
¼ cup olive oil
1⁄4 teaspoon sea salt
1⁄4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, plus more for garnish
1⁄2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 (13.5-ounce) can full-fat coconut milk
1 cup vegetable broth
1⁄4 cup plus 2 tablespoons miso paste
For the seeds:
1 teaspoon raw virgin coconut oil
2 tablespoons raw sesame seeds
1 tablespoon fennel seeds, lightly crushed with a mortar and pestle or spice grinder
Flaky sea salt
Coconut milk or plain yogurt, for drizzling
MAKE THE SOUP
Puree the squash in a food processor or blender until completely smooth. Set aside.
Place the onion and sliced fennel in a stockpot or large saucepan with the oil, salt,cayenne, and coriander. Sauté over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, stirring frequently,then reduce the heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion and fennel soften and begin to brown, 10 to 15 minutes.
Add the squash and cook for another 5 minutes.Then add the coconut milk and broth and stir to incorporate fully, increasing the heat to medium. Put on the lid and cook for another 5 minutes, then scoop 1 cup of the liquid (not the onion and fennel) into a bowl.Whisk in the miso, until most clumps are gone. Return the mixture to the pot, reduce the heat to low, and stir to combine. Replace the lid and cook for another 5 minutes.
Transfer to a blender and blend at medium speed until the soup is mostly pureed, with some texture left. Return the soup to the pot and cover.
MAKE THE TOASTED SEEDS
Place the coconut oil in a small frying pan and melt over medium heat. Swirl to coat the pan. Add the sesame and fennel seeds and a sprinkle of salt. Use a spatula to coat the seeds with the oil and let them toast for 2 to 3 minutes, until fragrant. If they start to brown too quickly, remove from the heat. Transfer to a small bowl.
SERVE THE SOUP
Top the soup with a drizzle of coconut milk, the minced fennel fronds, a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds, and cayenne and salt to taste.