It’s gourd news for squash fans who might have grown tired of pumpkin.
THANKSGIVING AND the last slices of pie will come and go. Pumpkin fatigue will set in. What to do with the remaining months of cool weather? We suggest the red kuri as a worthy successor for the winter-squash world, a cheerfully bright gourd that’s almost cartoonishly orange-red. The flame mini-Hubbard squash is shaped like a plump pear or wide-bodied teardrop, tasting sweet and even chestnut-like. (The name comes from the Japanese word for chestnut.)
I planted red kuris in my garden this year, after flirtations with a few other types of attractive-sounding winter squash, and was wowed by the productive vines and the colorful harvest. Turns out I wasn’t the first to appreciate its cork-stemmed charms.
“It’s a very approachable squash. It’s like a gateway squash for people into new options,” says Neil Subhash, who runs Carnation’s Present Tense Farm with partner Jayme Haselow. It’s also the go-to squash they eat at home.
At a few pounds apiece, “It’s not so big that you don’t know what to do with it,” Subhash says. The skin — usually “the big barrier to people” when it comes to cooking winter squash — is edible, even delicious.
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“When you want to eat a squash for dinner, they’re just so easy. You chop it up and bake it,” he says. To be a little more specific, you cut it in half, scoop the seeds out, slice it, coat the slices in olive oil, and roast it with some salt and pepper.
Most winter-squash varieties have characteristic uses: Butternuts are beloved for soup, delicatas are sliced into boats and stuffed with ground beef or grains, sugar-pie pumpkins or (if you can find them) heirloom winter luxury pumpkins make good pies. The red kuri, Subhash says, works well for all those purposes and more.
In Seattle restaurants, they’ve been shaved into raw curls in salads, grilled and served with burrata and banyuls vinegar, fire-roasted and pureed as a side order for steak.
On Present Tense’s 4½ acres, Subhash and Haselow grow a diverse variety of vegetables and herbs, from familiar favorites like carrots and beets to unusual specialties like grassy Italian agretti. Every winter, they look through seed catalogs to plan the next season. With squash, it’s a balance between “growing what we know we like, what we know we can sell … and there’s some element of adventure and exploration.”
After harvesting, he says, they let the red kuri cure for a while and then keep them cool and dry.
“The skins kind of toughen, the stems dry down, the sugars develop and the flavor’s going to be better,” he says.
Whether you’ve got a bin full of the garden’s harvest or are heading to the farmers market, that sounds like a winter full of possibilities.
Beatrix’s Red Kuri Soup
In Dorie Greenspan’s cookbook “Around My French Table” ($40, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), she says the red kuri is among the foods “that invariably produce a sigh of delight and a smile when you mention them to the French.” She adapted this soup from a friend’s recipe.
1 red kuri squash (about 3 pounds)
3 slender or 1½ larger leeks, white parts only, split lengthwise, washed and cut into 1-inch-long pieces
3 cups whole milk, or as needed
3 cups water, or as needed
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
1 tart apple, peeled, cored and cut into tiny dice (optional)
About 1/3 cup chopped toasted hazelnuts or walnuts (optional)
About ½ cup crème fraîche or heavy cream (optional)
1. Scrub the squash under running water, using a brush if necessary to scrape off any dirt. With a sharp chef’s knife, cut off the pointy tip, then cut the squash in half from top to bottom. Scoop out the seeds and the strings that bind them, then cut the squash into 1-to-2-inch chunks, skin and all. Toss the squash into a large Dutch oven or soup pot.
2. Add the leeks to the pot, then add the milk and water, salt generously and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer, and cook for 25 to 35 minutes, or until the squash is soft enough to mash when pressed lightly with the back of a spoon.
3. Using a blender or a food processor, puree the soup, in batches if necessary, until it is very smooth (or use an immersion blender). Depending on how much liquid boiled away, you might have a thick soup and a decision to make: Leave it thick (I do), or thin it to whatever consistency pleases you, with more milk or water. Taste for salt, and season with pepper and nutmeg. Heat the soup if it cooled in the blender or processor or if you thinned it — this soup is at its best truly hot.
4. Spoon the apple and nuts into the soup bowls, if using; ladle in the soup; and garnish with the cream, if you’d like.
From “Around My French Table: More than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours,” by Dorie Greenspan.