Spiced Squash Broth with Toasted Fideos

This is it, folks. This is the perfect, unexpected, amazing vegetable soup, adapted from Michael Solomonov’s beast of a cookbook Zahav. This recipe is the perfect example of his brilliant and unusual use of commonplace spices and other ingredients. Here, he uses squash peels and seeds, usually thrown in the trash, as the base for a beautifully-spiced and seasoned squash-tomato broth, given depth by the addition of a charred onion.

A cinnamon stick and whole cloves add warmth and bring out the sweetness of the squash flavors, and the bitterness of kale brings balance. Toasted fideos and roasted pieces of squash add body and a toasty flavor to the soup, with pearl onions adding one more bite of sweetness. 

Spiced Squash Broth with Toasted Fideos

This soup takes some time to make -- peeling the squash is a bit of a pain, as it always is, and the broth takes an hour to simmer and bring out all the flavors of the vegetables and spices. But other than the time it takes, this is a soup with a fairly accessible and inexpensive list of ingredients that will yield spectacular results. Give it a try, and if you go right out and buy a copy of Zahav after taking your first bite, well, I don’t blame you at all.

The bread that you see in the picture above is called lachuch, a beautifully spongy pancake bread typically served alongside soup in Yemen. A healthy dose of ground fenugreek speeds its fermentation and adds a tangy flavor, though the bread can lean either savory or sweet, depending on its toppings. I’ve included a recipe for it along with the soup, should you want to go the extra mile. And if you end up with leftovers, a friend of mine whose family is Yemeni swears that a piece of lachuch spread with labneh and honey makes for the best breakfast ever. 

Spices used in this recipe


Cinnamon Sticks, Ceylon
Cloves, Whole
Salt, Kosher
Salt, Kosher
Fenugreek, Ground

Ingredients

  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled, trimmed, and halved lengthwise
  • 2 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 acorn squash
  • 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
  • Vanns Ceylon Cinnamon Stick
  • 1 2-inch piece fresh ginger, sliced
  • Vanns Whole Cloves
  • 2 tsp. Vanns Kosher Salt
  • 1 cup fideos (short vermicelli noodles that can be found in many Hispanic and Middle Eastern markets)
  • 2 cups kale, shredded
  • ½ cup pearl onions, peeled, trimmed, and halved (for tips on peeling pearl onions, go here)
  • Lachuch, for serving (optional, see recipe below)

Preparation

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Peel the squash, reserving the peels for the broth. This will be a real pain, and I recommend you cut the acorn squash into smaller sections to be able to get between the ridges more easily. Scoop the seeds from the middle and reserve as well. Cut the peeled and seeded squash into 1-inch pieces.
  3. Heat a cast iron or other heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat until smoking. Place the onions halves, cut side down, on the skillet, and cook without touching for 5-10 minutes, until the onion has a layer of black char across its surface. Remove the charred onion from heat.
  4. To make the broth, heat 1 Tbs. of the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. When warmed, add the squash skins and seeds and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until slightly darkened and sticking to the bottom of the pot.
  5. Add 2 quarts of water to the squash, along with the charred onion, crushed tomatoes, cinnamon stick, cloves, ginger, and 2 tsp. kosher salt. Bring mixture to a low simmer and cook for 1 hour.
  6. While the broth simmers, toast the fideos. Toss with 1 tsp. olive oil and spread in an even layer on a baking sheet. Toast for about 4 minutes in the 400°F oven, until the color darkens and they smell slightly nutty. Keep a close eye on them, as they can easily go too far and become bitter. Remove fideos from oven and set aside.
  7. Toss the cubed squash with the remaining 1 Tbs. olive oil and spread in an even layer on a baking sheet. Roast until the squash is starting to brown, but not fully cooked, about 15 minutes.
  8. When the broth has simmered for an hour, strain the liquid into a large bowl, pressing down on the solids to get as much out of them as possible. Wipe out the large pot to make sure no solids remain, and then return the broth the the pot. Bring the broth to a simmer and add the kale and pearl onions. Simmer for about 5 minutes, until the vegetables start to soften.
  9. Stir in the roasted squash cubes and toasted fideos to the simmering broth and cook for about 4 more minutes, stirring occasionally, until the soup thickens and the fideos are cooked.
  10. Serve the soup in bowls with lachuch on the side, if you like.

Serves 6. Adapted from Zahav.

LACHUCH BREAD

INGREDIENTS

  1. Pour 2 ½ cups warm water into a medium bowl, stir in the yeast,and let stand for about 5 minutes, until slightly bubbly. Stir in the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and fenugreek, and mix until evenly combined. The consistency will be similar to pancake batter.
  2. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot in the kitchen for about an hour, until the surface of the batter is dotted with little bubbles. The amount of time this takes will depend on the temperature of your kitchen, so the bubbles are the best indicator that it’s ready.
  3. Heat a nonstick or well-seasoned cast iron skillet over medium heat and brush to coat with canola oil. When heated, pour in ½ cup of the batter and cook, without flipping or stirring, until browned on the bottom and fully set on top. This will take about 4-8 minutes, but the best indicator will be the change in color and consistency of the top of the pancake, as the batter goes from raw to cooked.
  4. Remove the pancake to a plate and repeat the process with the remaining batter, brushing more oil on the pan each time.
  5. Serve warm or at room temperature. These even taste pretty great cold out of the fridge, spread with jam or hummus!

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