Kabocha Squash Soup with Caramelized Apple and Crème Fraiche and Stuffed Kabocha with Lamb Stew

Now that autumn is upon us, we will be starting to see the BIG stars we have been waiting for: kabocha, butternut, acorn and all types of winter squashes.  And we still continue to graze on the colorful apples and tomatoes that will bless the market in these next fall months.  This market time produces some of the most substantial crops going into the holiday months.  Don't miss out!  I have a couple Kabocha Squash recipes, inspired by the changing season and our marvelous farmers.  You can substitute any hard winter squash for the kabocha, it just happens to be one of my favorites! Kabocha Squash Soup with Caramelized Apple and Crème Fraiche Ingredients: (serves 6-8) One medium kabocha squash 2 quarts vegetable or low sodium chicken stock 1 cup heavy cream ¼ cup honey 2 cinnamon sticks 2 star anise (optional) 1 tablespoon curry powder 1 large granny smith apple (or any green apple) ¼ cup crème fraiche 1 tablespoons sugar Preheat oven to 450 degrees Roast kabocha in preheated oven for approx. 45 minutes or until soft. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. Cut in half and discard seeds. Scoop out the squash flesh and discard skin. Combine flesh in a large pot with the stock and cream to bring to simmer. Remove from heat. With an immersion blender, blend mixture until smooth. ( you can use a standing blender, but be sure to blend in small batches, and pulse gradually, holding lid securely with towel, as hot soup tends to expand) Place mixture back on stove and continue simmering for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and add honey, cinnamon sticks, curry powder and star anise. Allow to steep for one hour, stirring occasionally. Strain out the cinnamon and star anise. Peel apple, cut in quarters, core and cut each quarter in 4-5 slices. Sprinkle the sugar among the apple slices and broil until golden brown on greased baking sheet. Divide the reheated soup among 6-8 bowls, top with a dollop of crème fraiche and a few slices of caramelized apple. You can also whisk in a few tablespoons of milk or cream to the crème fraiche and drizzle on top of soup to prevent it from sinking. Serve hot! Stuffed Kabocha Squash w/ Lamb Stew Serves 6 1 ¼ lb. lamb stew meat (can use chicken), cut in 1 ½ in. chunks 4 tablespoons olive oil 1 teaspoon salt ½ teaspoon pepper 1 medium onion, peeled and cut in ½ inch chunks 2 ¼ cups reduced sodium chicken broth 2 tablespoons Turkish spice blend (recipe to follow) ¼ cup basmati rice 1 ½ cups coarsely chopped tomato 1 kabocha squash (3 ½ to 4 lbs.) 2 tablespoons sliced green onion Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large (6 qt.) pot over high heat. Sprinkle lamb with ¾ tablespoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper, then brown in oil, stirring occasionally, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer lamb to a bowl and reduce heat to medium high. Add onion, 2 tablespoons oil, and ¼ cup broth to pan; stir to loosen browned bits. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is browned, 7 to 8 minutes. Return meat to pan and sprinkle with Turkish spices. Add the remaining broth, stirring. Cover, bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes, adding additional broth if pan starts to dry. Stir in rice and tomatoes and return to a boil. Remove from heat. While stew is cooking, preheat oven to 375 degrees. With a short knife, carefully cut around squash stem to make a 4-5 inch lid. Pry out lid with a table knife. Scrape out and discard seeds from lid and squash. Brush inside lid and squash with oil and them with remaining salt and pepper. Set squash on a rimmed baking sheet. Prick with a fork in a couple of spots near the top. Fill the squash with a much of the stew as fits. Set lid in place and bake until squash is just tender inside when pierced, 70-90 minutes. Meanwhile spoon remaining stew into a small loaf pan, cover with fork and bake one hour. Remove from squash from oven, open lid and dish out stew onto a large rimmed platter adding the stew from the loaf pan. Sprinkle with green onion and serve with the kabocha squash cut in wedges. Turkish spice blend: 1 teaspoon each paprika, cumin, ground coriander, chili powder, and ¼ teaspoon each ground cinnamon, mint, ground cloves, cayenne pepper.