Use any mushrooms you like but be sure to always include the prized shiitake. Shiitake mushrooms help strengthen, detoxify and boost the immune system. They also help lower cholesterol and are a powerful cancer fighter.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium kabocha squash, a.k.a. Japanese pumpkin (may substitute red kuri squash)
  • 1 TBS olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1/2 tsp unrefined sea salt or Himalayan salt
  • 4 cups of mixed mushrooms, fresh (shiitake, chanterelle, porcini, maitake)
  • 3 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves (please don’t use dried thyme here, it has a different taste)
  • 6 cups of broth of choice
  • 1 yukon gold potato, diced
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • 1/2 cup hot water, plus more as needed
  • 2 TBS freshly minced chives
  • 2 TBS freshly minced parsley

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 F. Place the kabocha squash on a cutting board and carefully cut it in half. Discard seeds. Place cut side down on a baking dish and fill pan with enough water to cover the squash with approximately 1-inch of water. You may need two pans in order to fit both halves of the squash. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until you can easily pierce through the squash with a knife. Remove from pan, discard water and let the squash cool by turning it cut side facing up.

Once cool enough to handle, remove from peel and dice squash into 1/2-inch cubes. Measure ¾ cup of cubed squash and set aside. Reserve the remaining squash for another use (add to miso soup, add to stir fries or other steamed vegetables for a side dish, mash and give to kids, mash and use to make spinach pancakes, purée with coconut milk and salt to make a creamy sauce for grains or vegetables).

Meanwhile, place the oil, onion, celery and salt in a large soup pot and heat over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Slice the mushrooms into attractive bite-size pieces and discard any tough stems (shiitakes). Add them to the pot and cook another 5 minutes, adding a little broth to prevent sticking, if necessary. Add the garlic, bay leaves and thyme and cook another 2 minutes. Now add the 6 cups of broth and the potato and cover. Let simmer for 15 - 20 minutes over low heat. Once the potato is very soft, turn off heat and remove the bay leaves.

Next use a potato masher to lightly mash the soup and break up the potato pieces. This will thicken the soup. Now add the cubed kabocha squash pieces (3/4 cup). I like to leave them whole (unmashed) for color and texture. Prepare the cashew cream by placing the raw cashews in a blender with just enough hot water to barely cover the cashews. Blend to break up the pieces, stopping to scrape down the sides of the blender if necessary. Then slowly add a little more water, up to 1 cup while the blender is blending to make it smooth and creamy until your desired thickness is achieved. I don’t like it too thin so go slow with the water. You may need to let the blender run for 1-2 minutes to make it smooth. Adding all of the water at once will make it hard to get a smooth cream unless you have a special high-powered blender. Add cashew cream to the soup until your desired creaminess is met. You may not need all of the cream. Taste for salt and serve, garnished with chives and parsley.

Serves 6-8.