Kabocha Squash Soup Served with Crispy Shrimp Toast Betty– Yield: 6-8 servings

1 T olive oil

2 medium leeks, white/ light green parts only, cleaned, sliced (or 1 medium onion, peeled and roughly cut into large chunks)

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp curry powder

2 pounds peeled and cubed kabocha squash (or butternut or acorn squash)

1 large granny smith or other type apple, peeled, cored, cut into large chunks

1 T finely minced or grated fresh ginger

4 cups good quality low sodium chicken, turkey or vegetable stock

3 T apple liqueur, such as Calvados or use apple cider

1 T Asian fish sauce (preferably 3 Crabs brand)

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper powder (more or less to taste)

2 tsp coarse sea salt or kosher salt (or to taste)

1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper to taste (or to taste)

Note: I like serving Crispy Shrimp Toast alongside this soup – Recipe below

Some Garnish Suggestions:

Dried red pepper threads

Toasted slivered almonds, chopped, or toasted pine nuts or other nuts

Minced Italian parsley or cilantro

Crispy bacon crumbles

Fresh crab meat

In a medium stockpot heat the olive oil and sauté leek (or onion) with a pinch of salt till wilted and fragrant. Add the ground ginger, ground coriander, and curry powder and stir briefly till fragrant. Add the squash, apple, fresh ginger, and stock, apple liqueur (or apple cider) and fish sauce. Bring to boil, then turn heat to low and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes till squash and apples are tender. Use an immersion blender (or place in into a blender), puree till smooth (or partially puree if a chunkier texture is desired). Add salt, pepper and cayenne to taste. Ladle into bowls, garnish as desired just before serving.

Crispy Shrimp Toast Betty – Yield: 16 pieces

4 slices firm bread (whole wheat, whole grain, brioche, etc., to preference)

1/2 pound peeled and deveined medium shrimp (31-40 count/lb), finely minced

1½ T finely minced prosciutto (or ham) with some of the fat left on (optional)

2 T finely diced (1/8”) water chestnuts, fresh or canned

1 T finely minced scallions

2 tsp finely minced or grated fresh ginger

1½ tsp kosher salt (use less if using fine grained table salt)

Pinch sugar

1 egg lightly beaten

2 T corn starch

1 T dry vermouth, or Chinese rice wine, or dry sherry

2 cups or more peanut oil or other high smoke point oil e.g. grapeseed or avocado

Trim the outer crust off the bread slices (discard or save for future use as crumbs) and cut trimmed slices into 4 triangles (or 4 squares). Set aside.

Combine the minced shrimp, prosciutto (if using), water chestnuts, salt, sugar, egg, cornstarch and vermouth and mix well to form a paste-like consistency.

Spread an equal amount of the shrimp mixture evenly on one side of each of the bread pieces. Gently press a cilantro or parsley leaf in center of shrimp topping.

On a baking sheet place a rack lined with paper towels.

Pour enough oil to reach 2” up a 10” deep-sided skillet or 3 qt saucepan and heat oil to 375⁰F (or when bubbles form briskly around the tip of a wooden chopstick or handle of wooden spoon). Place shrimp side down into hot oil and fry for about one minute or till shrimp is turns opaque and slightly golden brown, then carefully turn them over and fry for another minute or a little longer till bread is golden brown. Drain on paper towels, then remove paper towels from under the shrimp toasts so they don’t steam on the paper towels. Repeat with remaining batches. Serve while hot and crispy.

NOTE: Shrimp toasts can be made ahead of time and reheated on a rack in a preheated 350⁰F oven for about 5-7 minutes till bread crisps.