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The other weekend I went for a beautiful fall walk at the Delaware Water Gap national park –  where the Delaware River cuts through the Appalachian Mountains across New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  I went with a friend whose profession it is to source beautiful, unique objects for a store.  He has a special talent for seeing, for paying attention to details and understanding the beauty in objects.  Taking this walk through the woods together I saw him bring this same curiosity and discernment to nature.  It was an attitude and energy that was contagious and soon I found myself staring at wet moss clinging to rocks for inordinate amounts of time and noticing all the subtly different species of fern by my feet.  He was pleasantly surprised that I was almost as excited as he was by these details.  It reminded me what I love about photography- observing with awareness – everything becomes magnified in some way and you just may see something you hadn’t seen before.  My friend loves Henry David Thoreau and this quote of his feels perfect to characterize the gorgeous day of simple wandering and discovery, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”

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ROASTED  KABOCHA SQUASH SOUP WITH COCONUT MILK – I love pureed winter squash soups.  I used to struggle with peeling the tough skins, but now I skip the hard part, by roasting the squash first so the skin easily comes off.  It also condenses the flavor, making it slightly sweeter and smokier. This soup tastes particularly decadent because of the coconut milk; you can make it more or less thick depending on how much broth you add.  You can also play with the spices – when I thought about making this soup I was looking for cinnamon, curry and paprika, but found the excellent combination of allspice, cumin and cayenne in the pantry instead!

Serves 5:

1 large kabocha squash about 2 lbs, or you can substitute butternut squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ large onion
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp cayenne
1 tsp cumin
1 can coconut milk
4 cups vegetable broth
a few sprigs of cilantro
tamari almonds or roasted almonds, chopped

Preheat  oven to 450F.

Cut squash in half, clean and deseed.  On a baking sheet, roast squash cut side down until skin easily separates from meat, about 35 minutes.   Let cool for a moment and then slice off the skin and cut into chunks

In a skillet, sauté onion in olive oil over medium heat for a few minutes until onion is soft and translucent.  Add spices, sauté for a couple of minutes more, add coconut milk, simmer for 5 minutes, add squash and broth, simmer another 10 minutes.   Let cool just a bit, then puree in a blender or with a handheld mixer.  Garnish with cilantro and almonds.

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