Thursday, November 18, 2010
It's a Squash, It's Roasted and Pureed . . . It's Soup-er Pumpkin!
So, Connor’s having a slumber party for his birthday on Saturday, which means I have to think of things that I can do that put me within earshot of the action without putting me right on top of the action. That rules out working in my closet (although I reserve the right to escape to the closet when I need some “alone time” away from the craziness), so second on my to-do list is making soup, which is perfect, because the kitchen is in the middle of the house and therefore in reasonable proximity to all likely areas of party activity.
No doubt, chili will be involved, but I also plan to experiment with pumpkin soup. Right reservation #2: I may resort to the canned stuff, but if the stars all align the first part of my experiment will involve roasting actual pumpkins.
Intrigued? Read on.
Each recipe below calls for puree from two pie pumpkins – or you can get all fancy and substitute another kind of (similarly sized) squash, like acorn, for one of the punks. Cut out the stem of each pumpkin by cutting a circle around it, just like you are getting ready to carve a jack o’ lantern, but then cut the now-stemless pumpkin into halves or quarters, scooping out and discarding seeds (or, better yet, reserve and then toast them, since both recipes below call for pepitas). Brush the cut sides of the pumpkin slices with either olive oil or butter, and season with salt to taste. There appears to be two schools of thought as to whether it is better to roast the pumpkin parts skin side up or skin side down, but either way you put them on a greased baking sheet, and then you roast away – one hour, more or less, at 375 degrees, or 30-35 minutes at 450 degrees. Basically, you want the halves to soften to the consistency where you can easily separate the pulp from the skin. After roasting, cool to room temperature, then scoop out the pulp and puree it in a food processor (in multiple batches, if necessary) until the mixture is smooth. This should yield about six cups of fresh pumpkin puree, maybe a little more or a little less, depending on the size of your pumpkins. (By the way, if you are not looking for an excuse to be within eavesdropping distance of a posse of preteen boys, you can do this part the day before, storing the pumpkin mixture, covered, in the fridge overnight.)
Now it’s soup time. Variation #1:
THAI-SPICED PUMPKIN SOUP
Add the pumpkin puree to a large Dutch oven or similar pot over medium high heat. Add 1 (14-oz.) can coconut milk and 1 teaspoon or more red Thai curry paste to the pot and bring to a simmer. (Start with a teaspoon, because you can always go from less spicy to more spicy, but it’s hard to kick things in reverse – so add a little, then taste, and then add a little more if you think it needs more fire.) After the mixture starts to form a thick base, take it off of the heat, allow it to cool, and then give it a whirl in the food processor or blender. Start adding water (or vegetable stock) a cup at a time, pureeing between additions, until the soup is as thick or as thin as you like it. Return it to the pot, bring the mixture to a simmer, and add salt to taste. Top with fresh cilantro and/or pepitas (toasted pumpkin seeds).
PUMPKIN MOLE SOUP
Add 2 T mole paste and ½ cup water to a small saucepan and whisk over low heat until you have a thick paste. Remove the paste from the heat and set aside. Add pumpkin puree to a large Dutch oven or similar pot. Stir in 4 cups buttermilk and 1 ½ tsps. garlic salt. Add the mole mixture, and heat over medium to medium low heat. While soup warms, add 1 T each lime juice and snipped chives to a cup of sour cream. Season the soup mixture with salt to taste, ladle into bowls and top with the lime-sour cream mixture and pepitas.
Never made pepitas? They are easy-peasy. Just toss them into a pan (a square brownie-sized pan works great), drizzle them with olive oil, sprinkle them with salt and bake them for 8-10 minutes in a 325-degree oven. For extra flavor, toss them with a mixture of chili powder, brown sugar, cumin and salt before baking (ratio of 4 parts brown sugar, 2 parts cumin and 1 part each chili powder and salt).