Project Wonderful

Monday, September 30, 2013

Easy Pumpkin Soup

Summer's harsh grip has loosened on the city of the violet crown and Fall is quietly tapping on our shoulders with a welcomed smile. And as the seasons transition, my culinary curiosity shifts to the idealic icon of Fall: the humble pumpkin.

Most people dont think about it, but the US grows over 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkin every year, making it one of the most popular of all cultivated crops in the country. Its also the biggest exporter of pumpkins internationally.

The word pumpkin originates from the word pepon (πέπων), which is Greek for “large melon". The French adapted this word to pompon, which the British changed to pumpion and later American colonists changed that to the word we use today, "pumpkin". -Wikipedia

Right around Christmas, most grocery stores cant wait to get rid of their stock, so last year we picked up a couple of standard jack-o-lantern type pumpkins at next to nothing. We spent the evening drinking wine, making jack-O-lanterns and listening to my yearly mix of Halloween music (Screamin Jay Hawkins, Danny Elfman, etc.). And of course, I toasted up the seeds in a sweet praline style to munch on. (I'll post that recipe soon.)

The next day, it was time to slaughter our new holiday friends. The end result: several pounds of wonderfully roasted pumpkin puree that lasted us completely through the winter season, with still a lot left over.

So this Fall, Expect a good assortment of ways to cook with pumpkin.  And why not? It's inexpensive, flavorful, and a great source of Vitamin A, which helps keep your immune system working good, great for the eyes, and even helps prevent the formation of urinary stones. And did I mention it's dirt cheap?

So here's a recipe for a simple pumpkin soup that is perfect for those cool Fall nights This is just enough for two people, but its easy to scale this up to whatever number of portions you need:

3 cups chicken stock
2 cups pumpkin puree
1/2 cup of chopped onion
4/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp of fresh thyme
1 clove of garlic
2-5 whole black pepercorns.
1/3 cup half and half
1/2 tsp chopped parsley

This recipe is pretty simple:
Toss everything but the parsley into a pot and bring it to a boil.
Reduce it to simmer for 30 minutes.

At the end of the first simmer, take the soup and run it through a blender until its completely smooth. 

A word of warning: Tossing the soup into a blender all at once could cause the mix to explode all over your kitchen. A better way is to run in small batches, one at a time until all the soup is blended.

Don't cover the blender completely.
Instead pull out that center fill top and place a towel lightly over the opening to allow the steam to escape. 

Pour the blended soup into a separate bowl until the whole batch has been blended, then pour everything back into the pot, and simmer it again for another 30 minutes.

You're looking for a fairly thick soup at this point. 

When ready, stir in 1/3 of a cup of half-and-half, toss a pinch of parsley in the center (or any decorative way you feel like garnishing) and serve.

I like to have a nice chunk of some good French bread to go along with it. That, along with a glass of wine and you have a great way to welcome in the cooler Fall weather.


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