Project Wonderful

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Pumpkin Gourd Soup

This Spring I decided to make some use of the beat-up gazebo in the yard and used it as a trellis for growing beans and gourds. The beans didn't end up doing much, but the gourds really enjoyed being able to climb and get some sunshine. As a result, I ended up getting several nice sized bottle gourd out of the deal.

To which, I then asked myself, "OK, now that you have them, what are you going to do with all these gourds?"

I figured I'd let a bunch of them dry and use them as table decorations for the holidays - sanded and varnished, they really look nice on the table for Thanksgiving.

But I'd read that there are several dishes that you could make out of the fresh gourds, so I picked one of the largest ones I managed to grow (the one on the right) and decided to try making some soup out of it.

Right off the bat, I'm going to NOT recommend making this soup. It takes too long, requires too many steps and while the result make turn out really nice, its just too much effort to make this something edible.

Having said all that, here's what I did:

I cut off the stem with a bread knife. Might as well have used a saw.

Inside are the immature seeds and a lot of white flesh.  

This, apparently, is the "good part."

I scooped out the seeds and separated them to toast up.

I figured pumpkin is a gourd and pumpkin seeds are awesome toasted. 

Birdhouse gourd seeds, however, are not awesome. It was like eating little wood pellets flavored with salt.

I placed the gourd face down in a baking dish with water and tossed it in a 350 degree oven for about 60 minutes. The inside turned soft, but the outside skin never turned fork tender. 

I cut the gourd up into chunks, then used a paring knife to cut out the white parts like you would a cantaloupe. 

Now the fun part begins! I diced up an onion and started it softening in the bottom of a large pot with a couple tablespoons of olive oil.

Once the onions were the right consistency (translucent, with a little color) I added a sliced apple, three cloves of garlic, 4 peppercorns, a bay leaf, the gourd, two cups of pumpkin saved from last year, about 3 cups of chicken stock and water to fill it up the rest of the way.

I let this simmer covered for about 45 minutes. 

Once it was simmered enough, I removed the peppercorns and the bay leaf and transferred the mush into a blender in batches and blended it till it was silky smooth.

If you have a stick blender, even better. I don't have a stick blender, so I get more stuff to clean up afterwards. "Labor of love" and all that. 
It's very important to remove the center section of the blender top and use a paper towel placed loosely over the opening to allow steam to vent. Otherwise the steam will cause the everything to erupt violently out of the blender like a volcano of 2nd degree-burn-inducing soup. 

After blending everything, I transferred it back to the original pot and seasoned it with salt and other spices. The overall mixture was pretty bland and required a good amount of salt. I also added a couple pinches of cumin and coriander, but you can season it however you like. Chipotle powder would also be good.

Overall, I'd say the soup came out great, but to be honest, it was WAY too much work making the gourd edible. By itself, its horribly bland, giving a pale greenish hue to the mix.

The verdict: Gourds are great for growing as they dont require much of any effort except training them to climb the tresllis and watering them occasionally. They are great for decorations, but really not worth the effort for food.

Back to the drawing board. 

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