Saturday, October 17, 2009

Warming the chill

So, spring started strong with a blast of hot air readying a hopeful season of plenty. Then came almost a month of rain. Now, not even a month into autumn and an unexpected northeaster has pelted some areas with the earliest snowfall in ions. This is clearly the year of truncated expectations.

Trolling the market signs of the unwanted snap where evident on many of the leafy greens that wore patches of distress. I am still not sure if the Brussels sprouts will ride out the premature and unwelcomed cause for multiple layers unscathed.

All is not lost as the potatoes are blissfully dug in totally okay with the early blanket. And, that icon of autumn is fortunately faring well enough as pumpkins can be harvested and held – no need to fear a dearth of carved toothy faces sitting on neighborhood porches. Though for me, living vertically stacked, I bring home these hard-skinned squashed not as a decorative element but definitely meant for the kitchen. I will buy a few that will be peeled and cubed destined for a freezer bag and a deep winter meal –- perhaps a pumpkin chili with smoky bacon or even a pie. Today, with a wool sweater and shearing jacket helping me brace the morning a hot bowl of soup was all I could wrap my head around.

Pumpkin Soup – yields approx. 4 quarts
7-pound pumpkin
2-large onions – diced
6-carrots – peeled and diced
1 jalapeno pepper - diced
1/2-pound parsnip – peeled and diced
2-tablespoon olive oil
1-teaspoon fresh thyme leaves - chopped
2-teaspoons fresh sage leaves – chopped
2-teaspoons orange zest
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Cut the pumpkin in half, and scoop out the seeds. Reserve the seeds to the side.

Pre-heat the oven to 375.

Peel the pumpkin, and cut the meat of the pumpkin into 1-inch pieces. Spread the cut pumpkin on a baking tray, and place in the oven. Cook the pumpkin for 15 minutes to lightly brown.

Transfer the pumpkin to an eight-quart soup pot, along with the onion, carrots, jalapeno and parsnip. Cook with four-quarts of water. Bring to the boil, and them reduce to a simmer. Cover the pot, and cook the soup for an hour.

After an hour puree the pumpkin mixture until smooth. Return to the pot, and season with salt and pepper.

While the soup is simmering free the pumpkin seeds from the fibrous meat it clings to. Wash the seeds clean. Spread the seeds onto a baking tray, and dry in the oven for five minutes.

Heat an eight-inch sauté pan over a medium heat, and add the olive oil and pumpkin seeds. Cook the pumpkin seeds until golden brown. Remove from the heat, and immediately toss in the thyme, sage, orange zest, salt and pepper.

Serve the soup garnished with the seasoned pumpkin seeds and a dollop of crème fraiche or a sprinkle of grated cheddar cheese.

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