Roasted Pumpkin Soup with Crème Fraîche and Spicy Pumpkin Seeds

by Kirke on November 20, 2012

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With the arrival of autumn comes the season of the harvest, culminating with a Thanksgiving celebration in this part of the world. Prominent representatives of the harvest are the winter squashes: hubbard, turban, buttercup and butternut, banana, acorn, mammoth, sweet dumpling, and the grand pumpkin or Cucurbita pepo.

Tthe Cucurbitaceae species presents a food nutritiously as well as physically auspicious for the season. While the summer squashes are picked a few days after flowering, and should be consumed soon after, the winter variety are picked fully ripe and store very well, lasting from one to six months.

Hint: Spray winter squash with a 1:10 solution of bleach to water to prolong the shelf life of your harvested vegetable.

Isn’t it amazing that this particular plant should ripen just as days shorten, nights grow longer, temperatures drop, and warm weather crops disappear for the winter? Nature is looking out for us. Nature does so by providing a vegetable for the winter months that is chock-full of beta-carotene, a precursor to Vitamin A, essential for good eyesight, and just in time for long dark nights. One of the most commonly known nutrition facts about vitamins is that orange foods are good for our eyesight, but only 1/1000th of our body’s Vitamin A is in the retina.

There are many times more Vitamin A molecules working in cells lining our body’s many surfaces. Our outer layer of skin and internal tube-like tracts such as respiratory pipes and gastrointestinal plumbing are constantly shedding off old cells, replacing them with new ones. Vitamin A is instrumental in the “differentiation” of immature cells. As the new cells are produced to replace the old ones, they need to be instructed (by the genes) what sort of surface cell they are to become: slick, mucous producing cells, or dryer skin cells. Vitamin A needs to be around to “direct” this production. If you don’t get enough Vitamin A you could end up with wet finger tips and dry cracking noses. Not a good scenario in winter! Vitamin A also has important roles in gene expression, bone growth, and in controlling cell growth.

The rich earthy flavor of winter squash revealed after roasting, the creamy orange flesh wafting its sweet aroma, with all the accompanying comforting memories, promises something good for you. Those memories are a significant part of what you think of as the “smell image” you remember. The smell you remember is just part of the memory. As you recall the aroma thinking of the pumpkin pie your mother used to make (or still does!), memories of your mother occur to you, too. The whipped butternut squash with melting butter your aunt used to bring every year for Thanksgiving. Recall that aroma…can’t you picture a large table surrounded by family? That’s part of what flavor is.

An excellent way to enjoy winter squash can be found in the following pumpkin soup recipe. The roasted pumpkin bowl makes for a dramatic presentation, the flavor laden aromas rising to your nose once the stemmed lid is removed, but it tastes just as satisfying in a porcelain bowl, or made with a different squash (butternut or kabocha would be good choices) substituted for the pumpkin.

Roasted Pumpkin Soup Recipe:

 

 

Ingredients for the pumpkin vegetable stock

1 medium yellow onion, peeled, and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 medium carrots, peeled, washed and cut into1/2 inch pieces
2 stalks of celery, washed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 of a large tomato, cut into 3-4 pieces
1/8 cup celery leaves, washed
2 sprigs of parsley, washed
1 sprig fresh marjoram
1 sprig fresh thyme
Scrapings from one 3 pound sugar pie pumpkin
One corn cob I happened to have
1 bay leaf
2 tbs. of pure olive oil
1 tbs. unsalted butter, softened (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375°F

Method:

  • Take a 3 pound sugar pie pumpkin and knock the squash, stem-side first onto your kitchen table, and the stem should come off.
  • Carefully cut the pumpkin in half, and scrape out the innards.
  • Rub the butter all over the inside surface of the halves if you choose to use it.
  • Sprinkle the all the vegetables and pumpkin innards lightly with the olive oil, except for the parsley, celery leaves and bay leaf, and toss them to coat well.
  • Then spread in one layer on a baking sheet pan.
  • Add the scooped out pumpkin halves on empty corners of the sheet pan.

 

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I’ve added a corn cob I happened to have left over from dinner that night, and you may add any other non-bitter vegetables you might have laying around. But choose carefully. I’ve always subscribed to the cooking philosophy of quality in/quality out, so I don’t include parts that I wouldn’t otherwise eat, like onion peels. But always do what your mother taught you, never contradict the boss!

  • Bake for 20 minutes and then stir the vegetables for even cooking, cook 20 minutes more for a total of 40 minutes cooking time.
  • Remove the vegetables to a sauce pan or stock pot.
  • Put the pumpkins back in the oven, reducing the temperature to 350°F and cook for 20 more minutes until the pumpkin is soft to the touch.
  • After setting aside the pumpkin to cool, pour off any excess oil.
  • Then take the still warm sheet pan and add a cup of cold water.
  • Using a wooden scraper or spoon, scrape off all the browned, baked on bits, and then pour everything into the stock pot holding the roasted vegetables.
  • Add the parsley, marjoram, thyme, celery leaves, and bay leaf to the pot, along with 4 more cups of cold water, making 5 cups total liquid.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer at a low heat for 30 minutes. Strain the stock into a large bowl, pressing all the liquid you can from the vegetables

 

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Roasted Vegetables Waiting for Water

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Ingredients for the soup are:

Once the roasted pumpkin has cooled enough to handle, take a big spoon and scoop out all the pumpkin flesh you can, leaving only the skin. A 3 lb. pumpkin yields a little over a pound of pumpkin flesh.

  • One medium yellow onion, peeled and roughly diced
  • 2-3 inches of peeled orange carrot, washed and roughly diced
  • 1 Tbs. pure olive oil
  • 1 and 1/4 tsp. of sea salt (or to taste)
  • 1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. chili powder
  • A small grate of whole nutmeg (or a pinch of ground)
  • Pinch of ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. of tamari soy sauce (OK to substitute any soy sauce)
  • 1/8 tsp. Vinegar of Banyuls (OK to substitute another quality vinegar, Xeres is good)
  • 1/8 tsp. of good apple cider vinegar
  • 4 additional 2-3 lb. sugar pie pumpkins with nice stems to use as bowls
  • Toasted pumpkin seeds sprinkled with 1/2 tsp. oil, chili powder, cumin and sea salt
  • Crème Fraîche or sour cream
Method:
  1. Heat the olive oil over a medium heat in a large sauce pan and add the onion and carrot.
  2. Sauté the mixture while stirring and cook until the onion just begins to wilt.
  3. Add the pumpkin pulp, the pumpkin stock, and about 1 more cup of cold water.
  4. Bring to a boil and simmer over a low heat for 30 minutes, when the carrots should be soft.
  5. Add another cup of cold water to thin the mixture for pureeing.
  6. Add the salt and bring back to a boil.

Carefully, off the heat, use an immersion blender to puree the soup. Some don’t mind a few lumps in their pureed soups, but I believe the smoothness is a redeeming quality, so I always recommend running the blender for several more minutes than you think is necessary.
Taste the soup once. Push the soup around your mouth and swallow, exhaling out your nose…now really think about what you taste. Add the rest of the ingredients all at once, or add them one after the other, tasting after each addition. If you choose to do the latter, read the next paragraph first (you must have plenty of time on your hands!).

Taste the soup again, repeating the method. If it doesn’t seem too salty, but you think it needs a stronger pumpkin flavor, try adding a little more salt. Taste the soup again. The exhaling after tasting is putting your retronasal smelling capacity to work. That is one of your best flavor sensing tools. Notice it and use it when tasting, you will enjoy your food more. The using multiple seasonings and vinegars etcetera puts to use our ability to sense sub-threshold flavors. There is too little of the vinegar ingredients, or the nutmeg, for us to taste it, but if you taste before and after adding each seasoning, you will learn that there is a complexity that wasn’t there before. Vinegars are volatile substances as well, which aid in the retronasal tasting, as they evaporate and come from the “back” of the taste. Strain the soup just to be totally obsessive about it.

If you are presenting the soup in pumpkin bowls, cut the top off as pictured, and scrape out the innards. Just before serving, heat the pumpkins and lids in a 350°F oven for about 10-15 minutes or until they are warm to the touch. Ladle in a portion of soup, top with a dollop of crème fraîche, and sprinkle with seasoned pumpkin seeds.

 

 

References

Shepherd, G. M. (2012). Neurogastronomy, how the brain creates flavor and why it matters. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.

Whitney, E., & Rolfes, S. R. (2005). Understanding nutrition (10th ed.). Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth. 367-374.

 

 

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