Monday, October 17, 2011

The Soup Project: Curried Pumpkin Soup

I can't believe I live in a house where no one but me and my long-eared kitchen assistants like cooked winter squash and pumpkins. Okay, you bond over food, get married for better or worse but there are bound to be a few food adjustments in every household. The line appears to be drawn over winter squash at our house. Okay, Tom eats meat alone, I eat squash alone.

Well, not exactly alone when two hungry basset hounds are eyeing every bite. Anyway, I wanted pumpkin soup.

I planned on making enough soup for a few days, then I'll freeze the rest for lunches. It's a no-brainer easy lunch. One of my friends always makes extra soup and freezes some for those times when you just don't want to cook.

I'd been thinking about ginger ever since I saw some at a Boston farmers' market. I kept imagining it with pumpkin and pears and maybe a few mint sprigs as a garnish. Ginger is something you have to look for at markets. I don't think very many farmers have tried growing it for market yet.

But look how pretty it is. How can you resist it? Only one farmer that I know of grows it around here. Mair Farm-Taki brings fresh over the mountains to the Saturday market in the fall.

That's where I planned on getting it, but I was shocked when I farmer Katsumi Taki behind the River Farm booth and he said his truck had broken down at the top of the pass. He couldn't get this produce to market this past Saturday.

I was sad also because he also missed a week of income at a crucial time. The season is nearing the end and it's usually a big push to sell squash and pumpkins in these last weeks and that's exactly what I wanted.

A pumpkin is really just another winter squash, but I was still focused on pumpkin and wondered what I'd do with it without the fresh ginger. I'm not really into going to a store for ingredients, so I was mentally checking off the options.

Sugar pie pumpkins and Jack o'lantern pumpkins are everywhere now. It's a big mistake to confuse the two. Sure you can also cook with the Jack 0'lantern varieties but they don't have much flavor and the bigger they are, the more likely they'll be stringy and tough. The first pumpkin pie I made was with a Jack o'lantern pumpkin. Oh, it was bad, nothing you'd want to serve to company. It was one of the big landmark mistakes in my cooking career, and I didn't have a Cooking Assistant willing to eat my mistakes then.

Use sugar pie pumpkins for cooking and baking.

This Anne Schwartz of Blue Heron Farm was harvesting sugar pie pumpkins three week ago. I love this picture. These sweet treats traveled to the produce department at Skagit Valley Co-op. Lately, I've been seeing pumpkins so many places that they were on my mind long before I got to the market.

Seriously, they're so beautiful, how can you resist them?

These sugar pie pumpkins are from Nature's Last Stand in Carnation.

I knew the soup had to have garlic after all it's also garlic season. I have 3 garlic braids from Rent's Due Ranch. Garlic is harvested and hung up to dry.

This is garlic dring at Blue Heron Farm. This garlic also went to Skagit Valley Co-op.

Buy garlic for winter now. Keep it in a cool dry place and it keeps till spring. While you're at it, plant a few garlic cloves in the garden, so you'll have your own garlic bulbs next summer. You can get special garlic to plant from a nursery or you can plant cloves from a head you buy from a farmer.

Here's another ubiquitous fall ingredient I wanted to use for this soup--apples. There was an apple tasting event at the market last week. The apple flavors I wanted for the soup are tart-sweet with emphasis on the tart because squash is sweet and helps balance the flavor.

I didn't really have any soup ideas beyond the pumpkin, garlic and apples, but after the market Ed, Patty and I went to this restaurant to celebrate Patty's birthday, and guess what was on the menu? Pumpkin soup, of course it's that time of year. (Sometimes I wonder--does anyone have an original thought at all? Seriously.) Anyway, the soup on the menu was also dairy-free, so we all ordered bowls of the steaming soup. The flavor was was light, yet creamy tasting with a mild curried flavor and just the right amount of heat. At last I'd found a place that serves not only decent, but delicious soup.

It was so simple and creamy. I was sure I could recreate it without even asking for the recipe.

The hard part about this soup might be picking the right bowl to eat it in.

Did I mention I'm a sucker for thrift shop/garage sale soup bowls? For me, it's part of the soup experience--eating out of the perfect soup container. Someday I'd love to host a soup bowl exchange, where you sample soups and bring extra bowls to exchange.

Which bowl would I take?

I wanted the soup to be simple--just a pureed soup, but I couldn't resist also adding roasted peppers as a garnish. I probably mentioned this before, but be sure to use only fresh lemon to tweak final flavors. I'm not sure about those plastic squeeze lemon concentrate containers. It just doesen't seem like the same thing and flavor is everything with soup. Lemon wedges on the side would do the trick.

Here's the recipe:

Curried Pumpkin Soup
(Serves 4)

1/2 cup cashews
1 cup apple cider
1 small sugar pie pumpkin (about 4 cups cooked pumpkin)
1 Walla Walla sweet onion, diced
1 to 2 tablespoons canola oil
3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
1 sweet tart apple, cored and diced
2 teaspoons curry
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
3 to 4 cups water
Sea salt
1 or 2 roasted red peppers, cut into strips

1. Soak the cashews in apple cider. With a fork, poke holes in the pumpkin and bake it in a moderate oven (350F.) for about an hour or until pumpkin is tender. Remove the pumpkin, let it cool. Then skin; scoop out the seeds and set it aside while you cook the onions.

2. Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add onions and 1 tablespoon oil. Stir and cook until onions soften. Add garlic and cook for a few more minutes. Reduce heat, add apple, curry, tumeric and hot pepper flakes. Stir and cook until apples become soft.

3. Puree the cashews and apple juice until smooth and creamy. Reserve.

4. Puree the onion mixture with pumpkin and water, adding them alternately. Add the cashew cream and enough water for the soup consistency you want. Add sea salt and lemon juice to taste. Garnish with strips of roasted red peppers.

Nothing says fall better than a simple "creamy" pumpkin soup. Who knows, maybe next time I'll actually get Mair Farm's ginger and try out Pumpkin Soup number 2.

The swirls of color are the cashew cream and soup. I like it better than one even color, but make it your way, and have fun with it.

It was so good, I ate some for breakfast this morning. My Cooking Assistant Finn didn't mind a bit. Clean up is his specialty.


Tanvi, a.k.a. The Hathi said...

Wow! This looks so delicious. I bet the curry really complements the slight sweetness of the pumpkin.

Nancy Ging said...

Oooh! Soup bowl exchange! What a great idea! Your thrift shopping habit also explains why I've been so enchanted with some of the dishes in your photographs.

Debra Daniels-Zeller said...

It would be such fun. Soup is such comfort food, I'd love to see other people's favorite bowls!

Miz Helen said...

Hi Debra,
Your soup looks awesome, I just love the combination of the spices in the recipe. The hanging veggies remind me of our barn, we have onions and garlic hanging everywhere and it is great all winter. Thank you so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday. Hope you have a wonderful week and come back soon!
Miz Helen