I really do promise this will not turn into a food blog.
I just cook a lot more when the weather gets cold. This weekend it’s a variation on the butternut squash soup I made for the Almost Foodies Soup Swap last year (check out the Almost Foodies blog too, if you want to get hungry). Pumpkin is a squash, and local pie pumpkins are cheap and plentiful right now, not to mention cheap.
Any squash recipe will do, really, so I won’t get too specific here, just remember that butternuts have that huge meaty lobe and a small seed chamber, so pound for pound you’ll get less flesh from most other squash. You want to cut those bad boys in half, and right here is where some people give up altogether. Cutting pie pumpkins is not always easy; be careful. I’ve been known to use my favorite kitchen tool, the hacksaw. Once those are split, scoop out the seeds and save for roasting (the oven’s already going to be on so why not), and roast the pumpkin halves cut side down until they’re done. How do you know when they’re done? When they’re roasted. If you’re lucky, they do this:
If the skin comes off in one nice piece of shell, you’re golden. And for really impressive plating, clean and save those shells to get something like the leading photo above.
Cut the roots and leafy ends off some leeks (tip I picked up: save useful bits and freeze them to make stock from later), and clean those really, really well. I don’t know anybody who likes eating sand; if you do, then don’t clean them so well. Leeks are a bit of a French touch but you can use onions, shallots, scallions, celery, garlic scapes, green plastic army men, whatever you want. Chop the leeks — doesn’t have to be a fine chop, we’ll puree all this later — and mince some fresh ginger. How much? Come on, I don’t know, however much you want, just remember a little fresh ginger goes a long way. I think I used about a tablespoon. Sweat those in a big pot for a while in your preferred fat and add your pumpkin meat and several cups of stock. Probably not beef stock but you can try it. Not too much stock, we’ll round it out later.
It should look something like that. Now, if you have an immersion blender, the next twenty minutes of your life are going to be a lot easier than mine. But puree this whole mess by whatever means possible, then put it back in a pot. Add more stock to bring it to your desired soupy consistency. This is where I like to add a little cream to round things out, and maybe some extra herbs to bring out or fight with the pumpkinosity. I go with nutmeg, but it’s up to you, cinnamon, more ginger, pepper, curry powder, go wild. Let that all simmer until the flavors play nicely with each other and serve nice and hot. The roasted seeds make a nice garnish, but croutons do in a pinch.
If you’re trying to seriously impress the average person with your kitchen skills, this is not the dish to make. It’s a subtle, satisfying bowl that belies the amount of time and effort that went into it. Few people will applaud a good squash soup — but they sure as hell will go back for seconds.