Saturday, November 21, 2009

Pumpkin Soup

First, the backstory for why this pumpkin--er, I mean, recipe-- had to be done today. I mean, why I had to blog about it today.

A few years ago, I moved in to a house that my Dad had just moved out of, and to my continually increasing gratitude, I inherited the garden he had planted. Besides discovering that I LOVED Juliet tomatoes (the kind he had planted), I also discovered the joys of fresh-baked home-grown pumpkin. That fall was when I came up with this recipe, which is darn quick and easy, and eminently edible.

Which is just the kind of recipe one needs when one's mother gets a 60-lb supposed-to-be-decorative (and it was, in its past life) pumpkin from freecycle with the intent of processing and, over the course of time, consuming said pumpkin.

"I'm going to get a very big pumpkin from freecycle," she says. "I'm bringing your dad along to help carry it."

I deeply regret to tell you that I didn't get a shot of this thing when it was whole. In fact, I was thinking of calling this posting "The Slaughter of the Great Pumpkin: A Photo Essay," but that seemed to be over-promising without the "before" pictures; I hope that the ones I have here will give at least some sense of the scale of the thing.

When I came downstairs this morning, these four pieces were all that was left of the once-great pumpkin; three similarly sized pieces had already been chopped even smaller and then distributed in such a way as to take advantage of every large cooking apparatus available in our teensy kitchen: two baking trays in the oven, both two-quart cooking pots simmering on the stove, and the one-and-a-half quart crockpot on "hi" on the counter. Needless to say, the house was suffused with the smell of baking-and-boiling hard winter squash. Which, I am very thankful to report, is a very happy smell for me.

You aren't getting tired of this yet, are you?

We had discussed whether or not Dad might have to use a chainsaw or, since he doesn't personally own one (a chain saw), perhaps he might use an axe (which he does own). In the end, a trusty kitchen knife worked out just fine. The pumpkin was surprisingly soft, which isn't necessarily a good sign-- Mom ended up cutting out bits which she felt were too dodgy for non-starving humans to eat.

This last shot is for the sheer pleasure of showing off my mother's beautiful, strong, capable hand(s-- not much of the second one showing). When I was growing up, she was always the one who opened stuck jars. She had been a pianist and a clarinetist before she married, and hadn't given either of them up yet when I was small; even now, the fact that she types so much in her job means that she hasn't lost much strength. I also love the fact that her palms are slightly plump, like Yo-Yo Ma's. Being a cellist-- specifically, going to many concerts and paying close attention to where the action was-- has made me a bit of a hand conniseur. Aren't hers beautiful?

And now for the recipe section:

Pumpkin Soup (makes approximately 1/2 gallon?)

Ingredients and instructions:
1 T or so fresh slivered ginger (if you hate the recipe because you used powdered, don't blame me)
1 T or so fresh chopped OR bottled garlic
1 T or so olive oil or other preferred cooking oil
Get the oil spitting hot in a skillet, then fry the garlic and ginger until the garlic is getting brown. Remove these from the skillet and put them in the big pot you're planning to cook the soup in.
1 c (more or less, depending on taste) sliced onion
2 T or so oil
Fry the onion until it is both soft and brown; when these have been achieved, put it in the soup pot, too.
5-6 cups cooked pumpkin
1 can coconut milk
1 1/2 t nutmeg, if desired (adjust according to taste)
2 t salt (yes, you can definitely add more-- I tend to cook low sodium)
2 T sugar, according to taste
garnish of cashews or peanut butter, if desired
Dump these in the pot; heat everything through. If you have an immersion blender, you can use it, but if I were you I definitely wouldn't put it, in batches, through a regular blender. Maybe use a potato masher if you have one handy. I just used a spatula tonight. The goal of blending/mashing/sorta-chopping-with-a-spatula is to get the pumpkin in to small enough chunks that the other ingredients/flavorings have a chance to do their jobs.