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Monday, September 20, 2010

Celebrate the Harvest with Curried Pumpkin Soup

Our friends Chuck and Sandy put in a big garden every year, and this year we really appreciated it, as our own garden consisted solely of an inadvertently massive herb bed and, thanks to the Evil Stalker Groundhog, three pots of lackluster tomatoes. Not only did we get to taste lots of good food at Chuck and Sandy's house, they generously shared their bounty. A couple of weeks ago, Chuck presented us with a sugar pumpkin, a bag of herbs and chili peppers, and a considerately printed-out recipe.

Though we're always sad to see the summer go, we love the harvest, and this soup makes good use of it.

One suggestion: Thrifty though we are, we try not to cook with those big Halloween pumpkins, which tend to be very fibrous. (Still, a friend of ours tells a great story about her extremely frugal mother, who used to drive through her neighborhood on November 1, make her humiliated children scoop up the smashed pumpkins, and then turn the road-kill vegetables into pies. We can't help admiring that.)

If you can, use a sugar pumpkin; butternut squash would also work well.

Curried Pumpkin Soup

4 cups puréed pumpkin*
2 T. olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, chopped
5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 t. fresh thyme leaves
2 T. chopped parsley
1 t. curry powder
1 small hot pepper, minced (optional)**
1/2 cup cream or 3/4 cup whole milk

1. To prepare the pumpkin, cut it in half, extract the seeds and strings, then bake upside-down in a pan with about an inch of water in a 350-degree oven for about 50 minutes, or until you can easily remove the pumpkin from the skin.

2. In a large pan, heat the oil, then sauté the onion and garlic until soft and golden.

3. Add the stock, thyme, parsley, curry powder, and hot pepper.  Bring to a boil, the simmer for about 30 minutes.

4. Using an immersion blender, stationary blender, or food processor, purée the soup until it is smooth and creamy. Put it back in the pan (if you removed it to purée it) and simmer for an additional 30 minutes. Before serving, add the cream or milk and heat for a minute or two.

Though the soup is good served plain, a dollop of sour cream or a few toasted pumpkin seeds finish it nicely.

*If you can't get four cups out of the pumpkin, adjust the recipe proportionately.

** Chuck added a finely chopped, tiny habanero pepper to give the soup a kick; we used a couple of very small but deadly Thai peppers, which provided a nice afterglow.

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