Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Great Pumpkin...Soup

Sunday afternoon, I was in a terrible, terrible mood for a little while. Fortunately, earlier in the week, I'd printed out an Epicurious recipe for curried pumpkin soup. I only discovered pumpkin soup a few years ago, but I quickly became obsessed - one of my favorite things about working downtown was the Harvest Pumpkin Soup at Au Bon Pain (ABP to those who know).

This recipe didn't sound like Harvest Pumpkin, but good nonetheless. And it promised an hour or so of solid kitchen time, which cheered me up considerably.

During the prep process, I also made a salad of arugula, half a Fuji apple, half a Bartlett pear, walnuts, some grated cheddar cheese and a sweet strawberry balsamic vinaigrette:

apple salad
Originally uploaded by Kit Pollard.

The soup itself wasn't difficult to make at all. The ingredients list is long (and I won't type it all out here, since its clearer in the link), but there were few things I actually had to buy.

I started by chopping 2 medium onions and cooking them in 2 tbs. of unsalted butter, over low heat, stirring occasionally, until they were soft (about 5 minutes):

pumpkin soup-step 1
Originally uploaded by Kit Pollard.

Once the onions were soft, I added the minced garlic (2 cloves) and minced fresh ginger (1 1/2 tsp.) and cooked and stirred for about a minute. Then came the spices: ground cumin (2 tsp), ground coriander (1 tsp), and ground cardamom (1/8 tsp). Again, I stirred and cooked for about a minute.

Then the big stuff: salt (1 1/2 tsp), hot red pepper flakes (3/4 tsp - I think I added more - it was HOT), 7 cups of water, 1 1/2 cups chicken broth, 1 (14-oz) can of unsweetened regular coconut milk and 2 (15-oz) cans of pumpkin (not pie filling):

pumpkin soup-step 2
Originally uploaded by Kit Pollard.

So far, the process was extremely gratifying - it was easy and smelled fantastic (thank you, onions and garlic and ginger) and I could see the soup coming together. My mood had already improved considerably. For the next thirty minutes, I let the soup simmer over medium/low heat, stirring it occasionally, while I set the table and finished the salad and checked my email.

After thirty minutes, it was time to stop emailing and start pureeing. I broke out my, um, vintage (read: ancient but reliable hand-me-down) blender and pureed the soup in smallish batches, transferring it to a big bowl as I went:

pumpkin soup-step4
Originally uploaded by Kit Pollard.

Once it was all blended and smooth (well, not that smooth, actually - I was a little impatient), I put it back in the pot to keep it warm. On to the last step.

Finally, I heated the olive oil in a skillet, over high heat, until it was very hot, then added the mustard seeds (the recipe says brown - I used yellow because I had them), cooked them for about 15 seconds, then added about a tsp of curry powder, and cooked it for five seconds, then added it all to the soup, with some additional salt. (The recipe says to use fresh curry leaves...but I didn't. Earlier that day, I talked with a lady at the curry stand at the farmers' market and she told me just to use curry powder - that it wouldn't make a difference. And curry leaves don't exactly grow on trees in Towson.)

And then...it was finished! My bad mood had practically disappeared - thank you, cooking therapy - and it was time for dinner. The salad was just about perfect, and the soup was very, very tasty, though also very spicy.

Last night, I froze a few servings of soup (it is filling - so this recipe makes a lot) and added some sauteed chicken to the leftovers for a new meal (also very good). I served that with a spinach, bacon and portabello salad dressed with a champagne and honey mustard dressing. I might have been a little heavy on the bacon (some trick-or-treaters did tell me my house smelled good, though), but really, who's to say what's "heavy" on bacon?

I think I might stick with the soup meme. Tonight: Jacques Pepin's onion soup. Bien!

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