Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco
A few weeks ago, my mom and I shared a memorable trip to a north shore Long Island, family owned farm. It was a beautiful, crisp autumn day. I went with the goal of finding a good cooking pumpkin to make this soup with. I found a lovely cheese pumpkin, which has been decoration until now (it has a shelf life of up to 1 year!) Today is Halloween, and although I really don’t care for it, it felt like the perfect day to cook my pumpkin. With my husband at school preparing for an exam, I found myself with some quiet time. I finished a few house chores (naturally, my reward is cooking) prepared candy for the trick-or-treaters, put on some old-timey Christmas tunes (don’t you say a word) and lit tea lights around the house. It was so serene. This is how I cook happy.
I learned that the cheese pumpkin is slightly sweet with a firm flesh, making it lovely for roasting, soup making and pie baking. It gets its name for the exterior resemblance to a wheel of cheese. Basically, it makes a wonderful puree. On a Saturday or Sunday when you have a little more time, it is actually very simple to make your own! Trust me. Once the pumpkin is roasted, it practically falls apart. All the good stuff comes right out. And once you’ve made it into soup, the flavor of the final product is subtle, rich, but not overwhelming– it has the smoothest, velvety texture. It is worth every effort. The addition of the coconut milk swirls and roasted seeds adds another layer of texture and interest to the bowl. You’ll also be able to say that nothing was wasted! Those seeds… they are a seriously delicious snack all by themselves. Do not be intimidated! Bask in the glory that is autumn and give this one a try! Sweet November, you are almost here.
(Gluten free… paleo… and vegan!)
Yield: 4 servings — Prep time: 5 mins — Cook time: 60 mins — Total time: 1 hour 5 minutes
- 1 small cheese pumpkin (about 3 – 5 pounds)
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil, divided
- 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- ½ teaspoon dried sage
- ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- ¼ teaspoon chile powder
- 3 cups vegetable stock
- Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut pumpkin in half, discarding the top stem and scooping out the seeds (don’t throw the seeds out!)
- Rub 1 Tablespoon of coconut oil on a baking sheet and place halves of pumpkins cut side down on pan. Roast for about 35 minutes, until pumpkin is tender and can easily be pierced with a fork. Don’t be alarmed if the pumpkin looks deflated when it comes out, it gets very soft.
- Let pumpkin cool and then scoop out the flesh, about 3 cups. Discard the skin. Once cool, I pureed the 3 cups of flesh until very smooth.
- Add the remaining tablespoon of coconut oil to a large pot over medium heat. Add the shallot, garlic, and ginger and sauté for about 5 minutes, until onions are translucent and garlic is fragrant. Add the pumpkin flesh, thyme, sage, pumpkin pie spice, chile powder, and stock. Bring to a boil and then lower heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.
- Add salt and pepper to taste (I added about 1 teaspoon of each). Garnish with a drizzle of coconut milk and roasted pumpkin seeds*.
To roast pumpkin seeds, first boil the seeds in a small pot of water for 10 minutes. Strain, so you lose any strands of pumpkin, and dry. Place in a bowl with a little olive oil, salt, pepper and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Roast at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes. When they roast, they turn from a grayish color to a lighter browned color. Crunch away!
Soup recipe adapted from In Sonnet’s Kitchen.
A little lesson on other pumpkin varieties good for cooking and baking:
Cinderella Pumpkin: Looking much like the pumpkins that Cinderella’s fairy godmother magically transformed into a carriage, the Cinderella — with a flattened shape and striking red color — carries a strong and sweet flavor.
Long Pie Pumpkin: Also known as “Nantucket Pie,” the five to eight pound Long Pie looks nothing like a standard, round pumpkin. As its name suggests, it has an elongated shape, and its bright orange flesh is smooth and nearly string-less.
New England Pie Pumpkin: Known for making delicious pumpkin soup, the New England Pie has a superior consistency — string-less and slightly less sweet than the Baby Pam — that also makes for a thick filling in pies.
Pumpkin varieties via The Daily Meal, www.thedailymeal.com.