They say the weather is beautiful everywhere in October. Because it is one of our most comfortable months, I try to stay at home and enjoy the snappy chill in the air and the first chance for hot soups.
And, although the food police may tell you not to, I always use my jack-o-lantern to make something yummy the next day. No one has gotten sick because I refrigerate it about one hour after dark when the usual two or three trick-or-treaters have passed by my house.
My favorite use for it is pumpkin soup. I’ve always admired pictures of it served in real pumpkin shells, but carving out raw pumpkin (cooking it first would ruin the texture) is about as easy as jack-hammering concrete. And, ceramic pumpkin bowls are beautiful, but I’ve never owned one.
This year I had the idea of serving it in bread bowls, but on second thought, that might fall into the jack-hammering scenario in terms of time spent. Then, it occurred to me that some bakeries have bread soup bowls or large, crusty rolls that might be used.
Pumpkins are easy to grow, are highly nutritious and are in the squash family. In early New Orleans, cooks baked them in pies called tarte de citrouille, laced with brandy. Pumpkin was also served as a side dish for dinner accented with cinnamon and nutmeg, alongside lamb, pork, fowl or beef. The color stands out especially in soups to which cream and sometimes potato are added.
Bright orange and deep green vegetables star in the Louisiana fall crop with not only pumpkins but butternut squash; collard, turnip and mustard greens, and kale. Extremely healthful, these tasty veggies are a good match for the exercise we can do in beautiful October – biking on the levees, playing sports in the parks and taking long walks without even breaking a sweat. After enjoying plenty of the great outdoors, there’s nothing like a good soup and crusty bread for dinner.
PUMPKIN SOUP IN BREAD BOWLS
6 to 8 crusty bread bowls for soup*
5 cups pumpkin, freshly cooked or canned
4 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
8 cups chicken stock, homemade or canned or made from chicken base in jars
1 large potato, peeled and cubed
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 1/2 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
Salt to taste, if needed
1 cup heavy cream
6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1. Hollow out rolls, if necessary, leaving room for 1 cup of soup. Set aside.
2. If cooking pumpkin, peel and cut into 2-inch cubes, and mash to measure.
3. In a large pot, melt butter and saute onion and celery until wilted. Add garlic and ginger and cook a minute or two. Add stock and heat to a boil. Add potato, pumpkin, pepper, cumin, cinnamon and nutmeg. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until potato is done. Taste and adjust seasonings. You may not need salt if the stock is salted. Add salt now if needed.
4. Use a hand blender to puree soup. If you do not have a hand blender, puree in batches in a regular blender or food processor.
5. Add heavy cream and heat but do not boil. Remove from heat.
6. Cook bacon until completely done. Cool and crumble.
7. When ready to serve, heat oven to 350 degrees. On the stove top, heat soup to hot. When oven is hot, heat rolls until hot. Place on plates and fill with soup, about 1 cup. Top with crumbled bacon. Serves 6 to 8.
*I found bread bowls for soup at Panera Bread. Some bread bakeries make crusty rolls that could be hollowed out and used as bowls. Buy as many as needed, and freeze leftovers for later use.
A How-To Guide
Cooking a pumpkin should be done before peeling. Seed and scrape the inside of the pumpkin, discarding all but the meat. If using a jack-o-lantern, this step is already done. Bake seeded pumpkin whole or in pieces in a 350-degree oven until fork tender. When cool enough to handle, peel with a sharp knife. Pumpkin should mash easily. It can be frozen at this point for later use.