McMan’s Pumpquash Soup
Here’s what I love about northeastern falls: Fresh invigorating air you can bottle and sell for ten dollars to those poor saps living in the sun belt. Leaves that go off like fireworks. Jack Frost. Halloween. The only bummer is the season is short and that winter follows.
Last year at this time I was dealing with a miserable depression, made much worse by the fact that autumn failed to materialize. Blustery bitter cold, dreary rain, monochrome leaves, a sun gone AWOL. Just one good day, I thought, one good day to rescue me. I felt like Custer at Little Big Horn waiting in vain for reinforcements.
But this year, autumn turned it on. I’m feeling very much alive and energized, despite the demands of more travel in the past ten days than Lewis and Clark faced in two years. The produce aisles are abundant with pumpkins and squash and apples, and the time is at hand for hearty fare that sticks to the ribs and warms the soul.
McMan’s Pumpquash Soup
You have a choice of going with pumpkin or squash. My first option is acorn or butternut squash, but a left-over porch decoration is suitable grist for the blender. Cut one small pumpkin or two squash into eight sections. Scoop out the seeds and scrape out the stringy bits. Put on a tray in the oven and bake at 350 for about 45 minutes. Baking will soften the “meat” and caramelize the sugar inside, producing a beautiful sweet taste.
Remove from the oven, let cool for five or ten minutes. It will be very easy to separate the meat from the skin.
Place the meat in the blender with a little chicken or vegetable stock and give it a spin until you have a mushy puree. You may want to toss in some leftover vegetables (celery, onion, asparagus, whatever) and even a stray apple. This is soup – you make up your own rules as you go along. Go wild. You got cranberries, try some cranberries.
Toss the puree into a large saucepan with about two cups of chicken or vegetable stock, and heat. There are two ways you can go with the soup now - sweet or savory. For sweet add a bit of cinnamon and nutmeg. For savory, add a bit of cumin and turmeric (curry ingredients) with some pepper and maybe a little ginger.
There’s another way to go savory. Keep the soup plain, but dice three or four slices of stale bread, toss into a bowl, sprinkle in the curry spices and pepper, and coat with about a quarter cup of low-fat butter or transfat-free margarine. Lay out on a baking sheet and bake at 300 for about 20 minutes or until crispy. Now you have beautiful tasty croutons to float on your soup.
Back to the soup. Once it’s heated through, add about one or two cups of skim or one percent milk and keep stirring over low heat to prevent burning. Keep adding milk or stock until you get the desired texture and thickness. It’s your choice, but I go with thick and creamy.
Pour into bowls and serve with a dollop of no-fat sour cream or plain yogurt. Garnish with slivered almonds or finely-chopped walnuts with a little parsley. Or roll out them croutons. Serves four.
The soup is a real wow! as a first course when you’re entertaining, but I prefer it as a main dish with chewy dark bread. Simple is good. Life is good.
Published On: October 30, 2006
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