The Soupista, Week 1: Pumpkin Soup
My friend Jen is a world-traveling, ethnography-studying, Chinese-speaking, event-planning guru. She helps out in my office and helps keep me sane. She also happens to be an amazing cook who is good at feeding hordes of hungry grad students. I’m often lucky enough to be the recipient of her baking prowess (e.g., spice bread, a peanut butter-chocolate concoction called something like gobbeldy gook). But her skills extend far beyond baking: combining her master-level organizing ability with her love of cooking, she’s put together a rotating dinner club that has been feeding hungry grad students for over a year. This autumn, she’s given herself the challenge of creating a soup a week. We’ll be lucky enough to read about the process, and acquire some delicious recipes perfectly suited for the crisper weather that’s approaching.
Even though we Chicagoans fought so hard for summer this year, the leaves are turning. The air is crisping up. Hats are emerging from their closet hibernation. It seems Old Humbug Autumn has finally picked his front and center seat at bingo and is staying there, dammit. As much as the autumn makes us Windy City wayfarers wary of the crippling weather to come, along with the begrudgingly conceding sigh of fall also comes the best of the season’s edible bounty.
Tart, orchard-fresh apples. Lumpy little pumpkins. Squash, gourds, the beginning of winter greens. Soup. Ah, soup. There are so many reasons for loving soup. And if you, reader, are a frequenter of this or any food blog, then there is no reason for me to stew about this oh-so-beloved food form. But do let me, in my best Campbell’s impression, condense it for you: Soup can be reasonably healthy, seasonal, filling, and cheap.
I live in an apartment with four other people. We’re graduate students, so naturally we’re poor and starving. We originally met when I organized a dinner club with about ten other people. After some very humble beginnings and a nightly charge of making enough food for a hungry dozen, we’re now down to five in an off-campus apartment. We’ve cooked together almost every day for a year now. Aw. Since our group’s inception, friendships and an even deeper love of food have blossomed. And the stakes, I admit it, have been raised. We take turns cooking each night. I do Mondays and have decided to throw down my gazpacho soaked gauntlet (aka my oven mitt) and challenge myself to a quarter-long weekly souping; that is ten weeks of creating one concoction that is made with fresh, inexpensive ingredients; stands alone as the main part of a complete meal; and doesn’t make roommates so ticked off at “Soup? AGAIN?” that they bludgeon this aspiring soupista to death with her own ladle.
My main goals are to keep the quality up and the price down—under $20 for the total meal per week. This really isn’t too hard to do. Thankfully, I live near an (amazing and) cheap produce store and luckily don’t have a taste for things like truffle oil or diamond paste, or whatever the kids are rubbing on their solid gold lobsters these days.
In honor of fall and leaves and all that crap, I decided to start this week with Pumpkin Soup. We all went to an orchard over the weekend and hand-picked apples—one of which is used in this recipe. We also got, like, literally two dozen pumpkin donuts—only one of which is still hanging around.
Anyway. This simple soup is pulverized with an immersion blender until smooth and is only made more delicious with the addition of heavy cream. Yum. It was great because I got to throw in the orchard apple and bought the most adorable little pumpkin that I had ever seen…which I then hacked into bits.
I served this with crusty sourdough and a herb/green salad. Everyone liked it. And if not, they were good friends and kept their mouths shut.
Adapted from an allrecipes.com post 2
1 lb. baking pumpkin, peeled seeded and cubed *don’t forget to save, clean, and roast the seeds for snacks and garnish!
1.5 c. coarsely chopped carrots
1 lg. onion, cut into large pieces
1 lg. or 2 sm. tart apples
1 lg. potato, peeled and cut into bit-sized pieces
3 lg. garlic cloves, rougly chopped
4 c. chicken or veggie stock
1 c. heavy cream
1 1/2 tsp. nutmeg or allspice salt, garam masala, black pepper, and/or cayenne to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place cut up vegetables in baking dish. Sprinkle with garam masala or allspice. Pour in about ¼ C chicken stock and stir with spoon to evenly coat vegetables with spices. Roast, covered, for 20-30 minutes until carrot and potato are tender, but not blackened.
Transfer vegetables to dutch oven or large soup pot. Pour in remainder of chicken stock. Pulverzie with an immersion hand blender (or food processor) until thick and smooth. Stir in spices to taste. Let simmer on low heat for 15-20 minutes. Add cream, stir, and let simmer for 5 more minutes. Serve with a dollop of extra cream and roasted seeds for garnish. Enjoy!