Photo Credit: Carla Hall
If you’re like a lot of my neighbors, you’re already donning your porches with colorful mums, pumpkins, gourds and perhaps a jack-o-lantern or two. The leaves have started to turn colors, and the raking season is just about upon us. The late harvest tomatoes are still hanging on at the farmers market, but my taste buds are craving winter squash and pumpkin. Today I showed restraint by only picking up a small pumpkin and a carnival squash. The squash screamed soup, but I still wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do with them when I got home. The plan usually unfolds when I see what’s in the pantry and fridge. It’s a game I occasionally play with myself—buy the main ingredient, and then let the rest unfold organically.
Chicken stock, onions, celery, herbs, garlic and cream were on hand, so soup it was. I wished I had a carrot to complete the basic mirepoix (three parts onion/leeks, two parts carrots and one part celery) for soups and sauces, but no biggie. The sweetness of the squash and pumpkin would suffice. I decided to do something differently, though, and bake the soup right in the shell of the pumpkin and squash. I sautéed the onions, garlic and celery with the whole herbs in olive oil, and as a second thought I added chili flakes. I covered the vegetables by 1 inch with chicken stock, seasoned the mix with salt, and I brought that to a boil and reduced it to a simmer. I added just enough cream for richness and texture and I quickly brought that to a boil, which is necessary when you add cream to a hot dish. YUMMY! I loved it! The herbs sang with freshness, the onions and garlic were sweet, and the celery helped balance it all. While I was doing all of that, I hollowed out each gourd and baked it cut side down on a sheet pan for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees until they starting to get soft. I filled the carnival squash with the creamy stock mixture, but I decided to fill the pumpkin with a partially cooked vegetable tagine I had on hand. I baked them both for about 40 minutes. When I removed them from the oven, I forked the squash flesh into the stock and the pumpkin flesh into the tagine. They were both winners. I must say the squash was really yummy, but I was the most proud of the surprise use of the tagine. Yay!
Enjoy the bounties of fall, play with your food, and cook with love.
Until next time…