08 August 2011

I Love Pumpkins

A few of my pumpkins from 2010
Align Center
Have you ever cooked a fresh pumpkin? I have gifted many varieties of squashes and pumpkins to friends, but most have no idea what to do with them. Until a few years ago, I'm not sure that I had ever had a pumpkin pie made with anything but the store-bought, canned mush that is actually pureed butternut squash, cooked under high pressure with the skin still present. Now that I grow my own, I have tasted the sweet flesh from more than a dozen varieties, and I will never go back.

Although it is a time-honored tradition to celebrate Thanksgiving with an iconic Pumpkin Pie, many Americans have diverged from the deep-rooted agricultural heritage our country was formed on. Fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, nuts, and seeds all can be grown in a relatively small space, but a majority of us let our foods be grown thousands of miles away, mostly in California. Well, I am one of the lucky ones that has the ability to grow most of my own food in my backyard, and have had the pleasure to grow, prepare and taste many varieties of pumpkins and squashes, I will never go back to eating pumpkin from a can.

This year's harvest has not been as plentiful in the pumpkin department as previous years, but I am still able to experiment and play with them in the kitchen. Last year I was a bit overwhelmed with an overly bountiful array of pumpkins filling my pantry and kitchen counters, with at least 200 pounds of flesh waiting to be cooked and consumed, so I sold some to friends and to Homegrown Foods. I may still be able to stuff my freezer with pumpkin puree again, but I doubt I'll have enough to sell for others to enjoy. This summer has been way too dry, and the plants just can't soak-up enough water from the infrequent and short-lived rains.

Candy Roaster

My first pumpkin this year was a Long Island Cheese Variety from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, but I haven't pierced its beautiful tawny skin just yet since it weighs about 8 pounds and has a thick enough skin to wait until another day. Besides, no one seems to mind its beautiful presence.

The Candy Roaster was chosen to be the first to go into the oven, resulting in 2 pounds 4 ounces of sweet smelling puree reminiscent of cantaloupe. To highlight the delicate fruityness, I decided to tackle a new feat - The Ghost Chili.

Ghost Chili
Creamy Ghost Chili and Pumpkin Soup with Tarragon

2.5 cup chopped onion, divided
4 Tbsp butter, divided
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 Ghost Chilies, with seeds and veins removed, and roasted until crispy
     but not burnt, then ground with a mortar and pestle
2 cups (about one pound) pumpkin puree
1.5 cups diced potato, peeled
6 cups water
1/2 tsp salt, and more to taste at the finish
fresh tarragon

To make the chili sauce, melt 2 Tbsp butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 cup onion, cooking until translucent. Add the ground chili peppers, stirring until fragrant. With the heat on medium-low, slowly stir in the heavy cream, and cook until reduced to about 1/3 cup. With a sieve, isolate the liquid sauce in one bowl, adding salt to taste and reserve the chunky stuff in a separate bowl, setting both aside until later.

To make the pumpkin soup, melt the remaining 2 Tbsp butter to a saucepan over medium heat, then add the remaining 1.5 cups onion, cooking until translucent. Next stir in the pumpkin puree, chopped potatoes, water and 1/2 tsp salt. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 15 minutes to allow the potatoes to become cooked and softened. Remove the pan from the burner, add the chunky remains from the chili sauce, and puree with a hand-held mixer until uniform.

Serve the soup warm, or chilled, but be sure to top with fresh tarragon for an excellent juicy astringency that complements the delicate sweet pumpkin and subtlety tames the heat from the ghost chili peppers. If you prefer more pizazz to your palate, drizzle the soup with the prepared chili cream sauce before topping with the tarragon, but be careful!

My bowl, which I mistakenly served with Greek Yogurt

No comments:

Post a Comment