Sunday, January 15, 2006

Pumpkin Soup, Weekend Herb Blogging & Two Truths

I don't really know how to start...but the picture looks good, doesn't it and I do think this is a lesson worth learning. So I’ll just jump right in.

First, I guess I should begin by saying it's Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen's Weekend Herb Blogging (WHB) time again (don't you love her new logo?) and I was really panicking yesterday trying to come up with something to submit. My challenge lately is to cook spontaneous dishes for my posts as well as the recipes for my cookbook (I need to edit AND photograph dishes for the recipes I’m sending to my fabulous volunteer food testers. You can email me if you’d like to join the gang.) Honestly, it’s hard enough to eat all that I’ve been cooking lately and yesterday was no different. There is a huge amount of food in my fridge from Friday’s cooking binge– Roasted Root Vegetables with Thyme Balsamic Vinaigrette, Bow Ties and Kasha, and Stuffed Roasted Peppers.

Scene One - there I was, standing in line at the grocery store with my cart full of things I needed for the Stuffed Pasta Shells with Four Cheeses and Banana Bread still on my list of unfinished cookbook recipes - you would have thought that the city had been shut down for three weeks for the number of people I had to jostle my way around. And then it happened….a panic attack…how and what was I going to make for my WHB entry!?! And I saw it…the cover of Real Simple Magazine had a gorgeous photo of butternut squash soup made with bay leaves (I haven’t written about them yet) and rosemary (one of my favorite herbs). It looked perfect - gorgeous orange color and such a beautiful photo, I could almost taste it. Now, there was no way I was going to give up my place in line though or run the gauntlet of carts between me and the produce section for a squash. Plus I was pretty sure I had one at home.

Scene Two – today and the deadline for WHB is closing in….remember I said I HAD a butternut squash…well I didn’t, but I did have a can of pumpkin and thought that would work as well. Now, maybe it would have been perfect if I had followed the recipe to the letter. We’ll never know. But here are two truths: Don’t judge a book (or magazine) by its cover and don’t go shopping when you’re hungry. I think the best way to explain is to just jump in and walk you through this annotated version of the soup I finally made.

Pumpkin Soup
Inspired by Real Simple Magazine. The ingredients in red are my adaptation.

4 leeks, rinsed and chopped (3 cups)
1 3 lb/1.5kg butternut squash cut into 1” chunks (1 19oz can pumpkin)
1 bay leaf
¾ tsp kosher salt
1 tsp pepper
5 cups chicken broth
(¼ cup sherry)
(1 cup apple juice)
¼ cup shelled raw pumpkin seeds
1 tbsp fresh rosemary
2 tsp olive oil
(1 tsp walnut oil)

1. Place leeks, squash, bay leaf, salt and broth in a large saucepan. (Next time I would definitely sauté the leeks before adding the rest of the ingredients). Bring to a boil and simmer gently until the squash is tender, about 12 minutes. (Given that I started out with cooked pumpkin, I didn’t really need the time, but I left it that long for the leeks to cook. I had to add quite a bit more broth since I started out with too much pumpkin. I kept on tasting it and it was bland, bland, bland – not subtle – BLAND. So I added some sherry, and some more sherry and finally the apple juice to give it some depth).

2. Puree the soup in batches and rewarm over medium heat.

3. In the meantime, place pumpkin seeds and rosemary on a chopping board and roughly chop.

4. Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the seeds and rosemary and heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, 2-3 minutes.

5. Ladle the soup in bowls and sprinkle with seeds and rosemary.

In the end, the soup was quite nice. Not spectacular, just nice. The moral of this story is simple. Don’t leave things to the last minute; don’t go shopping when you’re hungry; and don’t judge a book by its cover. Okay, three truths, but who's counting.) Maybe I should start thinking about next weekend’s herb blog today.

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Kalyn Denny said...

What a fun post. It does sound like it turned out pretty well in the end. I love butternut squash but haven't ever made soup from it, or pumpkin either.

Joycelyn said...

hi ruth, i am an official real simple magazine addict too - the photography, the styling, the layout, the story ideas, everything...the soup looks spectacular!

kitchenmage said...

You know that even simply "good" fresh homemade soup is marvelous compared to many of the alternatives, right? grin Especially on wet winter days like we've been having. And it looks marvelously comfortFoodish.

I make a soup a lot like that, mine uses prawns and stock from the fried prawn shells..and cayenne, which helps with the blandness you ran into. I usually go with a lot of cayenne and then some cream to take the edge off the heat. Hmmm, then there's ginger, which I haven't tried in the soup, but I bet it'd be awesome.

Ruth Daniels said...

Kalyn, thanks - I liked the post more than the soup and I must say that Kitchenmage's idea about adding cayenne and ginger would have made it really special.

J, this time it looked way better than it tasted.

Kitchenmage, you're brilliant. Where was my head?! I love ginger and cayenne and use them together often. It would certainly have turned bland into exciting. I was trying for subtle, creamy and rich and got none of the above.

Thanks all of you for visiting.

mae said...


Great illustration! I know what you mean, i often go shopping when i'm hungry - definitely NOT the right time.

You're pumpkin soup looks delicious - very enticing.

I'm so excited about your cookbook. You certainly have a flair for it. You're asking for volunteers.... Can i be in your gang? I like trying out co-bloggers recipes. I think it's not just fun but you get to learn new recipes apart from your own as well - so it's a double whammy - just don't give me a hard recipe though... *chuckles*

Anonymous said...

I love pumpkin soup! Thanks for the recipe ... and you have a great blog!

I look forward to visiting again.

Anonymous said...

I actually just made the same recipe this weekend. They key is leave the recipe as is and just add 2 teaspoons of mild curry and a little onion salt. It goes from bland to delicious :)

sailu said...

Ruth,never had a pumpkin soup ever.This is a must-try..I love pumpkin.

Ruth Daniels said...

Sailu & Paz, pumpkin soup is wonderful, but don't forget to add some oomph - Kitchenmage's comment about adding ginger & cayenne is awesome and someone else suggested curry.

Thanks all for visiting and your kind words.