Monday, October 17, 2011

2 Recipe #290: Pumpkin-Potato Soup with Fresh Sage, Rosemary, & Basil

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It's fall and that means cooking with one of my favorite foods -- pumpkin. :) I always try to use the fresh stuff whenever possible instead of the canned, because it just tastes so much better. Also, it's much healthier that way too. The kinds that they sell in the supermarkets here are usually "pie" pumpkins (also called "sugar" or "sugar pie" pumpkins), and of course they're the kind that are meant for eating. ;) It's not a big deal to peel and cut up a small pumpkin; it just takes some arm power, a good sharp chef's knife, and a sturdy peeler. :)

This is a great soup to serve for special fall &/or winter occasions and holidays like Halloween, Thanksgiving, etc.

Pumpkin Soup with Fresh Sage, Rosemary, & Basil

4 qts. (16 c.) water (for boiling pumpkin, yams, sweet potatoes, and potatoes)
4 c. fresh edible pumpkin, peeled, pulp scooped out, seeds removed & reserved, and diced into 3/4" cubes (about 1 small "pie" pumpkin)*
3/4 lbs. red-skinned potatoes, peeled and diced into 3/4" cubes (about 1 large potato; makes about 1 1/2 c.)**
1/2 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 3/4" cubes (about 1 medium-sized sweet potato; makes about 1 c.)
1/2 lb. yams, peeled and diced into 3/4" cubes (about 1 medium-sized yam; makes about 1 c.)
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c. yellow onion (about 1/4 large onion)
1/4 c. shallots, peeled and finely minced (about 2 large shallots)
1 Tbsp. garlic, peeled and finely minced (about 4 large cloves)
1 large fresh bay leaf
1/4 c. dry white wine
5 c. water or low-sodium organic vegetable broth
3/8 tsp. salt, or to taste, plus more for salting pumpkin seeds
3/8 tsp. ground white pepper, or to taste
1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary leaves, finely minced
1/2 Tbsp. fresh sage leaves, julienned
1/8 c. (2 Tbsp.) fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1/2 c. Silk coconut milk (or lite plain soy milk)***
1/2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 c. fresh basil, roughly chopped, plus more for garnish
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, freshly shredded (for garnish; about 2 Tbsp. per serving for garnish) (optional)

Directions: In a large 6-8 qt. sauce pot, bring 4 qts. (16 c.) water to a rolling boil, about 15-20 minutes. Cover pot to boil faster. Reduce heat to a simmer, then uncover pot and add diced pumpkin, red-skinned potatoes, sweet potato, & yam. Cook, uncovered, until tender, about 20 minutes. (Test with a fork for doneness. If ingredients are easily pierceable, then they're ready.) Then drain into a colander, and set aside to cool for 10 minutes. Then purée pumpkin, red-skinned potatoes, sweet potatoes, and yam in a food processor, in batches, until smooth. Set aside.

While ingredients are boiling, pour pumpkin seeds into a mesh sieve, then thoroughly rinse and drain, removing any remaining pulp and washing off any associated residue. Spread seeds onto an aluminium foil-covered baking tray (for easy cleanup), lightly season with salt, and toast in oven preheated to 350°F for 10-12 minutes, or until light golden brown. Set a timer for the seeds, so you don't forget about them while you're doing the other steps. ;) When ready, pull seeds out of oven. Wearing heat-proof oven mitts, gently rattle tray from side to side to loosen the seeds, and then set them aside to let them cool.

Meanwhile, while pumpkin seeds are toasting, heat olive oil in another large pot until it glistens; be sure to use a non-stick pot for this step. Then add yellow onion, shallots, garlic, and bay leaf, and sauté for 5 minutes on low heat, stirring occasionally. Deglaze with dry white wine, reducing a thin layer on the bottom of the pot. Add 5 c. water (or organic low-sodium vegetable broth), then bring to a rolling boil, covering with a lid to boil faster, about 8-10 minutes. Reduce heat to a simmer, uncover lid, then add puréed ingredients, and thoroughly stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper, and cook uncovered for another 8-10 minutes. In the last 5 minutes of cooking, add rosemary, sage, and parsley. Remove from heat, uncover, & allow to cool for 10 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Pour in coconut (or soy) milk, lemon juice, and 1/4 c. basil, and stir. Then, very carefully, transfer soup to blender in batches, and pulse until smooth. Place each batch into a large 1 gallon pitcher after it's blended. When ready to serve, garnish each bowl with additional basil, 1 Tbsp. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, &/or pumpkin seeds, and serve immediately, while still hot (so that cheese melts).

Yield: 3 5/8 qts. (14 1/2 c. or 1 1/2 c. shy of a gallon), or 7 1/4 servings (of 2 c. per person).

Chef Notes: To make this recipe vegan, simply omit the cheese, or use a non-dairy cheese substitute like soy cheese, etc.

* In my opinion, "pie" pumpkins are one of the best kinds of edible pumpkins to use for cooking and baking. They are small and smooth, (i.e., read "not thready" like generic, field pumpkins used for carving Jack O'Lanterns ;) ). Also, here's a helpful tip for preparing the pumpkin: It's easiest to first halve the pumpkin with a large, sharp chef's knife, remove the pulp and seeds, and then slice it into medium-sized wedges before peeling off the outer rind.

**You could also substitute sweet potatoes or yams for the red-skinned potatoes, if you like.

***I used coconut milk to make this soup recipe, which imparts a slightly nutty flavor to the soup and goes quite well with the pumpkin and other ingredients. The nutty flavor is more of an undertone than an obvious note. Since this recipe only calls for a 1/2 c., you won't even really taste the coconut flavor at all. Rather, it gives the soup body and a certain richness, without the use of cream or other, much more fattening additions. The reason I prefer to specifically use Silk brand coconut milk is that it's only 40 calories (and 2.5 grams of fat) per 1/2 cup, (unlike the canned stuff), and the plant-based fats it contains have a multitude of health benefits. Yes, coconut contains saturated fat, but the plant-based saturated fats in coconut are actually much better for you than animal-based saturated fats. For one, the saturated fat in coconut actually works quite differently than animal-based saturated fats, helping you to burn energy instead of sticking to your rear. :) In fact, it's often used as a weight management tool, and, in moderation, is frequently consumed by athletes in its multiple forms (coconut water, coconut oil, etc.) for its performance benefits (i.e., hydration, energy, etc.).


CewTwo said...

Basically the same recipe, except no potatoes (I used butternut squash instead) and no coconut milk. I also used canned pumpkin as I don't share your zeal for having the freshest.
I sauteed an onion, then added everything else. After an hour, i took the brew to the ol' food processor and mangled it completely.
I topped it with both the Reggiano parmesano and something akin to Durkee's fried onion bits.
It ended up smooth and silky in texture and very good in the taste of it. Friends and family both commented on what a great soup it was.

Cyberpenguin said...

That's great, Charles! Glad to hear that the soup went over so well with your friends and family! That's a fantastic idea to add butternut squash instead of potatoes; less starch that way, especially if you're not in carbo-loading mode for a race. :)

The starch from the yam and the sweet potato will add a lot of body to the soup, so the reason I added the 1/2 c. coconut milk's was to give it an even creamier flavor and texture, and also for additional nutritional value as well. BTW, a half cup of Silk coconut milk is only 40 calories and 2.5 grams of fat, and that's spread across almost 8 servings of soup. Of course, not adding it to the soup will make the soup slightly leaner. :)

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