Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Pumpkins with a story to tell...

We like backstory around here.  I don't know if it's just because Kent and I both have degrees in creative writing, or if it's just a way to be playful, either way, we like to tell stories around here.  Mostly, the backstory involves the chickens or Mattie, Kent's cat.  For instance, before Mattie came to us, she was a lounge singer in New York City.  She had a bit of a problem with drinking too many martinis, so when she hit rock bottom --she doesn't like to talk about it--she somehow made it to the Omaha Nebraska Humane Society where Kent adopted her.
Mattie after her lounge singer days.

I guess backstory is a way of making sense of things and a way of letting your imagination run wild.  For local foodists, for people that care about where their food comes from and if animals or people or the environment were harmed along the way, then backstory becomes important, an inextricable part of the eating experience.

We made pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving that had quite a backstory.  The organic, heirloom sugar pie pumpkin seeds I bought in spring of 2009 online from Heirloom Seeds. But in 2009 the pumpkins all succumbed to squash vine borers.  This year, I planted the squash in a new location, slightly sandier soil on the south side of my garden.  We dug out a new garden bed in the spring, and had to dig out huge chunks of limestone and add lots of compost and horse manure to make the area friable. I wised up to the vine borers, too.  I squelched the glutinous little worms with an organic canola oil based bug spray.  While I was on the road teaching reading classes all summer, Kent watered the squash, keeping them alive.  In the early fall, the new neighbor kids, the four-year-old and I in particular, had a lot of conversations about pumpkins.  Finally in late October, harvest 2010: 7 gorgeous pie pumpkins.

Pumpkin Pie making is chaotic.
These pumpkins had to make our obligatory Thanksgiving pumpkin pie.  Since I was out of town the days leading up to Thanksgiving, Kent was also put on the job as sole pumpkin puree-er.  The problem was that Kent was a little too over zealous in his pumpkin pureeing.  We made two lovely pumpkins, one a traditional, the other based off of this recipe from Bon Appetit, but we still had pumpkin puree left. 
On left: Pumpkin Pie with Pepita, Nut, and Ginger Topping
But this blog post is not about pie, it's about what to do with 3 1/2 cups of pumpkin puree that has a backstory, and therefore is too precious to just feed to the chickens.  Perhaps you have a can of pumpkin puree moldering about your cupboard that you don't know what to to with.  This soup would put it too perfect use.
Pumpkin Curry Soup with Mark Bittman's Chickpea Flatbread

Pumpkin Curry Soup

2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 small onions, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 T. brown sugar
1 can full-fat coconut milk (15 oz.)
3 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1 to 2 cups vegetable broth (if you use sodium-free broth, you'll need to add about a teaspoon of salt)
1 Tablespoon lime juice

Heat olive oil in large soup pot over medium heat.  Add onion and saute until soft and translucent.  Add garlic and cook for several minutes.  Have coconut milk close at hand.  Add spices, quickly, and saute until they begin to release their fragrance.  Cook for just a minute or so, you want them to be slightly toasted, but not burnt.  Then quickly pour in coconut milk to deglaze the pot.  Add pumpkin puree.  Add vegetable broth, starting with a cup, until soup is desired consistency.  Simmer for about 20 minutes.  Taste, adjust seasonings.  Finish with lime juice.  Serve with chopped cilantro on top, if desired.

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