This past Sunday our friend Susannah's brother, Michael Ceraldi, competed as Edward Lee's sous chef on Iron Chef America. To cheer him on, Tim and Angelique hosted a party at their Brooklyn apartment and, in the spirit of the show, we participated in our own mini-version of the show: Battle Pumpkin.
Seasonal, rich, savory and sweet, pumpkin makes a wonderful fall "secret ingredient". Real pumpkin (sadly the canned pumpkin pie filling doesn't count) touts a lot of nutritional benefits. They contain high levels of beta-carotene, which is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent, and alpa-carotene, which is widely believed to promote eye health and help prevent the formation of cataracts. While most of us are accustomed to seeing pumpkin in pies and other sugary desserts, this ingredient is easy to incorporate into savory dishes as well; just use pumpkin in place of where you normally use any other squash.
To give you some ideas, here are a few of the contending pumpkin dishes from Sunday's party:
- Roasted Pumpkin, Lentil, Goat Cheese & Arugula Salad
- Creamy Pumpkin & Parmesan Risotto
- Acorn Squash & Pumpkin Risotto
- Spiced Pumpkin Coconut Soup
- Pumpkin Empinadas
- Potato & Pumpkin Pancakes (think Latkes) with Chive Sour Cream
- Pumpkin Walnut Bread
- Pumpkin Chocoate Chip Muffins
Look for pumpkins at the farmers' market through the end of November; they are plentiful and not too costly. Buy smaller pumpkins that are heavy for their size and don't have a lot of blemishes or bruising. For this recipe, and any other pumpkin dishes, most pumpkin varieties will work except for the standard jack-o-lantern pumpkins which are watery and tend not to be very sweet (but their seeds are still great for roasting!). I used sugar pumpkins which tend to be very sweet and easy to work with because they are smaller in size (hacking into a large pumpkin is not only very difficult but also dangerous-- and I do not trust my cleaver skills enough to feel comfortable butchering anything larger than a canteloupe).
Instead of peeling the pumpkin, cubing and roasting it, I just cut it in half and roast it halved in the oven. It takes a little longer but it saves you all of the difficult butchering involved with dealing with a raw pumpkin. Once the pumpkin flesh has softened, just scoop it out and add it to the soup.
Spiced Pumpkin Coconut Soup
3 small pumpkins (about 4 pounds)
a few tbsp. olive oil for drizzling
2 tbsp. coconut or canola oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cans coconut milk
3 c. chicken broth
6 tbsp. fish sauce
3 tbsp. ground ginger
3 tbsp. ground coriander
1 tbsp. chili powder
juice from 2 limes
cilantro for garnish
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Carefully halve pumpkins and place cut side up on rimmed baking sheets. Drizzle with olive oil and salt. Roast until flesh is tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Remove from oven and let cool.
Heat coconut oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and saute until translucent. Scoop pumpkin flesh out from the shells and add in the pot with the onion. Add the coconut milk and stock and bring to a simmer. Stir in fish sauce, ginger, coriander, ginger and chili powder. Let simmer over low heat for about 30 minutes.
Working in batches, puree soup in a blender (adding more stock if necessary) and return to pot. Adjust seasoning and stir in lime juice to taste. Serve topped with fresh cilantro.