Filed under: Cooking, Gardening | Tags: gardening, Memphis, Pumpkins, Recipes, Urban Ag
A month or so ago I wrote a few posts about winter squashes – specifically pumpkins – and what you could do with these beauties. The initial post about processing the pumpkin is here. We took a free pumpkin and made a series of dishes with it. One was, of course, pumpkin pie. But next we made a fantastic pumpkin soup.
A little over a year ago, my wife and I attended a conference put on by our friends at Englewood Christian Church, called “A Rooted People“. It concerned “the church, place, and agriculture in an urban world”. There were some great sessions, no doubt. But one of the pleasures of the conference was the food. The church community provided all the meals from as much locally grown and sourced ingredients as possible (the church sponsors a fantastic community garden, and many members raise chickens, provide eggs, and raise bees). The two things I remember most were persimmon pudding and squash soup. It was the first time I had eaten squash soup and it was wonderful. So when a big, free, pumpkin showed up at the house, I went looking for a recipe.
What I found was a terrific – very similar – recipe from All Recipes. You can look it up – I won’t list it here. But I will list a few changes we made to suit our tastes.
First of all, the ingredient list calls for 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg. Bump that up. Give it at least 1 full teaspoon.
Second, substitute the 1/4 teaspoon of pepper for white pepper. Who wants black specs in their creamy orange soup? Plus white pepper is a finer ground, which suits my texture sensitivity.
Third, thicken your soup by using a 12 oz. can of condensed milk and 4 oz. of half-and-half instead of 2 cups of milk.
Fourth – not necessarily a change, but a recommendation: use sweet yellow onion instead of white.
Fifth (it seems this list is getting long), we use our own chicken broth instead of canned chicken broth. These days we cook enough whole chickens that we can make a lot of chicken broth. It’s a much richer flavor than the bland stuff you buy in the can.
Last, I suppose, would be a substitution on the parsley. We grow a lot of cilantro (for our home-made guacamole), so we used cilantro to garnish the final dish instead of parsley.
It’s a fantastic soup. Everything I hoped it would be. And since our original batch, we’ve made a few more using butternut squash rather than pumpkin. The butternut is a bit sweeter, but still very good, and butternut is easier to get once Halloween is over.
And just in case you’re keeping a tally: That’s two pumpkin pies and a pot of soup big enough to feed eight people, all from one medium pumpkin. And there’s one more dish coming.
Filed under: Cooking, Memphis, Policy, Urban Ag | Tags: Farming, Food, Food To Table, gardening, Memphis
In case you haven’t heard, Memphis’s second Farm To Table Conference is happening Monday, February 6 from 8 – 5 at the Memphis Bioworks Foundation. Last year’s conference was great. I met lots of folks from all over the Memphis/Shelby County area involved with everything from growing to selling to cooking – even making policy.
For more details, check out this link on Facebook.
In my last post I told you about my excellent luck in scoring some free winter squashes, and I promised to give you a few recipes for making use. So here’s me making good on my promise.
Let’s start with pie.
First of all, let me say that this is not my recipe for pumpkin pie. In fact, I’m technically not giving you a recipe, I’m expanding and expounding on Allrecipe.com’s pumpkin pie, which you can find here. I was particularly jazzed about this mixture after I found that it called for a cup of honey, which we try to feature in our cooking whenever possible.
I wanted to say a few things about preparing your pumpkin for pie. There are a few tips at the top of the Allrecipe article about cooking pumpkin, but in my experience, you can do a bit more to make your pumpkin ready for pie.
First of all, make sure it’s done. I split my pumpkin in half, clean the seeds out, and place it face down on a cookie sheet. Allrecipes says to oil it – good idea. Be sure that you cook the heck out of it. Use a fork and test both the outside flesh, which is always a bit tougher, and the inside meat. Both should be squishy. I’ve cooked a lot of spaghetti squash, and when it’s done, it’s incredibly tender. If you have to use any effort to scrape the shells, then it’s not done. Your pumpkin should have the same feel, all the way through. If there’s any give when you puncture it with your fork, let it cook some more.
Second – and this is more important if you’re cooking pie, rather than soup – strain your pumpkin. After you’ve spooned the meat from the shell and let it cool, blend it so that it’s uniform and smooth. But before you call it “done”, use a wire strainer to strain off extra liquid. Some pumpkins still have a lot of moisture to them, and it tends to separate when you cook the pie. It’s heartbreaking to pull a soggy pie out of the oven when you’ve poured so much effort into that homemade, from scratch crust. If you don’t drain the extra liquid, you’ll end up with a pie swimming in pumpkin juice. It’s still great, mind you, but it doesn’t have that firm texture that pumpkin pie should have.
Third, there’ one characteristic spice in pumpkin pie around my house, and that’s nutmeg. There is no nutmeg in this recipe, therefore it cannot actually be called pumpkin pie. Add some.
And, last, as good as this is, throw in a bit more cinnamon, closer to 3/4 or 1 teaspoon.
It’s not that I’m weird, I’m just cheap. But two of the most exciting events for me over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays was scoring a free pumpkin and a free acorn squash. It amazes me how these fantastic winter squashes have become mere decorations, with people throwing them out once they’ve outlasted their seasonal aesthetic value. I received the pumpkin from a friend when she tore down her Halloween party, and the acorn squash was found on the side of the road, having rolled off a float during the town Christmas parade.
Okay, so maybe I’m a little weird.
I love winter squashes because they’re so much sweeter than their summer cousins, and because their shelf-life is so long. With proper care, they’ll keep all winter long. And even though I scored mine for free, you can pick up most squash for a few bucks, and get several meals out of them. From my medium pumpkin, we made two pumpkin pies, two pots of pumpkin soup, and roasted the pumpkin seeds for a snack. The smaller acorn squash made a baked squash casserole and a baked sweet-potato / squash dish that was better than any baked sweet potatoes I’ve ever had. Heck, if you can feed my bunch (two adults, three teens, and two pre-teens) on just a few bucks, then I’m sold.
Over the next few posts I’m going to give you a few recipes we used to prepare our squashes. But to prepare you, a little education. Here’s a great video (albeit a little long) from “Your Produce Guy” about these garden beauties.