When revisiting a topic or ingredient for A la Carte/Savor, running new — hopefully, unusual — recipes is my main goal. I thought the “lasagna” photographed for the section’s front page, as well as the quinoa salad with lime dressing, both fit that criteria. And because squash soups are a dime a dozen, I threw in one of those, albeit the first I’d seen specifically calling for a combination of pumpkin and acorn squash.
But just when I start to believe that an ingredient is universal, a conversation with or comment from readers brings me back to earth. This one came courtesy of Fran, a master gardener who grew small sugar pumpkins this year on a lark. With 20 squash a bit larger than softballs on her hands, she was looking for information on how to cook them without cutting into them. She had never prepped any kind of hard-shell squash for cooking, it turns out.
Cooking squash is something I’ve become very well-versed in over the past couple of months since my son started eating solid food. I just purchased 20 pounds of squash of numerous varieties from Fry Family and Whistling Duck farms’ stands at the season’s last farmers market on The Commons downtown. Delicata, acorn and butternut purees are reposing in my refrigerator. Should I need more, the markets run for a few more weeks in Medford and Ashland.
So I explained to Fran how easy it is to halve a squash — provided a large, sharp knife is available — scoop out the seeds, rub the cut halves with some kind of oil (I use coconut) and roast them in a 350-degree oven until they’re tender enough to scoop out of their shells. Then use the flesh in any kind of recipe calling for roasted squash, or freeze it for use down the road.
Or if the squash is really too small to halve, or the cook is especially wary of wielding a sharp knife, use a meat fork or metal skewer to poke several holes around the squash. Then microwave it for three minutes until its soft enough to cut, or roast it whole in the oven. Be aware, however, that the skin and stem likely will char and could make the kitchen smell smoky.
While whole pumpkins and squash are hard to beat for value, it bears reiterating that canned and frozen squash were invented for a reason: convenience. And those products, unlike many vegetables, offer quality very similar to from-scratch preparations.
Consider them for use in the following recipe. Or if you have 20 pumpkins on hand, substitute the same weight of cooked and pureed squash.
Find more of my favorite recipes by entering “pumpkin” into this blog’s search field.
Curried Pumpkin Soup
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and shredded
2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
2 cups half-and-half
1 (15-ounce) can unsweetened pumpkin puree
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1⁄4 cup sour cream, for serving
Toasted sunflower seeds, for garnish
In a heavy soup pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the curry powder, onion and carrot. Cook, stirring, until vegetables are soft, for about 10 minutes. Add the stock and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Transfer to a blender or food processor and process until smooth.
Return mixture to soup pot and stir in the pumpkin, half-and-half, salt and white pepper. Heat over medium heat to a serving temperature. Scoop into soup bowls or pumpkin shells. Top with the sour cream and sunflower seeds.
Makes 6 servings.
— Recipe from “The Soup & Bread Cookbook,” by Beatrice Ojakangas.