Stella’s Pumpkin Soup

Eric grew so many pumpkins! I had no choice but to make a pumkin soup.  It turned out amazingly–here it is!

3 medium cooking pumpkins*
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, halved
4 Tbsp olive oil, halved
~ 1/2 cup fresh sage leaves
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 heaping tsp powdered cinnamon
1 heaping tsp powdered nutmeg
1 tsp allspice
2-3 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup heavy cream, for garnish

1. Preheat your oven to 350°. Meanwhile, lightly grease a roasting tin or cookie sheet (or sheets, if needed) and set aside. Cut each pumpkin in half and scoop out the stringy center and seeds (keep these for later roasting or planting; see below). An ice cream scoop works well.

2. Place the pumpkin halves open-side down on the cookie sheet/s and bake for about 30 minutes, then remove from oven. Sprinkle sage leaves around pumpkin, and drizzle with half of the olive oil. Return to oven and bake for a further 10 minutes, or until pumpkins are tender and sage is crunchy but not burnt. Remove from oven and turn oven off.

3. Allow pumpkin haves to cool enough so that you can comfortably touch them. Using a spoon and knife, remove all the cooked flesh from the skin, discarding the latter. Chop pumpkin into workable chunks and set aside. Remove sage and set aside separately.

4. In a large stock pot, melt remaining butter along with remaining olive oil. Add garlic and shallots, stirring occasionally until translucent and fragrant. Add half the sage, all of the pumpkin, all of the spices, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook over medium high heat for approximately five minutes, stirring frequently.

5. Pour in the vegetable stock, using just enough to barely cover the pumpkin the pot. This may be about 2-3 cups, depending on the size of your pumpkins. Bring just to a boil, then immediately reduce heat to simmer, cover, and cook for a further 30 minutes.

6. Pour soup into a blender or large food processor and purée to desired texture. I prefer my pumpkin soup very smooth. Alternatively, retain a few larger chunks of pumpkin, purée the rest, and then put the chunks back in. This makes a visually interesting presentation, as well. Note: You may need to do this step in two or more batches, pouring the puréed soup into a separate bowl after each session, until all is puréed. Then pour the soup back into the stock pot, over low heat.

7. Ladle the soup into serving bowls, drizzle with a light spiral of cream, and garnish with grated parmesan and the saved sage leaves (not shown here due to the pumpkin farmer having thrown them all into the stock pot!).

Serve with croutons or homemade bread.

The number of portions will be determined by the size of your pumpkins. I was able to make three large bowls of soup with three small-to-medium homegrown pumpkins.

Eric’s Roast Pumpkin Seeds
pumpkin seeds (try to save up at least a cup before roasting)
~1 tsp Old Bay per cup of seeds
1/2 tsp olive oil

1. Rinse seeds in a bowl or colander. Set aside to dry (Eric uses a cutting board; you could also use paper towels). Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 300°.

2. Grease a large baking tray with olive oil; try to smooth it out lightly but evenly. Spread the seeds out across the tray, in a single layer. Sprinkle Old Bay over all of the seeds as evenly as possible.

3. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, stirring a couple of times for even spice distribution and roasting. Allow to cool before serving.

Roasted pumpkin seeds will keep for up to a month in an airtight container in the pantry.

*You need a quality pumpkin, not the ones you get for $3.99 jack-o-lanterns, with their stringy, neon orange flesh. We grew our own, and they were excellent, and have the added benefits of producing more seeds than we know what to do with (just kidding, we roasted and ate them!). If you grow your own from organic seed, you can start your own heirloom pumpkin crop! (Many corporate seeds are engineered to produce fruits with infertile second generation seeds… so you have to keep buying more. Assholes.)


Eric’s Pumpkin Roll

As previously mentioned, Eric has successfully grown some pumpkins in our allotment garden. We’ve been obsessively researching pumpkin recipes for a few weeks in anticipation (I really want to make a curried pumpkin soup!).

Our homegrown pumpkins are wonderful for cooking, because they are or a variety meant for cooking. Most of the pumpkins you see at the store are grown for decoration. Their pulp is therefore stringy and flavorless. I’m sure you’ve encountered this nastiness if you’ve ever carved a jack-o-lantern. However, our tiny handful of seeds have matured into an overflowing plot of medium-sized pumpkins containing soft, flavorful flesh.

We’re using the whole pumpkin, too.  In addition to making delectable treats such as this pumpkin roll, we’re composting the shells and stems, and Eric’s also making his own home-baked pumpkin seed snacks, with a generous dusting of Old Bay!

Though this pumpkin roll is properly more of a dessert, owing to its cream cheese icing and overall sweetness, we ate it for breakfast. It’s especially tasty with coffee.

Eric’s Pumpkin Roll

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 medium-sized pumpkin (~1 cup of flesh)
2 Tbsp cinnamon (powdered)
1 Tbsp nutmeg (powdered)
3 eggs
1 tsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp confectioners’ sugar

Cream Cheese Icing

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup confectioners’ sugar

plus extra butter and flour for greasing

1. Preheat oven to 375°. Grease and flour a standard size cookie sheet.

2.  In a blender, purée the pumpkin to a smooth consistency.  This may require scraping down the sides of the blender a couple of times.  Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, nutmeg, and half the cinnamon. Stir in the puréed pumpkin, eggs, and lemon juice.

4. Pour mixture onto the cookie sheet, making sure to spread evenly, and bake for 15 minutes.

5. On a clean counter top (or cutting board), sprinkle the confectioner’s sugar.  Pour the pumpkin mixture onto the surface.  Carefully roll up the pumpkin mix, and let it sit for at least 20 minutes, cooling.

6. Meanwhile, you can prepare the icing.  In a medium bowl, blend cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and sugar.  I recommend using an electric hand mixer.

7. Once the pumpkin is cool, unroll it on the counter.   Sprinkle the remaining cinnamon over the entire surface.  Then carefully spoon the icing onto it, and spread it out evenly.

8. Re-roll the mixture and secure it in plastic wrap. Refrigerate the roll for at least a couple of hours, to solidify.

9. To serve, remove the plastic wrap and cut carefully into slices, then serve immediately.

The pumpkin roll should be replaced in plastic wrap after serving, and will keep for up to two weeks in the refrigerator.  It also freezes well; wrap securely in foil and use within a couple of months for best results.

Eric’s Pesto Pizza

Though it took a few tries to perfect, this turned out to be an pretty straightforward recipe with a big flavor payoff. We’ve perfected the thin, crispy crust, and the addition of homegrown jalapeños and a dusting of fresh herbs really makes this pizza fresh and interesting.

Get thee a pizza stone and get to work!

Eric’s Easy Pizza Dough
3 cups bread or all-purpose flour
1 cup of lukewarm water
1 Tbsp of salt
Drizzle of olive oil
1 packet of instant yeast (~ 1 tsp)

1. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Cover, and let it sit as long as you want (the longer it sits, the more sourdough flavor it will have).

2. About an hour before baking, remove the dough from the bowl and place in a foil “tent” (get a couple of large pieces of foil and wrap your dough up in them, with enough extra space for the dough to rise further – they tent does not need to be completely sealed).

3. Before preparing pizza base, flour your hands and work surface to avoid sticking. Fold the dough over a couple of times with your hands, and then make a medium-sized dough ball – this will become your pizza crust. The size of the dough ball will depend upon the size of the pizza you plan to make and the diameter of your pizza stone, so results here will vary.

Eric’s Pesto Pizza
Dough (as prepared ahead, above)
1/2 cup homemade pesto*
2 jalapeños, sliced**
sliced black olives, to taste
1 tsp fresh Mexican mint, finely chopped**
1 tsp fresh oregano, finely chopped**
1/2 tsp dried sage
1/2 green bell pepper, roughly chopped
1 cup grated mozzarella
1/3 cup grated parmesan
2 Tbsp olive oil, halved***

1. Preheat oven to 300°. Meanwhile, drizzle one half of the olive oil on the pizza stone and spread with your fingertips.

2. Next, take the ball of pre-made dough in your hands, and spread it out on the stone so that it covers the whole thing thinly and evenly, curling up at the edges. You can make the crust as thin or as thick as you like, but for this recipe (and according to my personal taste), you will want to spread it comparatively thin.

3. Once dough is evenly spread on the stone, bake it in the pre-heated oven for 10 minutes.

4. Then remove the stone from the oven and turn up the heat to 400°. Meanwhile, spread the remaining olive oil, along with the pesto, evenly over the dough using a spoon. Sprinkle mozzarella over the pesto. Bake for 10-15 minutes.

7. Remove the stone from the oven; add olives, jalapeños, parmesan, and green peppers, then scatter the herbs over the pie.

8. Return entire pizza to oven and bake at 400° until brown and crispy, with the crust bubbling around the edges.

9. Carefully remove the pizza from the oven, wait a few minutes, then cut with a pizza cutter or wheel. Serve and enjoy!

Use any leftover dough to make bread!

*In this case, we used homegrown basil, olive oil, grated parmesan, some cashews, and some local pecans – a basic recipe can be found here.

**All homegrown!

***Infused with homegrown jalapeños and oregano – regular extra virgin will work fine, though.

Stella’s Green Bean Salad

We grow our own green beans in our allotment garden, conveniently located a block and a half down the street.  By this time of year, we have a nice harvest of the stringy green little guys, and it’s often a challenge to think of new ways to prepare them. In addition to The Shiksa’s Ligurian Pasta Trenette, this is one of my favorite green bean dishes.  Give it a try and see if you don’t agree!

2 cups green beans
2 rashers of bacon
1/4 of a shallot, finely sliced
1/2 cup chopped cremini mushrooms
2 standard pats of butter
2 cups mixed greens or your favorite salad leaves

1. Over medium heat, fry bacon in one pat of butter. Meanwhile, start a pot of water boiling and wash your green beans. Snip off a bit the stem-ends or any brown areas.

2. Put beans into boiling water and leave for three minutes. Meanwhile, remove cooked bacon onto paper towels to drain. Pour excess bacon grease from pan (keep it in a Mason jar in the fridge for future use!), leaving just a little, and add the other pat of butter. Gently sautée shallots and mushrooms, stirring frequently.

3. Once beans have been boiled for three minutes (they should be bright green and tender but not limp), drain them and place them in with the shallots and mushrooms. Stir for about about two minutes, making sure the beans are well mixed in and evenly cooked.

4. Serve green bean mixture over mixed greens (I used baby leaves here) and serve immediately.

Serves two.

To make a veg*n version, substitute olive oil for butter and toasted walnuts or pecans for bacon!

Enjoyed for dinner with leftover Brie, walnut, and apricot preserve tartine, from Blue Dahlia Bistro – with grapes for dessert!