Posts Tagged ‘soup’

Breaking the Rules -or- The Great Pumpkin Soup

September 22, 2013


When it comes to preparing recipes, no matter where you look, be it the pages of a magazine to cookbooks to celebrity TV chefs, EVERYONE says the same thing:

“When entertaining guests, don’t prepare something you’ve never made before.”

I realize we’ve got ourselves a double negative there, and perhaps that’s the crux of it; somewhere in my mathematically handicapped brain, two negatives make a positive. (Right?)

So that, dear friends, is why I decided it was a marvelous idea to A) Purchase a whole pumpkin at the Pepper Place Farmers’ Market; B) Hack into said pumpkin, jack-o-lantern style; C) Fill the sucker up with broth and cheese and spicy goodness; and D) Roast the whole thing in the oven until it became an edible tureen. Oh, and E) serve it to company.


I’d seen a recipe years back and had been dying to try it out. So what that I was breaking the essential entertaining maxim of “cook what you know.” I mean, what could possibly go wrong while roasting a 10-pound gourd full of boiling liquid?

Let’s take a moment, shall we, and stop to ponder the amazing amount of potential mischief that could ensue from such an endeavor:

Mischief Nightmare Scenario #1:
The pumpkin could collapse while roasting in the oven, dousing the heating elements with 7 to 9 cups of broth, cheese, and bread crumbs, which undoubtedly would find a way to catch fire, resulting in much cursing and requiring the procurement of a shop-vac.

Mischief Nightmare Scenario #2:
The pumpkin could collapse at the table, resulting in a tsunami of lava broth splashing into the laps of my guests, yielding at least second-degree burns, much yelling, and a potential head injury to a certain cross-eyed feline, who, when scalded by said broth splashdown, would take off like a cat rocket, likely straight into a wall or chair leg.

Mischief Nightmare Scenario #3:
Upon finishing cutting the top off my pumpkin, I could have lifted the lid to discover it full of black widow spiders, which would have resulted in yours truly suffering an instant, massive, and undoubtedly fatal heart attack.*

But none of these things happened. Well…to be fair, the pumpkin did leak a little broth, but not a calamitous amount. The soup was savory, rich, and comforting…a perfect bowl of fall goodness. Here’s what you need, and how to pull it off without injuring your friends and/or visually handicapped pets.

Whole-Roasted Pumpkin Soup
Yield: 4 to 8 servings 

1 (6 to 8-pound) cinderella or cheese pumpkin

¼ cup butter, softened

1 teaspoon ground fennel (or ½ tsp ground cumin)

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 cup shredded gruyere cheese

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup finely ground fresh bread crumbs

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

5 to 7 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth

Garnish: Parmesan cheese 

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.


2. Cut the top off your pumpkin, and scape out all the seeds and stringy bits (like you would if carving a jack-o-lantern). Note: Do NOT carve a face into your pumpkin. Doing so would result in your pumpkin barfing soup out of its mouth, which is a novel yet impractical method of serving the soup.


3. Once all the stringy bits are gone (from the lid, too), rub the insides of the pumpkin with butter, and sprinkle evenly with fennel, paprika, and cayenne pepper.** Lightly season with salt and pepper. Place the pumpkin on the prepared pan off-center, leaving enough space on the pan for the lid, eventually (we’ll get to that in a minute).

4. Add cheese, bread crumbs, and garlic. Add broth, filling to within 3 inches of pumpkin rim. (At this point, I’ll be honest; it looks pretty nasty. Just push through.) Place the lid on your pumpkin, pop her in the oven to roast for 1 hour.

When filled with the broth and all that cheesy spicy goodness, this pumpkin is HEAVY. Move it mindfully, and use full-on oven mitts if you have them. Imagine the horror of burning your hand on the pan, hollering like a big woman, then flinging the hot-lava-pumpkin bomb into the air, spraying your walls (and your cat) with molten cheese and broth. Yeah. So be careful.

5. After an hour, remove the lid, and place it on the baking sheet, bottom side up.  Continue roasting until the pumpkin is tender, 30 to 60 minutes. (You can test this by poking the lid with a fork.) Here’s how she looks after roasting:


Ta-da! To serve, ladle the broth into bowls. Then, using a spoon and starting near the rim of the pumpkin, gently scrape out spoonfuls of pumpkin, and divide among bowls. Season with additional salt and pepper, if desired. Garnish with extra cheese, of course.


And that, friends, is it. Do I recommend that you tackle this project for a major event without practicing the recipe first? If I were editing this recipe for Taste of the South magazine, I’d caution no. But you know what? This is Kitchen Mischief, so why the hell not? It’s really not that hard. Just follow the instructions, and be careful.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, this soup is 110% baby approved! Precious Moment herself, Miss Harper Elaine Walker, commandeered her mother’s portion, exclaiming “More! More!” until there was nary a drop left. Mischief accomplished. J


*So, about the spiders. A long time ago, somebody told me a story about picking up a discarded jack-o-lantern from their yard, only to find it infested with black widow spiders. Oh, the humanity!!! That horrific image is SEARED into my imagination, hence my irrational fear that any seemingly innocent pumpkin could be a WSD (Weapon of Squirrel Destruction).

**Don’t feel hemmed in by my spice choices. Curry powder would be great, as would a good rich chili powder.


Butternut Squash Soup: My Football Remedy

October 1, 2010

Whose team colors are these?

It’s officially fall in the South, which means Football Season. While most of my friends (and my husband) jump for joy, I’m like, “Oh great…guess I’ll go to T.J. Maxx…AGAIN.” That being said, I don’t detest football…I just don’t like it as much as T.J. Maxx.

But there’s just so much time a Squirrel can spend wandering the aisles of The Maxx before the workers get nervous. So I have a new “Keep Myself Entertained During Football Season” project: Cooking!

Even though I cook most nights of the week, there are dishes I shy away from due to the extra time they take to prepare. This week’s project: Roasted Butternut Squash Soup. I started making this last winter, and I LOVE IT. It’s delicious,  but it takes about 15 minutes to show a butternut squash who its daddy is. Don’t be scared. Just man up, grab a big sharp knife (from T.J. Maxx), and follow me. I’ll show you how, step by step.

For the Soup:

1 butternut squash (about 3 pounds)
2 large carrots
1 yellow onion
1 head of garlic (optional: see note below)
3 tsp olive oil
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
32 oz chicken or vegetable broth (maybe extra)
2 cups milk (maybe extra)

Before You Begin…
First, a note on the quantities here. Plan to have some extra broth. It’s hard to find a squash the exact right size, so you may have to add more liquid to get a consistency you like. Some folks like it thick, some thin. It’s entirely up to you.

Roasting the vegetables is the key to adding rich flavor to this soup. So go ahead and set your oven to 400 degrees before you start chopping.

Conquering the Butternut

Don’t be intimidated by this squashy behemoth. Just think of her as a pale, rather elongated pumpkin that you’re going to peel like an apple. TIP: Poke the squash a few times with a fork and microwave it for 40 seconds. It helps with the peeling.

TIP: Peel from the base toward you. This seemed to get more peel off without redundant hacking.

After you’ve got the peel off, use a big sharp knife to cut the squash in two pieces. You don’t want to split it down the middle yet — unless you’re using a machete, your knife isn’t big enough. Cut it in half horizontally, so you end up with the neck and base, like this:

Off with your head!

Now split these puppies in half, remove the seeds (mostly in the base) and cut the squash into cubes (about 1-inch). And now, a journey in pictures…

The "base" has seeds, the "neck" doesn't.

David took this picture of me performing a Butternut Magic Trick...

Ta-Da! No seeds!

It's easy to get excited during this step, but please be careful. I almost ended up with a hook for a hand.

And the winner is...Squirrel! Take that, Butternut. Now you are but rubble on my Boos Block.

Sorry, out of pics, but the rest is pretty simple. Peel your carrots, and give them and your onion a very rough chop. You want big chunks so they cook along with your squash. Toss all the veggies in a bowl and coat with olive oil, salt and pepper. Empty onto a cookie sheet, and roast for 45 minutes.

The Garlic Option
If you’d like to add the flavor of roasted garlic to your soup (which I love), simply cut the top of a head of garlic, set it on a piece of aluminum foil, drizzle with olive oil, and wrap it up. It will roast to perfection along with your veggies.

The Blends
Here is the messy — and to be honest — the somewhat annoying part. Getting your lovely roasted vegetables to a delicious, creamy consistency requires the assistance of a small motor. You can use a regular blender, a stick blender, or a food processor. Here’s a quick review:

Stick Blender
This is the least messy option. Start by combining your milk and broth in a large dutch oven over medium heat. When it warms, add half the roasted vegetables (and all garlic, if using) and blend until smooth. Simply add the rest of the veggies and repeat. If the soup is too thick, add more broth or milk. Season to taste. Want to know more about stick blenders…read Matthew’s post here.

Food Processor or Regular Blender
These methods are pretty easy, and result in a smoother texture for the soup. Work in batches, combining half the liquid mixture with half the veggies, blend, pour into dutch oven, then repeat. Heat to simmer then season to taste.

Punching Up the Flavor
If you like exotic flavors, add a tablespoon or two of curry powder to the soup while it’s simmering. I’m not a huge curry fan, but it really works with this soup. You can also use thyme, sage, fennel, smoky paprika — just be sure to use ground spices to preserve the soup’s creamy texture.

And to Top it Off…
Toppings make this soup even more fun. I love toasted walnuts and crunchy bacon, but get creative and see what you can come up with. Barefoot Contessa tops hers with cashews, green onions, banana and coconut. Crazy! The possibilities are endless.

So, if you’re tired of wandering The Maxx in search off the deal of the century, take some time this weekend to give your wallet a break and show a butternut squash who’s boss. 😉

PS: If you’re in the mood for some more soups, here are a few ideas for you. Have a great weekend!

Black-Eyed Pea Stew

Thai-Coconut Soup

Hearty Ham & Lentil Soup

This Soup Is To Thai For

December 1, 2009

Kitchen Mischief is back from our holiday of thanks and gluttony.  Josh reports very little mischief at his family gathering; I, on the other hand, will refrain from speaking negatively about the day.  Mom reads my blog and I fear the phone call I would receive afterward.  Plus, she would probably be rather embarrassed that I told everyone that she wanted us to change out the kitchen light fixture while I was cooking.  Is it normal to wear one of those miner’s helmet with the light attached while preparing a Thanksgiving feast?  Not at my family’s house.  Sorry mom.

If you are like me, the smell of turkey and dressing sends you into a coughing and gagging fit; so last night while Ray threw away the last of the leftovers, I made us a little Thai chicken coconut soup. I know when you see the ingredient list below you may think that I ransacked an Asian market but I really bought most of this at our local mega mart and maybe Whole (Paycheck) Foods.  Believe it or not, this soup can be on your table in less than hour.

A few things before we get to the recipe.  The original recipe calls for fish sauce.  We cannot use fish sauce in our house because of Ray’s allergy (so he says) to fish.  Soup should be warm and comforting, not send you to the hospital.  So I substituted soy sauce for fish sauce.  Also, I was able to find lime leaves at Whole Foods.  These little babies are cheap and pack a punch (steep them in a good green tea).  If you can’t find them, use a vegetable peeler to remove a few strips of zest from a lime.  Last thing, if you can’t find Thai chilies – use Serrano chilies, they are a staple in most mega marts.     

Thai Coconut Soup with Chicken and Tofu
2 32 oz boxes of chicken broth
2 boneless chicken breasts, cut in large chunks
2 14 oz cans of coconut milk
10 quarter-sized slices of ginger
2 lemon grass stalks, cut in large chunks
3 Thai chilies, de-ribbed and seeded
5 lime leaves (or 3 large slices of lime zest)
10 whole peppercorns
½ teaspoon chili-garlic sauce
1 teaspoon chili oil
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce (or fish sauce)
7 oz (½ loaf) firm tofu, medium diced
2 scallions, sliced
8 oz sliced mushrooms
Cheese cloth

In a stock pot, add the chicken broth and heat over medium heat.  With the back of a heavy knife or rolling pen, whack each piece of lemon grass to open the stalks.  Add lemon grass, ginger, chilies, lime leaves and pepper corns to an 8”x8” piece of cheese cloth and tie into a bundle.

Add bundle and diced chicken to broth and simmer for 15 minutes.

Do not put this sachet in your lingerie drawer

Do not put this sachet in your lingerie drawer

Stir in coconut milk, chili-garlic sauce, chili oil, soy sauce and tofu.

Simmer for 10 additional minutes.  Serve with scallions and mushrooms.        

Serving suggestions:
-Add rice noodles for a hardy noodle bowl

-Add pre-made dumplings   

Can’t take the Heat?
Let’s keep the mischief to a minimum when it comes to working with chilies.  These bad boys are HOT! So here a few tips for keeping the heat down:  When working with any kind of chili, wear gloves to keep the oils from burning your skin.  It may not burn your fingers but wipe your eye or nose and the phrase “feel the burn” has a whole new meaning.
To make chilies a little less hot, remove the seeds and ribs.  Holding your knife horizontally, slowly cut out both.

    The glove is for safety not a Michael Jackson tribute


Black-Eyed Pea HEAVEN

October 6, 2009
Soon to be your new fall favorite!

Soon to be your new fall favorite!

I usually show up here with tales of mischief and mayhem. Today, I’ve got nothing but good food for you. It may not be “ha-ha” entertaining, but your tummy is going to be SO happy. Today I’m going to walk you through one of my favorite fall dishes: Black-Eyed Pea Stew. The inspiration recipe ran in Cooking Light a few years ago, and it has become a staple in this house once the weather dips below 60 degrees. Okay, 70 degrees.  It’s healthy, it’s easy, it’s good. And it keeps. File this one away…it is GOOD.
The Cast of Ingredients
1 large onion, chopped
1 package of turkey sausage (two links)
pinch or two of red pepper flakes
salt and black pepper
1 bag of frozen black-eyed peas
1 flip-top container of chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes
8 oz of mustard greens (fresh or frozen)
TBSP or two of apple cider vinegar

Here’s how you do it. First, get a teaspoon or two of olive oil heating up in your dutch oven over medium heat.  Then, slice your turkey sausage down the center, then cut into little half-moons, like the pic above.

onions in
While that’s browning up, chop your onion. Make some free space in the pan by making a little sausage nest, then drop your onions in the middle. Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper, and stir together. Let that cook for five or so minutes, until onions soften.

peas in

Next, the dish’s namesake—the peas! Dump ‘em in and stir around to coat them with the goodness.  Then add in your broth, tomatoes, and bay leaf.  Cover and let simmer for about 45 minutes.

Now, for the greens. Grab a couple handfuls of greens and work them in with a spoon. Repeat. Do this until you’ve used about half the bag. Use more if you want. I think you can freeze the leftovers. I’m testing that and will let you know. Stir in the apple cider vinegar and simmer for another 10 or 15 minutes, or until you are satisfied with the tenderness of the peas. Add more salt and pepper and vinegar if you like.

finished stew

Now here’s the most important part: Serve with cornbread. Crumble some in, and go ahead and have another piece to eat with your stew. Why the hell not? It’s a low-fat dish. 😉 Enjoy!