Pumpkin soup with beet, fennel and orange

When most American think about pumpkins, they think about Halloween and , of course, pumpkin pie.  Me, I think of my mom.

My mom used to make pumpkin candy that I still drool every time I think about them.  She made it by peeling the rind off the pumpkin and scooping out the seeds and fibrous insides, leaving only the flesh of the pumpkin, which is then cut into three- inch long pieces.  The pieces are soaked overnight in a solution of lime mixed with water.  Amazingly, when the pumpkin pieces are soaked in this solution and boiled in sugar water, the pieces essentially become hard candy.  Interestingly, the solution prevents the pumpkin from becoming mushy when boiled.  The sugar is flavored with various other ingredients, such as cloves, nutmeg, ect.

Pumpkin is prominent in Tuscan cooking, as well as in some French cooking, in such recipes as risotto, tortellini stuffed with pumpkin, and in soups.  But the pumpkin is actually native to the Western Hemisphere.  The seeds are believed to first have come from Central America some 7000 years ago, but Mexico was the first country to actually cultivate the pumpkin.

Pumpkins were a staple in the American Indians diet, the seeds were transported to Europe by settlers. The early settlers hollowed out the pumpkin, filled the shell with milk, honey, and spices, and bake it.  This was, in my opinion, the earliest version of a pumpkin pie.

Pumpkins are high in fiber, in vitamins C and A, anti-oxidants and potassium.  Pumpkin seeds are eaten as snacks and are an excellent source of protein.  I found in one of the very old medical book I keep that pumpkin flesh was used as a remedy for snake bite and pumpkin seeds as cure for impotence.  That remedy required a mixture of 1/3 pumpkin seeds, 1/3 cucumber seeds, and 1/3 cantaloupe seeds.  This mixture is combined with sugar and mashed into powder, and taken three times a day.  The medical book does not say how long this medicine must be taken, but presumably the patient is assumed to know whether it works or not, and when.

Pumpkin soup with beet, fennel and orange

serves 4-6

3       potato, peeled and cubed

1       16-ounce can puree pumpkin

1       teaspoon chopped fresh ginger

1       medium size beet, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

6      tablespoons olive oil

1/4  cup chopped orange skin

1/2  cup chopped fresh fennel

1      large carrot, peeled and diced

2     stalks celery, diced

1      small onion, chopped

1/4  teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4  cup lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste

-Place the potatoes in heavy pot add 8 cups of water, ginger and salt.  Bring to a boil.  Cover and simmer over medium heat until the potatoes are cooked and soft.  Remove from the heat, and puree the potatoes with the cooking liquid.  Add the pureed pumpkin.  Stir to mix well.

-Mix 1 tablespoon of olive oil with dash of cayenne pepper, drizzle over the beets and toss until well coated.  Place on cookie sheet and bake in 400 degree F oven for 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and set aside.

-Heat the rest of the olive oil in frying pan.  Add the orange skin and cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes.  Add the fennel, the carrots, the celery and the onion.  Stir and cook for another five minutes.  Season with the rest of the cayenne, salt and pepper.  Remove from the heat and spoon half of this mixture to the soup.

-Place the pumpkin soup on the stove and bring to a boil, stirring often.  Add the lemon, stir and adjust the seasoning.

-Toss the beet with the rest of the cooked vegetables. Spoon the soup into soup bowl, spoon the beet vegetables mix and stir once.  You will get fabulous and interesting colored soup.

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