Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Squash vs Pumpkin - Part 2

Cue the Charlie Brown music, and let's talk about pumpkins. Unlike Linus' ongoing vigil in the pumpkin patch waiting on the Great Pumpkin, we do in fact have this glorious fruit (yes, it is botanically a fruit) appear every year in the Fall. Pumpkins are loaded with all kinds of nutrients: they have high levels of Vitamin A, Folate and Fiber, low in calories and zero fat or cholesterol. Another one of our favorite "super foods!"

Jaspee Vendee (on right) from Gaia's Breath Farm

Pumpkins come in many shapes and sizes and are used in a variety of ways: baked, roasted and pureed. I considered doing a fun dessert, but that just seemed a little too easy. So putting my thinking cap on this week I came up with two different soups and a stew to share with you. This week was special not only because I was on a creative streak with my pumpkin recipes, but because Larry and I were having dinner with my fellow Small Bites blogger JL Fields, and her husband Dave.

With JL Fields and Liz Johnson at the John Jay Farm Market 

JL and I were thrown together quite by chance and all thanks to Liz Johnson. We met this summer in a whirlwind Throwdown Competition that basically came out of an email exchange about recipes. She and Dave are on their “Farewell to NY Tour” at the moment, getting ready to move to Colorado in a few short weeks. While we’ve just become new friends it was an honor for me to have her dine with us recently.

I don’t profess to know all that it takes to be vegan, that is her bailiwick, but she has educated me on many things vegan, and I am so very grateful. Food is one of the few things in humanity that crosses all cultures, preferences and classes. We all need to eat to survive. Since I entered the world of food as a career I have such a different appreciation of ingredients and preparation.

Cinderella Pumpkin from Gaia's Breath Farm

That said, I was on a recipe-creating streak this week and I came up with three interesting ways to use two different types of pumpkins. Both that I used came directly from Gaia's Breath Farm, through my CSA Basket. However, you can easily use the store bought variety, and even substitute with butternut squash. The only thing I would suggest is using a smaller sized pumpkin. They are sweeter and less fibrous. The gigantic ones are really only good for carving, in my opinion. The flavor level is very low. The other suggestion would be to not use the canned variety in these recipes either.

So let’s get to it! In both soup variations I start off the same way: sautéing the onions with olive oil.

Then adding the spices, liquid and pumpkin.

Pumpkin Apple Soup

Thai Coconut Pumpkin Soup

In the two recipes I suggest pureeing all for one of them, and partially for the other. It’s completely up to what you like. The one that I pureed partially will give you a thinner soup base with the pretty pumpkin cubes visible.

My other recipe was created for our dinner with JL and Dave. First off, yes, it’s made with meat, but that was the plan. She made a very tasty chili using lentils, kale and squash and here is the recipe.

Mine is inspired from Williams Sonoma, of all places! I am always trolling around that web site looking at gadgets and cookware. I came across a recipe on their web site and decided to play with it a bit changing up a few things that I had in my pantry.

Stews are just about the best thing to make in the Fall and Winter months. Not only are they a One-Pot meal, which is big plus, but they are dishes that you can cook on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon while you are doing other things around the house. From a big pot you can have dinner for a couple of nights during the week easily and you can change it up by serving them plain, over rice, noodles or polenta.

First you brown the meat, then saute the onions and deglaze with wine. Then the liquids, meat and pumpkin go back in, bring to a boil and head to the oven.

After several hours of cooking out came my delicious stew and garnished with fresh parsley.

Pork, Pumpkin and Apple Stew

I hope these recipes will inspire you to head to the pumpkin patch at your local farmers market, or produce aisle. I would also like to take a moment to wish those hit by Hurricane Sandy a speedy recovery and all a Happy Halloween. Keep an eye out for the Great Pumpkin tonight!

Buon Appetito!

Pumpkin Apple Soup
Makes 1 quart

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
½ cup Vidalia onion, about ½ onion
Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper
1 cup apple cider
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 lb. pumpkin, about 4 cups, chopped 2” pieces
1 apple, peeled, cored and chopped
2 whole sage leaves
1 sprig thyme
Kettle Corn, (sweet and salty popcorn), optional garnish

Place a small heavy bottom pot over medium heat and add the oil and onion along with ¼ teaspoon of salt and pepper and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the apple cider, stock, pumpkin and apple and mix to combine. Bring to a boil and lower the heat to a simmer. Add the herbs and cook until the pumpkin and apple are soft. If you can take the back of a spoon and press the pumpkin up against the side of the pot you know it’s done.
Remove from heat and allow it to cool slightly. Fish out one of the sage leaves and the thyme branch. Using an immersion or regular blender puree the soup until smooth. Taste for seasoning and serve warm.

Just for fun I topped mine with a few kettle corn popcorn kernels for a cute garnish!

Cooks Note: the pumpkin I used for this recipe came from the part that was leftover from the stew below. 

Thai Pumpkin Soup
Makes about 2 quarts
1 ½ cup leeks, sliced thin and rinsed well
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
Kosher salt
White Pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 13oz can Lite Coconut Milk
1 quart chicken or vegetable stock
12 cups pumpkin, 4 lb size, peeled, seeded and cut in 1½ -2” cubes
2 dried Thai chilis (3 if you like it really spicy!)
Zest and juice of 1 orange, divided and set aside
¼ cup chopped cilantro plus more for garnish
Shaved unsweetened coconut, lightly toasted, for garnish

In a heavy bottom pot over medium heat sauté the leeks and garlic with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and ¼ teaspoon each of salt and white pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes until soft and translucent, but not brown.

Add the ginger and cook for 1 minute. Add the coconut milk, stock, pumpkin and chilis. Bring to a boil and lower the heat to a simmer. Add ½ teaspoon of zest and 2 tablespoons of the juice. (Save the remaining for later.) Simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the pumpkin is tender, but not completely falling apart.

Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Scoop out about two-thirds of the pumpkin cubes and set aside. Add the cilantro to the pot and puree until smooth. Season with additional salt and pepper and the remaining orange zest and juice if desired. Add back the pumpkin cubes you removed. Serve warm and garnish with shaved coconut and cilantro.

Cooks note: If desired you can puree all of the pumpkin too. The version I have above will give you a little more texture and looks pretty with the cubes.

Pork, Pumpkin and Apple Stew
Serves 8

4 lb. boneless pork shoulder, cut into 2-inch cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ Vidalia onions, diced
3 – 4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup white wine
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
¼ cup cider vinegar
1 apple, peeled, cored and chopped
1 15oz. can Hunts Fire Roasted Tomatoes with juices
3 lb pumpkin, peeled and diced into 1 1/2 " pieces
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1 cup apple cider
3 cups chicken stock
½ cup chopped parsley

Preheat an oven to 325°.

Season the pork with salt and black pepper. In a 7-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat, coat the bottom with olive oil. Working in batches, brown the pork on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes per batch, transferring each batch to a bowl, and adding more oil as needed. Reduce the heat to medium and with 2 tablespoons of oil sauté the onion and garlic until golden brown, about 7 to 10 minutes. Deglaze with the wine and reduce for about 2 minutes.

Add the ginger, tomato paste, cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg, cloves and red pepper flakes. Stir constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the vinegar and cook for about 2 minutes.

Add the apple, tomatoes, pumpkin, sage, apple cider, stock and pork with the juices. Mix well. Bring to a boil and season with 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Cover the pot and place in the preheated oven. Cook until the pork is fork-tender and falling apart, 2½ to 3 hours. Remove from oven and pull apart the pork with a fork and gently mix throughout the stew. Mix in the parsley and serve either simply alone or over polenta, rice or noodles.


  1. Really pumpkin is a fruit?
    Three great looking recipes.
    For sure trying that Thai recipe, we love Thai.
    Thanks for sharing.
    And a new trivia question.

  2. Thanks so much for reading my post. The Thai soup is quite tasty. I hope you like it. And yes, botanically speaking if it has a seed inside it's a fruit!