People who know me would tell you that it's hard to tell which I like more: gardening or cooking. I'd say it depends on which I'm doing at the moment. Anyway, French cooking and French gardening go hand in hand. For me, cooking is an on-going adventure. Join me here on my culinary explorations, where I share with you both my old favorites as well as new inspirations. It's my fondest wish that these recipes serve as a springboard for your own new creations.
10/13/2011 Provençal pumpkin soup Clay pot
2 lbs. pumpkin or winter squash, preferably 'Muscade de Provence' or 'Rouge Vif d'Etampes' 2 T. olive oil 1 large leek, white and light green parts only, chopped 4-6 c. homemade chicken or veal broth 2 large slices country style whole grain French bread (similar to Poîlane's part rye levain bread), toasted rather darkly 1 garlic clove, peeled 1 sprig fresh sage Sea salt and freshly ground pepper For garnish, use any combination of crème fraîche, snipped chives, homemade croutons, bits of pancetta crisped in a skillet, slices of fresh truffle (!)
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Place the halves face down in a baking dish and add a bit of water. Bake until the squash is very soft throughout, rotating the pan in the oven once, approximately 30-40 minutes depending on the thickness of your squash.
Meanwhile, heat a large clay marmite or enameled cast iron pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil, the leek, and a bit of salt. Cover and cook until soft but not colored, about 10 minutes. Scoop the baked squash flesh into the pot, add the sage spring, and about 4 cups of the broth (heating before adding if using a clay pot). Rub both sides of the toasted bread all over with the garlic clove. Tear or break up the bread into chunks and add it to the pot as well, stirring to combine everything thoroughly. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Puree the soup. I prefer to use a large food mill for this because it removes any tough fibers from the pumpkin and leek. If you prefer a food processor, remove the sage sprig before processing. Return the pureed soup to the cleaned pot. Correct the consistency with more broth, keeping in mind that this is a soup and not a puree. Correct the seasoning. Serve in heated bowls with a swirl of crème fraîche, a sprinkling of chopped chives, and any or none of the other garnishes.
Note: This delicious soup will have a rustic umber color due to the darkly toasted bread, which also acts as a thickening agentwhile adding a deep basenote of flavor to the soup. It is a terrific occasion to use some bread that has become too stale to eat. However, do not use white bread!