Tour the Mediterranean in Olives & Oranges: Recipes & Flavor Secrets from Italy, Spain, Cyprus & Beyond by Sara Jenkins & Mindy Fox, including Sweet Pumpkin and Rice Bean Soup with Crème Fraîche and Crispy Seeds; Maccheroni with White Beans, Mustard Greens, and Anchovy; and Grilled Mako Shark Skewers with Shaved Radish and Parsley Salad.
Makes 6 Servings
Pumpkin soup on its own is a little rich. Small white rice beans at once cut the richness of the pumpkin and add a pleasing textural contrast (cannellini beans, though larger, can be substituted). My favorite pumpkin is kabocha, a Japanese variety also called Japanese pumpkin or kabocha squash. It has sweet, dry, dense orange flesh that makes for a voluptuous soup. You could also try buttercup squash. In the Tuscan manner of letting nothing go to waste, I like to use the seeds as a crisp, salty contrast to the smooth soup.
Rinse beans and place in a medium saucepan with garlic, celery, shallot, and peppercorns. Cover with water by 2 inches, place over medium-low heat, and slowly bring to a very gentle simmer; this will take about 30 minutes. Simmer gently until beans are tender, about 45 minutes more, depending on age of beans (older beans require a longer cooking time). Drain beans, reserving cooking liquid. Discard aromatics.
While beans are cooking, peel squash. Remove and reserve seeds, and cut flesh into 1-inch pieces. Heat 1/4 cup oil and 2 tablespoons butter in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over high heat until butter is melted. Add squash and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon salt and continue to cook until squash begins to color, about 5 minutes more.
Push squash to one side of pot, add remaining 2 tablespoons butter and onion, and let onion cook in butter for 1 minute. Stir squash and onion together. Add water and bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until squash is beginning to soften, 15 to 18 minutes. Remove lid and continue cooking until squash is completely tender, about 12 minutes more. Remove from heat, and puree in a blender until smooth.
While squash is cooking, prepare seeds. Heat oven to 350°F.
Remove squash pulp from seeds (see Notes) and toss seeds with remaining 2 tablespoons oil and 1 teaspoon salt. Spread seeds on a baking sheet and bake, stirring occasionally, until golden, 18 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.
Return pureed soup to rinsed-out pot and add cooked beans plus 1 to 1-1/2 cups reserved cooking liquid, to thin soup to your liking. Add remaining 1 teaspoon salt, stir to combine, and set over medium heat to heat through, stirring occasionally.
Serve soup hot with a dollop of crème fraîche swirled in and a sprinkling of crispy seeds, salt, and pepper.
Notes: White rice beans, Southeast Asian in origin, are shaped like long-grain rice but are much wider. They do not need to be soaked before using, but when I have time, I do soak them, covered by 2 inches of water, for 1 to 2 hours (drain and discard the water before cooking). They seem to cook more evenly and a little faster this way, but you'll still have a great soup without the soak.
To remove the pulp from the pumpkin seeds easily, place them in a bowl and fill it with water. Using your fingers, separate the seeds from the pulp, removing the larger pieces of pulp as you go. Drain, discard any remaining pulp, and pat the seeds dry.
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This page created November 2008
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