Warm, seasonal and tasty Pumpkin Soup
The prevalence of New World fruit and vegetables Old World cuisine in is a continual source of wonder to me.
Stop and think for a moment what Italian cooking would be like without tomatoes, Szechuan, Indian or Thai cooking without the various forms of chili peppers, and of course some much of the cooking of Northern Europe would feel empty without the ubiquitous potato. We should add to that list the pumpkin. A member of the squash family, it finds many places in the cuisine of North Africa. From the many slow cooked stews served with couscous to the wonderfully sweet and satisfying pumpkin soup. [For more pumpkin ideas check our our kugel, pie and challah]
As you try to add a bit of Jewish flair to your Thanksgiving celebration, let me urge you to chuck those poor, tired (and perhaps even huddled) matzo balls and whip a bit of this seasonal soup that was a staple of the Sephardic kitchens of Morocco, Libya and Tunisia. This soups appears in several forms in both Joan Nathan and Claudia Roden’s cookbooks and even makes an apprearance in Gourmet’s last collection of recipes published just before the magazine was shuttered.
In this recipe I added butternut squash to the mix, but feel free to experiment with what is in season and tastes good. Some recipes call for chunks of meat- if you go that route, use something tough and fatty that will braise in the soup. Beef chuck, or veal shoulder are both great choices. Stay away from turkey though- except for the legs, it really doesn’t braise well and you should really save that for the entrée.
Pumpkin Kugel for Thanksgiving
With the holidays rapidly approaching and Hanukkah falling a mere week after Thanksgiving this year, the heathens are in full blown production mode, getting ready to delight our faithful readers with some new holiday fare. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love that the entire point of the holiday is to simply share a meal with your family and friends. There are no gifts to wrap and no temple to be guilted into going to. My family has a tradition of going around the table and saying what we are thankful for. As only can happen in families, about 25 years ago the youngest of us at the time, said she was thankful for Jello, and to this day we have a Jello mold on the buffet, despite the fact that it rarely gets eaten anymore. Every family has the dish that it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without, and I love hearing from my friends of different ethnic backgrounds tell about dishes from their family’s country of origin that have a place of honor at the Thanksgiving table. So, as you are planning your menu, don’t be afraid to bring in an element of Jewish or Israeli cuisine, to this uniquely American holiday. While we are roasting our pumpkins and grating our potatoes, we invite you to peruse some of our recipes from Thanksgivings past.
Dafna’s Israeli couscous – Thanksgiving Style
Ari’s Pumpkin Kugel
Gordon’s non-Jewish Pumpkin Pie – with pumpkin roasting instructions
My Sephardic Pumpkin Challah
Sephardic Pumpkin Bread
Gordon may have gone out on a bit of a limb trying to make his pumpkin pie Jewish, but it turns out he was just looking for inspiration in the wrong community. Due to our own personal backgrounds, we have been a bit heavy on the Ashkenazi and Israeli food, so I decided to start looking at recipes from the Sephardi tradition. Low and behold, it turns out that pumpkin was one of the first New World plants brought back to Europe by Spanish explorers and is quite popular in Sephardi cuisine. Marc and I got into a discussion of pumpkin use in Sephardic Rosh Hashana meals, as the roundness of the pumpkin is symbolic of wishes for a well-rounded, full year. Marc was particularly fond of roasted pumpkin with couscous and a soup recipe he got from a good friend. In a moment of serendipity, that very evening, Meredith, the Video Producer at Chow.com, walked out of her office with half a raw pumpkin and said “Amiee will know what to do with this”. Indeed I did. (She also sent home some delicious, left-over roast capon and stuffing from the test kitchen). The next day I set about roasting and pureeing the pumpkin and pursuing Sephardic Holiday Cooking. There were several options, but as usual I was drawn toward the bread. While the settlers in the new world developed the moist quick-bread style pumpkin bread most of us grew up with, the Sephardim incorporated pumpkin into the traditional yeast bread and quite tastily into challah. This bread makes a beautiful addition to any Halloween or Thanksgiving celebration.
Recipe after the jump