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Thai-accented pumpkin soup
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Thai-accented pumpkin soup

Wait! Don't throw out that Halloween pumpkin!

OK, maybe it's too late for this year. But next time you carve a jack o'lantern for the amusement of the kids, bear in mind that this big orange autumn tradition isn't just an ornament ... it's a vegetable (or is it a fruit?), chock full of nutritious meat that can be used interchangeably with just about any winter squash.

It's a thrifty item, too ... our pumpkin this year, none the worse for wear after an evening on the front porch with a candle inside, was a smallish critter, not much larger than a good-size honeydew melon. But it yielded nearly two pounds of edible flesh after I cut it up and peeled away the skin. (And don't forget the seeds, which can easily be converted into a crunchy-salty snack, just the thing for munching with beer and football. More on that below.)

I tried a couple of culinary experiments with the meat. One, a Northern Italian-style pumpkin gnocchi, needs more work. But the other, a warming, rich autumn soup with aromatic Thai accents, was a winner, a surprisingly elegant item that I'll definitely make again.

INGREDIENTS: (Serves two)

1 pound pumpkin meat, cut into rough 1-inch cubes. (Acorn or butternut squash would be a fine substitute)
2 tablespoons garlic, thinly sliced or minced
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, shredded
1 tablespoon peanut oil
Hot sauce
1/2 cup coconut milk (canned, even the "light" variety, is OK)
1 egg (optional)
Chopped cilantro (optional) or
Toasted pumpkin seeds (see below)


1. Slice or mince the garlic and cut the ginger into long shreds. Sautee them in the peanut oil in a soup pot until aromatic, then put in the pumpkin and just enough water to cover, about 1 1/2 cups.

2. Simmer over low heat, covered, until the pumpkin is soft, about 15 to 20 minutes. Puree or mash until smooth (I used a "stick blender").

3. Put back over very low heat and add salt and hot sauce to taste (I used Sriracha Vietnamese-style sauce to stay with the Asian theme, but Tabasco or any hot sauce of your preference will be fine). Stir in the coconut milk. Then, if you want a richer soup, whip the egg until frothy and add it to the soup. (PROCEDURE NOTE: As I belatedly pointed out with our recent macaroni-and-cheese recipe, it's best to "temper" the egg to keep it from coagulating or scrambling when it hits the hot soup. Stir a little of the hot soup into the egg in a small bowl, a tablespoon at a time, until the egg mixture is warm; then it's safe to stir this mix into the soup.)

4. Garnish with the optional cilantro leaves or, if you prefer, toasted pumpkin seeds. To make this snack, simply take the seeds from your pumpkin, rinsed to remove the stringy pulp and air-dried, and toss them in a bowl with 1 tablespoon each of melted butter and vegetable oil and a generous shake of sea salt until the seeds are well coated with the butter and oil. Spread them evenly on a lightly greased cookie sheet and put them in an oven preheated to 300F for 30 to 45 minutes or until they turn brown and crunchy, shaking the pan occasionally to move the seeds around.

WINE MATCH: You could go in a variety of directions with this one: A Riesling would be excellent, and a sparkling wine would be fine. So would a fruity red, so we indulged our red-wine fancy with a warm Southern Italian choice, Di Majo Norante 1998 Contado Aglianico from Molise.

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Thursday, Nov. 7, 2002
Copyright 2002 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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