Monday, November 20, 2006

Pumpkin-Fest Soup

Yesterday was out 9th annual Pumpkin-Fest, the first to appear in a gluten and casein free format.  It seems like every year we have the same debate at our house regarding the scope of Pumpkin-Fest.  Do we invite everyone, or do we only invite a few people?   If we only invite a few people, who gets left off the list?  If we invite everyone, how are we possibly going to manage hosting such a gathering?   Who is going to get everything ready?  Who is going to stress about getting everything ready?  Why are we doing this, really?


It took us longer than usual to get these questions settled this year, partly because people got sick, partly because I've been taking extra time with work to get together job applications.   Usually, we hold Pumpkin-Fest two weeks ago.


Really, it turns out that the problem with Pumpkin-Fest appears to be the feelings of those who were important enough to us to be invited in the past, but not important enough to us to be invited this year.   Riley worries about people having their feelings hurt when they realize that Pumpkin-Fest came and went without them hearing from us.  I tend to think that by definition, the feelings of people who aren't important enough to us to be invited aren't important enough to worry about.   That sounds harsher than I intend it, but close enough that I'll clarify instead of deleting that sentence and starting over.


Many of our closest friends have moved since the last Pumpkin-Fest.  Hildegard blew into town on the west wind, and became part of the family.   Of the people who have been to Pumpkin-Fest in the past, there was really only one family who has ever given me the impression that it was important to them.   So, this year, it was Hildegard and that one family.  The family who thinks that the Gluten-free thing is in my head weren't invited.  The family who didn't eat any pumpkin foods at last year's event weren't invited either, though they are quite dear to Riley.  You disregard the Pumpkin-Fest, the Pumpkin-Fest rolls on without you.   Tidal waves don't ask forgiveness.  There was one family who came late last year that I could have invited, if there had been room on Riley's stress meter, but there wasn't.   The Maestro would rather have a late Halloween party with them anyway.


Riley decided that she wanted to serve hotdogs and chips this year.  The Family who was coming has a son the Maestro's age, and one who is about eight.   In the past, kids haven't been the most open to a meal centered on gourd-fruits, and having another option kids are guaranteed to eat makes it easier for Riley to relax.   In the past, quite a few parents have fed their kids prior to arrival, which we wanted to minimize.  We used Ball Park regular hot dogs, which claim to be GFCF.


Because this year was a smaller event, we only made one main dish, a killer pumpkin soup, with wild rice and apple topping.   Topping for a soup, you ask?  Yes.  And it is Awe-some.  When Riley and I were dating, we considered buying a Leek, and a lady at the store dissuaded us, because "Those are Nasty!"   The majority of the flavor from the soup comes from the leek, so I swear she must be wrong.  We definitely need to investigate this vegetable more closely.   Having ancestors from Wales, I feel a special kinship to leeks, I think.


We ended up not having any almonds, so I used pecans instead.  Our pumpkin was smaller than the recipe needed, and Riley didn't come home with parsnips, so we added a whole sweet potato to make up for some vegetable volume.   We are casein-free at this house, so we used Fleischman's unsalted margarine instead of butter.  This is the second time we have served this soup, to rave-reviews each time.   It's one of those soups that can convince people who think they don't like pumpkin that a pumpkin soup is great after all.  I think that we could put whatever vegetable we want in it without deviating from the overall intention of the soup too much.   The dominant flavor is the leek, and while I am not suggesting that sweet potato tastes like parsnip or pumpkin, altering the vegetable composition is going to have a subtle effect on the background flavors.


Oh, and we like double topping, so you should make lots of that.  I haven't doubled the quantities in the recipe below.



Pumpkin Soup with Wild Rice and Apples



2 Tbsp Slivered Almonds

3 Tbsp unsalted butter

1 onion, diced

1 leek, white part only, sliced

1 pumpkin, seeded, peeled, cut, 4 cups

1 large turnip, peeled, sliced

2 carrots, peeled and sliced

1 large parsnip, peeled and sliced

2 ¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp ground pepper

3 ½-4 cups chicken stock

2 sprigs thyme



1/3 cup wild rice

1 apple, cored and sliced

2 scallions, sliced

pinch of cayenne pepper


1.       Brown almonds in frying pan.  Chop and set aside.

2.       Melt 2 Tbsp butter in a large stock pot and saut√© onions until soft.  Add leek and cook 5 minutes.  Add remaining vegetables (pumpkin, turnip, carrots, parsnip), 2 tsp salt and pepper.   Cook unit vegetables are soft.

3.       Add stock and thyme.  Bring to boil and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.

4.       Allow soup to cool slightly, transfer half to blender, and puree.  Return to stock pot.

5.       Cook wild rice with ½ tsp salt.  Wild rice takes about an hour.

6.       Heat remaining butter in large frying pan.  Add apple and cook until soft.  Add scallions, remaining salt and cayenne.   Cook unit scallions are soft, about 1 minute.  Add rice and reserved nuts.

7.       Ladle soup into bowls, and garnish with wild rice and apples.




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