Pumpkins are strongly associated with the fall harvest and holidays, but there's no reason you can't enjoy them in soups, pies and breads all winter. Kevin LaCivita, executive chef at The Blue Goat restaurant on Grove Avenue, buys fresh pumpkins, purées them and preserves them in jars. If that's not part of your routine, canned "pure pumpkin" (without the pie spices and sweetening) makes for a convenient cooking choice.
Cream of Pumpkin Soup with White Truffle Oil and Balsamic Vinegar Reduction Makes about 8 cups Kevin LaCivita says this soup was on the menu for years as a customer favorite at his former restaurant, Pomegranate, and he continued making it during a stint at Sushi O and now at The Blue Goat. For the soup:
- 2 cups of pumpkin purée (Other types of squash, such as butternut or acorn, can also be used.)
- 3 cups of heavy cream
- 2 cups of vegetable stock
- 1/2 cup of brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons of vanilla
- Salt and pepper to taste
For the topping:
- White truffle oil
- 2 cups of balsamic vinegar
Combine all the soup ingredients, bring them to a rolling simmer (not a boil) and keep simmering for about 45 minutes. To make the balsamic-vinegar reduction, bring the two cups of vinegar to a boil and simmer until only a cup of liquid remains. Then chill the vinegar. For each serving, pour the soup into a bowl or cup, spoon a few drops of the chilled balsamic-vinegar reduction on top and drizzle it with a couple of drops of the white truffle oil. "The acidity of the vinegar offsets the sugar that's in the soup, and the white truffle oil kind of enhances both," LaCivita says. He adds, "It's great served in hollowed-out little pumpkins or gourds. I've done that plenty of times, for presentation purposes." Colonial Pumpkins According to the Virginia Pumpkin Growers Association, Colonists sliced off pumpkin tips, removed the seeds and filled the insides of pumpkins with milk, spices and honey. Baked in hot ashes, these were the beginnings of pumpkin pie. American Indians flattened strips of pumpkins, dried them and made mats, the association says. They used pumpkin seeds for food and medicine. Nutritious Treat Like fresh pumpkins, canned pumpkin contains dietary fiber and lots of vitamin A, as well as potassium, iron, vitamin C, calcium and other nutrients. It's low in calories, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. Recipes abound for puréed pumpkin in desserts, but that's just the beginning. Try it in smoothies, pancakes or as a base for pasta sauce with savory ingredients.