Autumn is such a cool time to be a cook. Pretty much no matter where you live in the States, there are seasonal foods to be found; more obviously found than in other months, anyway.
Pumpkins are an incredibly under-utilized vegetable here in the States. In Europe, the squash are found in endless savory dishes this time of year in restaurants and in home kitchens. In fact, it is rather unusual to find pumpkin in a sweet dish across the pond.
Last year at Thanksgiving time, being the only Americans in our little, English village I felt it my duty to bring some pumpkin pies into my daughter's 4th grade class. Not one of the 27 children had ever heard of using pumpkin in a pie. Some had had it in entrees when they had traveled to Italy, France or Spain on holiday, but none had eaten it as a dessert; and none of the children wanted to that day, either.
Lucky for me, English school teachers are extremely strict (Pink Floyd's, Another Brick in the Wall, was really not that far off), the class teacher insisted that every child try the pumpkin pie. 20 of the children loved it, 3 felt ambivalent, and 4 spat it out.
I took those ratios as a compliment.
So, taking a cue from the Europeans, I developed this recipe for pumpkin and acorn squash soup. It is not at all sweet, rather savory and velvety. The Pecorino croutons add so much to the final dish-- they are most definitely worth making.
1 acorn squash, halved, seeds and stringy membrane scooped out, flesh and skin cut into cubes
1 pie pumpkin (small pumpkin, about the same size as the acorn squash), processed as above
1 large yellow onion, peeled and halved
1 head garlic, top cut off to expose some of the cloves
Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
1 and 1/2 quarts (1 and 1/2 litres) chicken or vegetable stock
8 leaves fresh sage
Sea salt to taste
Heavy cream (optional)
1/2 baguette (preferably a day old)
Grated Pecorino cheese, or Parmesan
Popcorn or fine salt
Pre-heat oven to 375F (190C). Scatter the squash, pumpkin, onion and head of garlic, skin side down across a baking tray and drizzle over EVOO.
Bake for about 45 minutes, until fairly soft. Remove from the oven and allow to cool, then peel the skins off. Toss the cooked vegetables into a soup pot with the stock and bring to a simmer.
While the soup is simmering, cut the old bread up into small squares and toss with EVOO, cheese, cayenne and a bit of salt. Bake in that hot 375F oven for about 10 minutes, then toss and continue to bake for 5 minutes more.
Just before serving, drizzle some heavy cream on top (of you like), place a few croutons strategically in a spot and serve hot.
Makes 2 quarts (2 litres), serves 6