A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about a variety of pumpkins sold at Suzie's Farm booths at the local farmers markets in my Local Bounty blog on sandiegomagazine.com. Among the pumpkins I featured were petite Wee Be Littles, a lovely sugar pumpkin that can be chopped up and cooked or carefully emptied of the seeds and fibrous pulp and used as a container for everything from soup to salad to pudding.
In fact, Suzie's Farm employee Jenna Barnes gave me a wonderful quick soup idea for the Wee Be Littles that I included in the post. Then I took a couple home with the idea of making the soup--but it evolved from Jenna's very smart launching pad of a recipe into my own soup for one. I sauteed the vegetables and included a splash of Madeira. I used herbs from my garden, added some hot pepper flakes, and used gouda instead of cheddar cheese. The result was a rich, fragrant bowl of happiness. Easy to make and a splendid way to use the entire squash (and, yes, I always roast the seeds).
This is still Jenna's recipe, but it brings home the point that home cooks don't have to follow recipes to the letter, but instead should use them as a jumping off point to create a dish that reflects their own style of cooking.
So, with thanks to Jenna, here's my version of a Wee Be Little Soup:
Wee Be Little Soup for One
adapted from Jenna Barnes
(printable recipe here)
Serves, well, one
1 Wee Be Little pumpkin
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/4 large yellow onion, finely diced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (plus oil to rub over the pumpkin)
Splash of Madeira or other sherry
2 teaspoons minced herbs (I used thyme and marjoram, but sage is also good here) Keep about a 1/4 teaspoon reserved.
3 tablespoons grated cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Dash of red pepper flakes
1/4 cup of milk (amount depends on size of the pumpkin)
1 pat of butter
1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Heat oil in a saute pan and add the onions and garlic. Slowly saute until golden. Add the Madeira and cook it down. Add the herbs and mix in well. Remove from heat and set aside.
2. Slice off the top of the pumpkin, just taking off about an inch or so and discard. Using a grapefruit knife, carefully clean out the seeds and the pulp (save the seeds to roast). Rub the pumpkin with the extra olive oil and place on a foil-covered baking sheet.
3. Add the onion and garlic mixture to the pumpkin, followed by the cheese, salt and pepper, and red pepper flakes. Add milk, leaving about half an inch of space from the top. Gently mix together, then top with the butter.
4. Bake for 30 minutes or until the pumpkin is soft on the inside.
5. Remove the pumpkin from the oven. Using a spoon, gently scrape the flesh from the sides of the pumpkin, taking care not to break through the skin. Stir all the ingredients together to create the soup. You're not pureeing the pumpkin so the soup will be a little chunky, but this adds some nice texture. Sprinkle the soup with the remaining herbs and/or roasted pumpkin seeds. Serve with warm crusty bread for dunking.