Too much on my plate

Sometimes I wonder what possess me when I’m making up my meal plan for the week. Sometimes I bite off more than I can chew. Last week was one of those times. With dinner guests, I wanted to impress. I chose a soup and salad. Sounds simple, right? Oh no…apparently I don’t do simple.

Let’s start with the Roasted Pumpkin Soup. It is delicious, don’t get me wrong. My boyfriend did compare it to baby food, but my guests and I loved it. A sweet and savory bisque, the soup gave me a new appreciation for cooking with pumpkin. As you will see, I veered from the recipe in some places. You will need a blender that can puree, and you could easily alter the recipe to make it vegetarian-friendly.

You’ll need

  • 4-pounds of sugar baby pumpkin cut in half with the seeds removed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup small-dice bacon (I used about five slices)
  • 1/2 cup small-dice shallots (I used three medium)
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth (I used 3 cups because I like my bisque thin)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream (I used 1-2 cups)

I also added fresh dill, about ¼ cup of brown sugar and a few dashes of cumin and cinnamon to my soup.

You can roast the pumpkins the day before you make the soup. If you roast them the day of, you’ll need to start them at least two hours before beginning the soup. Heat the oven to 375 degrees and arrange a rack in the middle. Rub the cut halves of the pumpkin with olive oil and season them generously with salt and pepper. Place the pumpkin halves on a baking sheet, cut side up, and roast for about 70 minutes or until tender and golden brown. Let the pumpkin cool for about 20 minutes before proceeding with the next step, or you can refrigerate it until you’re ready to make the soup.

Scoop out the pumpkin flesh with a large spoon and place it in a medium bowl. This yielded about 4 cups of pulp. The original recipe called for 3 cups, which is why I added more broth and cream to my version.

Cook the bacon in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat until crispy. Remove it with a slotted spoon and transfer to a small paper-towel-lined plate. If you can resist eating it all before the soup is done, it makes a nice garnish.

Add the shallots to the bacon fat; season with salt and pepper and sauté until softened or about 4 minutes. Add the sherry and cook until it’s reduced by half. Add the chicken broth, water, thyme, sage and a few dashes of cumin and cinnamon. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 20 minutes.

Using a blender, puree the soup in batches until it is smooth. To do this, remove the small cap from the blender lid and cover the hole with a kitchen towel to allow steam from the hot soup to escape. This will prevent the blender lid from popping off. Place the blended soup in a clean saucepan. Stir in the cream and brown sugar. Season with salt, pepper, cumin and cinnamon to taste.

The salad was another story. If you want to tackle this Chicory Tangerine and Pomegranate Salad, here’s the recipe. The big pain for me was pickling the onions and getting the seeds out of the pomegranate. I saw today in my Hungry Girl newsletter that Pom Pom is selling pomegranate arils already removed from the skin, packed in a tub, ready to eat through January.

I encourage you to try the salad. It looked great in the picture and it was delicious despite the fact that I didn’t follow the directions to a tee. What I’ve learned from this meal is to read recipes more thoroughly and try not to take on two new and complex recipes in one night.

The meal wouldn’t have been complete without bread. I made the Garlic Parmesan Pull-Apart Bread the night before thankfully, lest I would have had too much on my plate.

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