I was tired. That’s the core of the story behind one of the best soups I have cooked in a long time (and I cook a lot of soup). See, it was a week and a half past Thanksgiving. By this time I have usually packed up my farmer’s market demo equipment and moved on to decorating wreathes and table arrangements at my friend Bill Doepkens’ farm. It was only because of a rained out Sunday in October that I found myself at the Mosaic farm market on December third.
Truth be told, the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas are often so jam-packed that I barely cook. In fact – since I’ve stepped fully into the confessional at this point – I probably eat more take-out and fast food in these three to four weeks than I do at any other time during the year. As I write this I’m staring at a cluttered kitchen and dreading the impending effort of getting a fresh, healthy meal on the table.
I don’t mean to sit here complaining, but in all fairness this is the reality of our lives. It’s why when I cook in front of audiences at farm markets I often evangelize the joys of farm-fresh, seasonal ingredients, but I never proselytize an obligation to cook them at each and every meal.
I believe life is better, richer and more satisfying when we feed our souls at the same time we feed our bodies, but I recognize that is not always possible. But, if you have the time, do something special for yourself and those you love. Spend 30-40 minutes and make a pot of this rich, satisfying soup.
So, back to December third. I was tired that morning (remember?) and while packing for the market I realized I just did not have it in me to make pumpkin pancakes, a recipe that involves hand whisking egg whites to stiff peaks and measuring out dry ingredients (I hate measuring!). So I punted. I showed up at the market with a pot, my food mill and a plan to make some kind of pumpkin soup. I was surprised by the presence of dried Porcinis and a new recipe was born. A rich Kabocha squash, sweetened and brightened by one Jonagold apple and given rich umami depth from reconstituted, dried Porcini mushrooms. It couldn’t be simpler or more delicious. Just ask the people who have already emailed me this week to find out when the heck I was going to get this recipe posted! (I’m sorry it took so long.)
Amidst the craziness of this season find sometime for peace and joy. And have yourself a merry little bowl of soup.
Pumpkin Porcini Soup
- 1 oz dried Porcini mushrooms
- 1 tbs olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 Jonagold or other sweet-tart eating apple, roughly chopped
- 1 Kabocha squash about 3 lbs, seeded, peeled and cut in 1″ pieces. About 6 cups. (You can use cubed Butternut squash from the grocery store if that saves time, or stir 3 cups of pumpkin purée in with the stock in step .)
- 6 cups vegetable stock
- Cider vinegar
- Place Porcini mushrooms in a heatproof bowl and cover with 2 cups of boiling water. Let sit for 20 minutes. Using your hand, squeeze water from the mushrooms over the bowl of liquid. Chop mushrooms finely. Reserve mushrooms and liquid separately.
- Warm oil in a 4 quart soup pot set over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add Porcini liquid and reduce by half. While it cooks, scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
- Add onion, squash and 4 cups stock. bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and steam pumpkin until mashably tender, 15-20 minutes. Purée pumpkin and apple mixture in a food mill or blender. (The delicate purée you get is why I love food mills!) Return mixture to pot. Stir through chopped Porcini mushrooms and thin with additional stock if desired.
- Season to taste with salt, pepper and a splash of cider vinegar.