Pumpkin With A Paris Accent


When I lived in Paris, I discovered cheese pumpkins. Their fine, flavorful flesh is  infinitely better than the stringy, watery meat of pumpkins that most Americans try cooking. Round and flattened, with smooth, beige skin, cheese pumpkins look like Cinderella’s coach after midnight.

Returning to New York City, I was happy to find cheese pumpkins at the Greenmarket at Union Square in Manhattan. And unlike most kinds of pumpkin, which usually disappear after Thanksgiving, they are around well into the winter.  

The right pumpkin to cube and use in soups, stews, and lentil chili, it is even better stuffed with grilled bread, shredded Gruyère cheese, and crème fraîche, then baked. As the pumpkin and filling roast and the cheese melts, they meld into a delicious, oozy mess. The recipe I originally used, by Chef Alain Senderens, is available only in French, so I recommend Dorie Greenspan’s stuffed pumpkin adventure . But I suggest sticking to Gruyère or Emmenthal cheese, not the blue cheese she chooses, and to use very crusty French or Italian bread.

In a simpler, more healthful mode, pumpkin hummus is slightly sweet and nicely spicy. Use roasted pumpkin—the canned puree tastes bitter, metallic and drab. This hummus is.

Pumpkin Hummus (Makes 3 cups)

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained

1 ¼ cups pureed roasted or steamed pumpkin

½ cup tahini

¼ teaspoon ground turmeric

1/16 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste

1-2 tablespoons fresh lime juice


Pumpkin Masala

Raw or roasted pumpkin seeds

1. In a food processor, whirl the chickpeas until finely chopped. Add the pumpkin and puree until smooth. Blend in the tahini, turmeric, and cayenne. Starting with 1 tablespoon of the lime juice and 1 teaspoon of salt, season the tahini to taste. Refrigerate, tightly covered, for up to 2 days.

2. For the Pumpkin Masala, blend together ½ teaspoon each ground coriander and cumin, ¼ teaspoon each ground black pepper, cardamom and cinnamon, plus 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves. Try to use true cinnamon from Ceylon, not cassia, which comes from China and Vietnam.

3. Spread Pumpkin Hummus in a wide, shallow bowl. Sprinkle on the Masala generously. Top with a good sprinkling of pumpkin seeds.

Too Much Tomato Soup

Last week, I used deep red, fresh San Marzano tomatoes to make beautiful tomato soup. Since they were probably the last local tomatoes of the year, I cooked a double batch. After enjoying it for two days, I realized there was too much for me to eat on my own and I invited friends over to share a soup supper.

Although the soup would be new to my guests, to perk up my fifth bowl of it, I caramelized thin slices of Meyer lemon to float in each bowl as a garnish. These intensely golden lemons, a cross between a mandarin orange and a conventional lemon, are so naturally sweet that you can actually sip their juice. Seared in a dry cast iron skillet for 1 minute on each side, the sugar in them caramelizes and the entire becomes soft enough to eat.

My friend Julia is a food stylist, so over our steaming bowls of soup we brainstormed ways make eating this surfit of soup more interesting. For added challenge, we agreed that each suggestion had have good nutritional benefits. 

For our tomato soup, we came up with six ideas. They sounded so good that, confessing that I was planning to make lentil soup over the weekend, we moved on to ideas for sparking that up, too.

 Tomato soup garnishes:

Leeks frizzled in olive oil

Canned chickpeas and chopped parsley

Chopped fresh tomato and green olives

Finely minced red onion, sweet onion, and snipped chives

Chopped roasted red pepper and orange sections

Grilled bread rubbed with garlic

Lentil Soup Garnishes:

Portobello mushroom “croutons” crisp-seared in a dry skillet

Thin avocado slices and cilantro

Pomegranate seeds

Gremolata of chopped parsley, lemon zest, and minced shallots

Diced tomato and fresh thyme leaves tossed with olive oil

Fresh basil strips and finely chopped sweet onion

Roasted Tomato Soup (Makes 4 servings)

6 medium beefsteak-type tomatoes (2 ½ –3 pounds), halved, and seeded

4 large cloves garlic, unpeeled

1 small Spanish onion, halved and cut in 1/2” slices, divided

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon ground coriander

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

1 cup fat-free reduced salt chicken or vegetable broth

Salt and ground black pepper

1 teaspoon grated lime zest

1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

2. Place the tomatoes, garlic, and half the sliced onion on a cookie sheet. Add 2 tablespoons of the oil and rub the vegetables to coat them. Set the tomatoes cut side up. Roast the vegetables until the tomatoes are golden on top, about 40 minutes.

3. When they are cool enough to handle, over a large bowl, pull off the tomato skins, discard them, and tear the flesh into chunks, catching all the pieces in the bowl. Coarsely chop the onions and add them to the tomatoes. Squeeze the garlic from the cloves into the bowl. Pour in all the juices from the cookie sheet. Set the vegetables aside.

4. In a Dutch oven or large saucepan, heat the remaining oil over medium-high heat. Sauté the remaining onion until it is soft, about 5 minutes. Mix in the cumin, coriander and ginger until the spices are fragrant, 30 to 60 seconds. Add the contents of the bowl to the pot. Pour in the broth. Bring the liquid to a bowl, reduce the heat, and simmer the soup, covered, until the onions are soft, 20 to 25 minutes. Let the soup sit, uncovered, to cool slightly.

5. In a blender, puree the soup until it is orange and almost smooth. Divide the hot soup among 4 deep soup bowls. Garnish with the lime zest, and serve. Or, cool the soup and refrigerate it, covered, for up to 3 days. Reheat it, covered, in a pot over medium heat, garnish and serve.

©The Essential Best Foods Cookbook by Dana Jacobi