When Matt and I first started dating, we had some minor communication problems. Nothing major, I had been learning and speaking French for most of my life but was far from being bilingual, and Matt did his best to get by with broken English and a giant smile. We laughed a lot over the little words and mis-translations, neither of us taking our mistakes too seriously. I will never forget the night we went out to dinner with a friend of mine in Banff, and getting to know Matt for the first time she was asking him questions about his life in France. When asked what was traditional to eat for dinner back home, Matt answered that the most traditional was his Grandmother, who would eat 'some soap, salad and a piece of jam?'
Soap, salad and jam. That's really the french cuisine people rave about. I burst out laughing, trying the figure out what the heck he was talking about but none of us could hold it in.
Soup, salad and a piece of ham. So close.
Like Matt's Grandmother, I also love a big bowl of soup for supper. Good, hearty ingredients - most of the time using up whatever leftover vegetables you have in the fridge and making it dinner worthy with a nice big salad and some fancy toppings (soap and jam excluded). I am a big fan of fennel, but for all y'all fennel haters out there, the flavor is really mild here and is mostly just an undertone. The big flavor comes through from the golden roasted pumpkin, but if you don't believe me feel free to substitute half the fennel for onions or leeks. The recipe will leave you with some pesto leftover, I like to use it up in a pasta dish, in a salad or simply spread on toast.
Serves 2-4 as a main, more as a starter. Vegan.
- 750g (about 6 cups) pumpkin - cored, peeled and cubed
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive
- Few sprigs fresh thyme sprigs
- 3 garlic cloves
- Coarse salt and fresh cracked black pepper
- 1 medium fennel bulb, fronds reserved - white part thinly sliced
- 4 cups low sodium or homemade vegetable stock (or a combination of stock and water)
- Water, as needed
- 1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves
- 1/2 cup hulled (green) pumpkin seeds
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 4-5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
What to do
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the pumpkin on a rimmed baking sheet and toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add the three whole gloves of garlic and fresh thyme leaves. Roast in the oven until tender and golden, about 30 minutes.
- In a skillet or heavy bottomed sauce pan toast the pumpkin seeds until fragant and crackling, about 5 minutes - set aside and let cool. Once cooled, add seeds, basil leaves, apple cider vinegar and 1 of the roasted garlic cloves to a small blender or food processor. Pulse the mixture while adding olive oil in a steady stream until the pesto is green and uniform. Season with salt and pepper.
- In a saucepan, add the sliced fennel with a tablespoon of olive oil and cook until tender. Add the the roasted pumpkin, 2 roasted garlic cloves, vegetable stock and water (if using) and bring everything to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and allow to cool slightly, then puree with an immersion blender until smooth. Add more water or stock if the consistency is too thick ( I added an extra cup or 2 of water here). Season with salt and pepper and bring soup to a simmer one last time before serving.
- Top with a spoonful of pesto, extra seeds and thin fennel fronds.