A few nights ago, I had the privilege of attending the Fall Favorites cooking class at Coquette Café. Once again, the Über Talented, high energy chefs at Coquette served up a fantastic four course meal, sharing recipes, techniques, and bits of culinary advice throughout the evening. It was a grand night out!
A highlight for me was the soup course, Puree of Butternut Squash Soup with Spiced Pecans, Crème Fraiche, and Maple Essence. Some day, I may tackle the entire three-part recipe. Today, I used the recipe as a template (the chefs at Coquette love the word ‘template’) and used similar flavor combinations to create a soup that’s a little bit lighter and a whole lot easier, but delicious in its own right and chock full of fiber and vitamin A. To add my own layer of flavor (another pet phrase at Coquette) I began by roasting a pumpkin before turning it into soup. Give it a try, and have fun!
1 large pie pumpkin, approximately 10 inches diameter
1 acorn squash
4 cups vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/4 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon grey sea salt
8 ounces nuefchâtel cheese
Step 1) Carefully cut the pumpkin and squash into halves or quarters. Scoop out the insides (optional: save and roast the seeds as a garnish!). Place pumpkin and squash pieces skin side down on a large baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and slow roast at 350 degrees for 90 minutes.
Step 2) After 90 minutes, remove pan from oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes. Using a tablespoon, scrape flesh from pumpkin and squash skins. REALLY scrape the skins, as the most rich, full flavors are trapped closest to the skin. Transfer pumpkin and squash flesh to a stockpot, and cover with vegetable broth. Add marjoram and simmer for 15 minutes.
Step 3) Remove from heat and puree with an immersion blender. Add nuefchâtel cheese and whisk until well combined. If you want a perfectly smooth soup, use your immersion blender a second time.
Step 4) At this point, your soup is essentially done. I like to offer diverse “table seasonings” so that everyone can personalize their own bowl of soup. The chefs at Coquette add cayenne pepper to their soup. Half Pint prefers sweet to spicy, and asks for a dash of cinnamon. I like garam masala spice blend myself, and sometimes I’m in the mood for an extra sprinkle of sea salt. This rich, hearty soup can take it – you aren’t going to overpower the awesome flavors of roasted pumpkin and nuefchâtel cheese with a dash of this or that, so feel free to experiment! A garnish of a few roasted pumpkin seeds on top is a nice touch.
If you’re in the neighborhood of Coquette Café, stop in for dinner or – better still – sign up for a class. You won’t be disappointed. Tell the chefs that the diner in the front row with the annoying camera says ‘hello’. 🙂