I am laughing at my fall garden. You will see the expected fall favorites, but you will also see late summer veggies that barely survived the heat and drought, and are trying to make a late comeback. It is like we had two gardening seasons this year, Early Spring I and Late Spring II. One in February, and one in September. Nothing like making salsa in the fall, or harvesting cantaloupes, right?
Well, the chillier night air is making me think of the frost on the pumpkin and that inspired me to walk out to my garden and see what I could cook up this afternoon, with what I had at hand. I hope you enjoy my Roasted Pumpkin Swiss Chard Soup recipe as much as my family did!
Roast (350° – one hour):
3-4 pound baking pumpkin
1 dried chili ancho, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, not peeled
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
5 slices of non-cured bacon, diced
1 medium onion, finely chopped
5 stalks of Swiss chard, washed and drained
¼ cup white cooking wine or juice of 1/2 lemon
1 ½ tsp. smoked paprika
1 quart stock (veg or chicken)
1 tsp. sea salt
Season and Serve:
Fresh grated nutmeg to taste
Dollop of crème fresh, or 1 tbsp. half and half (optional)
Wash the dirt off the pumpkin, then bang stem of pumpkin on edge of counter to pop it off. Cut the pumpkin in half, leaving the skin on.
Using a large, flatish spoon with a thin edge, scoop out the insides of the pumpkin, including the seeds, putting them into a bowl. Do NOT discard. They make a GREAT nutritious snack. Finish the prep by using a round-edged clean pot scraper to scrape the inside of the pumpkin clean.
Cut side up, rub raw parts of pumpkin with a little olive oil. Vigorously rub the thyme sprigs over the insides of the pumpkin, then rub on the fine chopped chile ancho, and sprinkle with salt, pepper.
Place 2 thyme sprigs, and 2 cloves of garlic in a pile on a large flat baking pan. Place one half of the pumpkin over this pile. Repeat with other half.
Roast the pumpkin in the oven for about an hour, or until the skin gives into slight pressure. The pumpkin should be soft. Roasting it concentrates the flavors, and infuses the pumpkin with the thyme and chile scents.
Cut the onion into ¼” pieces. Slice the stalks of the chard about 1.4” thick. Chop the chard leaves into 1” pieces.
Optional) If using it, brown the bacon in a Dutch-oven on medium-high heat to render its fat. Keep it moving so that it doesn’t burn. Use a slotted spoon to put it on a small plate with a paper towel. Retain 2 tbsp. of fat for the next step.
If not using the bacon, put 2 tbsp. of olive oil in a Dutch-oven on medium-high heat.
Sweat the onions and chard stalks on medium heat, until onions are translucent. Do not let them turn brown from being cooked on too high a heat.
Add the garlic from the roasting pan, which should squeeze easily from their skins (like toothpaste), if you nip off a tiny bit of the end of the skins. Add the wine at this point, if you are using it. Let the alcohol cook off and absorb into the onions, about 1 min. If not using it, stir in lemon juice to coat all veggies.
Add the smoked paprika and stir to coat all the veggies.
Remove the pumpkin from the oven and turn each pile upside down to cool. Toss the thyme into the compost bin. When cool enough to the touch, scoop the pumpkin from the skin and spoon it into rough lumps. Add to the soup pot and stir well to combine flavors.
Add the stock, and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Take off the burner for a moment.
If you like a chunky soup, use an immersion blender to smooth the soup base now, or wait and blend the soup after all the chard has been added and cooked.
Add the chopped chard leaves, cover, and let it simmer for about 5 minutes. Add the bacon back to the soup. Grate a nutmeg over the pot of soup until you have added about 1 tsp. Stir, and serve.
Optional) Adding a small dollop of crème fresh, or 1 tbsp. half and half to the center of the bowl of soup, adds a whole other layer of richness and flavor. You will notice this as you savor a spoonful of soup, and taste the flavors unfold, one unctuous layer at a time. Bon Appétit!