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for the love of gourd





i'm a big fan of halloween (surprised?). there's something about the absurd blending of happiness and horror that appeals to me. when i was younger, i got more worked up about costumes and traipsing around as dusk crumbled into evening than i did about christmas, with its promise of gifts and food. (actually, i still do.)

it helps that it takes place in the autumn, which is already my favourite season.

it also helps that for one tiny sliver of time, the attention of the world is suddenly focused on the lowly pumpkin, normally an also-ran of the gourd sweepstakes.

of course, pumpkins sold at this time of year are generally used only for decoration (and what decoration). what gets neglected is that the pumpkin is actually flavourful and makes a tasty addition to a variety of recipes- NOT JUST PIE.

i understand that difficulties in preparing pumpkin dishes. given their size, storing, chopping up and cooking a pumpkin is a serious endeavour, to say nothing of a messy one. however, if, like me, you lack space and time, this also happens to be the only time of the year when unsweetened, canned pumpkin is readily available. the pie filling stuff is pretty easy to find at any time, but convenient cans of pre-mashed, low-mess pumpkin are trickier to locate.

but, in keeping with the pumpkin-mania of the season, the cans appear like goblins coming up to halloween.

flavour-wise, the pumpkin is somewhat milder and less sweet than other orange gourds (like acorn squash, probably its closest comparison). this makes it very adaptable to a variety of recipes. here's one i made up...

ingredients

2 cups vegetable broth
3-4 good sized shallots, finely chopped
1 can of pure, unsweetened pumpkin
margarine/ cooking oil
1/4 cup sherry
1/2 cup orange juice
spices (portion as you like- i don't dictate this stuff):
garlic
ginger (lots)
dried mustard
mace
allspice
nutmeg
ground cloves
cayenne
cinnamon
brown sugar (preferably demerara)

heat the oil, margarine or butter in a stock pot and fry the shallots until they become soft. add the spices (except the sugar) and continue stirring to make sure they are mixed. when the shallots are very soft, add the sherry and continue to heat for a few minutes. add the pumpkin and fold in the shallot/ spice mixture until well blended. add the brown sugar, orange juice and broth and allow to heat through, uncovered (stir frequently) until the soup starts to bubble.

note: if finding little bits of shallot in your soup is going to make you crazy, puree the soup in a blender once it's cooled.

may the great pumpkin bless your dinner table!

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