My Own Pumpkin Patch
Sometimes I get inspiration for my recipes from nature; for instance, a sunset with brilliant colors may remind me of a special dessert. I was recently blessed with a new inspiration when I came upon the Pumpkin Patch in the Anza Borrego Desert in Southern California- lots of pumpkins but not the kind we are used to!
The Pumpkin Patch is an area with many spherical-shaped rocks, about the size of an average pumpkin. The sign tells us how these ‘pumpkins’ were made:
“This unique landscape is the result of wind and water continuously eroding the surface soil and revealing these globular sandstone concretions.
Photographer Floris van Breugel gave me special permission to use his beautiful photograph of the Pumpkin Patch. You can see more of his wonderful photography at http://www.artinnaturephotography.com/
So, after experiencing the beauty of this place, I was inspired to create my own ‘Pumpkin Patch’ with a recipe for Pumpkin, Pancetta and Sage Soup Cooked in a Pumpkin Shell. This involves first making a hearty soup with pumpkin and pancetta, then baking it inside of a hollowed-out pumpkin shell.
I used several small pumpkins for the shell: Orange Sparkler Pumpkins and Mini-Pumpkins. This makes a great company dish as a starter- each guest can eat the soup out of their very own pumpkin! When the soup is all gone, you can then eat the pumpkin shell if you wish.
Basic Preparation for the Pumpkin
- To cut the top off the pumpkin, first draw a line around the top, then make a cut placing the knife at a 45 degree angle.
- 4 small pumpkins
- 1 cup diced pancetta
- 2 tbsp oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 large carrot, diced
- 1 celery stalk, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 - 15.5 ounce cans cannellini beans, drained
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 ½ cups pumpkin purée
- 1 cup smoked turkey (or ham) meat
- 2 tbsp sage, chopped finely
- 2 Bay leaves
- Salt and pepper to taste
- For the Garnish:
- Diced pancetta pieces, cooked and crumbled
- Whole Sage leaves
- Toasted Pumpkin Seeds (Pepitas)
- Pre-heat the oven to 360 F.
- Prepare the pumpkins. Cut out the tops of the pumpkins and scrape out all seeds and stringy bits. Save the seeds to roast and serve later as garnish for the soup (pepitas).*
- Brush the outside of the pumpkins with olive oil; season the insides with salt and pepper. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake for approximately 20 – 25 minutes until the pumpkins start to soften. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.
- To prepare the soup, sauté the pancetta pieces in oil in a large pot until crisp. Add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic pieces and stir over medium-high heat until they soften.
- Now add the beans, chicken stock, pumpkin purée, smoked turkey leg (or ham), sage and bay leaf and bring to a boil.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat and let simmer for about 15 minutes.
- Fill each pumpkin shell with the soup and bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and garnish with the crisp pancetta pieces, Sage leaves and pepitas (roasted pumpkin seeds). *
- *To prepare the pepitas, mix the pumpkin seeds in a small bowl and coat with olive oil. Add seasoning (I used salt and a little chili powder) then roast in the oven for 15 minutes at 360 F.