There are two ways to start the following recipe for a delightful, autumnal pumpkin bisque.
First, and more romantic: Go to a farmer’s market, or better yet, a farm. Choose a cooking pumpkin. Bring it home. Roast it in the oven until its fragrance fills the kitchen. Then puree the pulp.
Second, and more convenient: Open a can.
Either way, you’ll find that pumpkin’s smooth texture and mild flavor make it a great soup base. Start with fresh pumpkin and you’ll have an incomparable feast within two hours; use canned pumpkin and you’ll have a nourishing entree in less than 20 minutes. (Just note that canned pumpkin is more dense than fresh, so you may want to add slightly less broth to the fresh.)
This appealing one-dish entree calls for an equally sensational dessert. The perfect match is Brett Knobel’s Cornmeal Cookies. Knobel, owner of Brett’s restaurant on the north side of Chicago, reports that her staff can go through platters of the rich cookies before they ever reach the customers. The recipe is a basic sugar cookie; the cornmeal adds a pleasant crunchy texture.
Knobel’s recipe makes a big batch, but you can freeze rolls of dough for up to two months. Thaw the dough in the refrigerator, slice and bake. Also, the baked cookies freeze very well.
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
4 ounces Canadian bacon, diced
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 cups chicken broth
1-1/2 cups canned pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
Rind of 1 lemon, cut into strips
1/3 cup half-and-half
Melt butter in medium pan. Add onion and Canadian bacon and saute until bacon is lightly browned. Add white wine and cook until reduced to 1 tablespoon. Add chicken broth and pumpkin puree. Stir in thyme and lemon rind. Add half-and-half and simmer 5 minutes. Do not allow to boil. Serve hot.
Yield: 2 servings.
Nutrition information per serving: 358 calories, 17.5 grams fat (44 percent fat calories), 26 grams protein, 21 grams carbohydrate, 61 milligrams cholesterol.
Note: To cook a 2-pound whole pumpkin, cut it into quarters. Remove pulp and seeds. Place pumpkin in roasting pan. Add 1 cup water or chicken broth. Roast pumpkin, covered, at 325 degrees 1 hour or until tender. When cool enough to handle, scrape flesh from shell and puree.
Brett Knobel’s Cornmeal Cookies
1 cup (1/2 pound) unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup cornmeal
1-3/4 cups flour
Cream butter and sugar until light. Add egg and beat thoroughly. Add vanilla and beat again. Stir in salt, cornmeal and flour to form stiff dough.
Shape dough into 2 logs, each 9 inches long and 1-1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap in wax paper and chill until firm, 2 to 3 hours. Cut each roll into slices about 1/3-inch thick. Place on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
Bake cookies at 375 degrees until edges are browned, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven. Cool cookies on wire rack.
Yield: 54 cookies.
Nutrition information per cookie: 66 calories, 3.75 grams fat (51 percent fat calories), 1 gram protein, 7 grams carbohydrate, 13 milligrams cholesterol, 41 milligrams sodium.