Winter Squash and Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Pepita Parsley Garnish
This tasty soup and its piquant garnish can be prepared in advance, using any winter squash or pumpkin—even canned pumpkin in a pinch. Cayenne adds a pleasant zing.
2 to 2 1⁄2 pounds winter squash or pumpkin, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1⁄2- to 3⁄4-inch dice
2 cups water
2 bay leaves
4 cups vegetable stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced medium fine
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded, and cut into dice
About 1 tablespoon dried thyme leaves
About 1 teaspoon salt (if stock is not salted)
Freshly ground black pepper
2 dashes ground cayenne pepper
1. Simmer squash and bay leaves, covered, in a heavy-bottomed soup pot with water and stock. Reduce heat and cook at a bare simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. In a small sauté pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook another minute or so. Stir in bell pepper, crumble in thyme leaves, and stir. Transfer sautéed vegetables to the soup pot with squash. Cook over low heat, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes.
3. Purée the soup in batches in a blender or food mill. Return to the pot and season with salt, pepper, and cayenne. Heat gently, covered, for about 5 minutes. Season to taste.
4. Ladle soup into bowls and scatter about 2 teaspoons of the pepita parsley garnish over each, or pass it in a separate small bowl.
Pepita Parsley Garnish
1⁄2 cup toasted and salted hulled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
2 cloves garlic
1⁄4 to 1⁄3 cup packed Italian flat-leaf parsley
3 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1. Combine pumpkin seeds, garlic, and parsley leaves in food processor and pulse a few times.
2. Add 3 tablespoons of oil and pulse to blend. Scrape down the sides. If it’s very thick, add another tablespoon of oil or water. Do not overprocess—the garnish should have a little texture.