This month in Michigan, the deciduous trees are flaming with an array of fall colors that get more vibrant as you travel north through the state. Honey Crisp apples abound. Local farmers are being featured in the cafeteria at the Munson Medical Center in Traverse City. I had the privilege to spend some time with an inspired and committed dietician/chef of theirs, who is creating ways to share the bounty of the local, small family farmers with the staff and visitors at her hospital.
Several times a month, Laura McCain invites a farmer to talk to people at the front of the cafeteria line about the ingredients he or she contributed to the special of the day. Bags of the farmer’s fruits or vegetables are also available for purchase. Featured the day I visited were Asian pears composed in a salad with gorgonzola and walnuts. Laura really understands the vital connection between good food, good health, and the role of a major health care facility in the overall health of a community, whether patients or not.
Further south, the busy Ann Arbor Farmers' Market has more organic vendors than in the past. I was lucky to find one selling baking pumpkins. The only time I had ever taken a knife to a pumpkin was to carve a smile with poor dentition, scary eyes, and a triangular nose. This time I wanted to make a pumpkin and apple soup based on a recipe from Laura McCain's hospital cafeteria. A four and a half pound pumpkin is somewhere between a softball and a soccer ball in diameter. It provides about 5 cups of roasted pumpkin used in this week's recipe. Roasting the pumpkin one day in advance made life easier on "Thanksgiving practice day".
This soup is thick and really good.
Servings: a whole bunch of people
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 4 1/2 pound pumpkin. roasted to provide about 5 cups of pumpkin "meat"(see below)
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 apple, diced
- 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 2 tomatoes, diced
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 3/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- 5 cups chicken broth
- Fresh parsley, chopped for garnish
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the pumpkin in half. Scoop out the seeds and stringy stuff. Using your fingers, coat the cut sides with a little olive oil. Roast the pumpkins in a baking pan about 70 minutes. They will release about 1/2 cup of clear liquid, probably water, by the time they are done. Let them cool, then scrape the pumpkin off the skin. Never having done this before, I found this step very satisfying as the meat scraped easily off the skins. Refrigerate it overnight or use it.
Dice the onion, peel and chop the carrots, peel, seed, and dice the apple, dice the tomatoes, then heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large soup pot. Sauté the onion, carrots, apple, pumpkin for about 10 minutes adding the cumin, coriander, salt, and pepper. Add the tomatoes at the end. Add the chicken broth. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Puree using a hand held blender or in a countertop blender in batches. Remember to leave the top off of a countertop blender when processing hot liquids as the steam can make the top explode. Instead, cover your blender with a kitchen towel.
Nutrition Information (per serving)