I have a good friend who grew up in a large Italian family in New Haven, Connecticut. Not only has he turned me into something of a pizza geek, he has shared rich stories and history of his family’s food traditions.
One of the dishes that resonates most with me, regardless of the season, is pumpkin soup with white beans and greens. His mother was an accomplished Genovese cook but, for whatever reason, this soup was his father’s dish to prepare. I doubt if they had sugar pie pumpkins then but they may have. We grow them on the ranch and they not only carve into adorable petite Halloween pumpkins, they are sweet, plump and not stringy. They are ideal for cooking and baking.
This soup is so alive with color it makes you smile just to look at it.
¼ cup olive oil, divided
1 large onion, chopped (two cups)
2 carrots, peeled and chopped (one cup)
2 stalks of celery, chopped (one cup)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 - 2 pound sugar pie pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut into 1 inch chunks (Butternut squash can be substituted.)
8 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 - 15 ounce can diced tomatoes
6 sprigs of fresh thyme (tied with a string for easy removal later)
1 bay leaf
2 - 15 ounce cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 bunch greens (Kale, Chard, Mustard, Collards) washed and rough chopped
Balsamic vinegar (optional)
Salt and crushed red chili flakes
Heat olive oil on medium in a large thick bottomed pot (5 t0 6 quarts).
Add onion and bay leaf. Cook 5 minutes until slightly softened.
Add chopped celery and carrot, cook for 2 to 3 more minutes. Your mirepoix should be soft and the onions translucent.
Add the minced garlic and cook for 1 more minute.
Add pumpkin, ham hock, stock, tomatoes and thyme.
Increase heat and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to maintain simmer, uncovered. Let simmer for one and one half hour.
Remove ham hock to a plate and let cool.
Add white beans and cook for 15 minutes.
Remove bay leaf and thyme.
Add chopped chard, simmer until chard is wilted.
When hock is cooled, strip meat from bone and chop or shred - return to pot.
Taste and adjust seasoning.
Can thin soup if necessary.
There is something about soup - making it, sharing it, being nourished or comforted by it. Soup is elemental in a very unique way. This Pumpkin Soup with White Beans and Greens is a family recipe of a friend of mine who grew up on the East Coast in an Italian American neighborhood in New Haven, Connecticut. His family has a rich history of food tradition and this is one of my favorite recipes they have shared with me. The full recipe is on our web site but I will walk you through the process now.
I am going to heat a soup pot - 5 to 6 quart capacity - on medium heat and add McEvoy Ranch Traditional olive oil. In which I will saute my mirepoix - which is a classic flavor base of onion, celery and carrot - starting with the onion slightly before adding the celery and carrot. Saute on low to medium heat until the onion is translucent. I am not looking to brown or caramelize the vegetables. I just want to build a flavor base and bring out the sweetness of the onions. I will then add the garlic and saute briefly until lightly browned. Add the cubed pumpkin, the ham hock -which you can leave out if you want your soup to be vegetarian - the diced tomatoes, fresh thyme and stock. You can use chicken stock or vegetable stock. Bring to a simmer and let simmer for approximately one hour and 15 minutes.
After the soup has simmered, I will remove the ham hock and the thyme I will let the ham hock cool and then chop the meat and add back into the soup along with the cannellini beans and the chard. Cook until the chard is tender and you are ready to serve.
This is our soup after a good long simmer - delicious and ready to enjoy with a drizzle of Traditional Blend Olive Oil and Meyer Lemon and rosemary bread from our local Petaluma bakery, Della Fattoria.
Fruit flavors, a subtle hint of anise and well integrated oak make the McEvoy Ranch Evening Standard Pinot Noir a beautiful pairing with this hearty, full flavored soup. Enjoy!