Sunday, October 5, 2008
Curried Pumpkin Soup with Crab Crostini
I'm a huge fan of renowned chef and restaurateur, Frank Stitt. Here in Alabama, Frank is one of our favorite sons. Each of his three restaurants are based on a philosophy of eating fresh, local, in season food. This was a groundbreaking idea when he started his first restaurant in Birmingham, AL in the early 80's.
My first experience with Frank Stitt's food came when I was in college, at Bottega Cafe. I was always completely broke I college so my food budget was almost non-existent. I'd have to save up and every so often a group of us would go to Bottega Cafe. Bottega is two restaurants in one. On one side a fine dining restaurant, way beyond my meager means in college, the other side was casual dining. We could only afford to eat at the Cafe but it was a fine meal out for me in those days. Usually we'd order several items and share with the whole table. If I was really spluging, I'd order the tiramisu, which I didn't share with anyone!
A few years later my sister, a Culinary Institute of America student, did an externship at Highland Bar and Grill. Some of the best food I've every eaten has come from that kitchen.
So this week-end when I needed a great first course for a dinner party with friends, I pulled out Frank Stitt's Southern Table for inspiration. I decided to make the Curried Pumpkin Soup with Crab Crostini's. The vibrant orange color and spicy curry make this the perfect soup for a cool fall evening.
Curried Pumpkin Soup
Frank Stitt's Southern Table
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 onions, sliced
2 leeks, trimmed, cleaned, and thinly sliced
1 carrot, peeled and sliced
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and sliced
1 tablespoon mild curry powder
1/4 cinnamon stick, 2 cloves, and 3 allspice berries, tied in cheesecloth to make a sachet
1 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and sliced
1 pound peeled pie pumpkin, sliced
1 sweet potato, peeled and sliced
6 cups water, preferably spring water
1 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
Snipped chives for garnish
Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.
Add the onions, leeks, carrot, and apple and sauté over medium-low heat until the onions are translucent, about 15 minutes. Add the curry, spice sachet, and the remaining vegetables. Pour in the water and bring to a gentle simmer, for about 45 minutes, until the vegetables are very soft.
Remove the spice sachet and puree the vegetable mixture in a food mill. To give the soup a silky-smooth texture, pass through a fine-mesh strainer. Add salt and pepper to taste. Transfer the soup to a saucepan. Add the cream and taste and adjust the seasoning. Heat gently just until warmed through.
Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with the chives.
This soup is great on it's own but the crab crostini makes it spectacular.
1/2 lb lump crab
1 1/2 tsp. olive oil
zest of half a lemon
juice of half a lemon
juice of half a lime
1 tsp fresh chives chopped fine
2 tsp flat leaf parsley chopped fin
salt and pepper to taste
Half inch baguette slices, crusts removed.
Heat oven to 375
Brush baguette slices lightly with olive oil. Place on baking tray and bake for 3 minutes. Just until toasted but remove from oven before they take on any color.
In a bowl, mix together olive oil, zest, lemon juice, lime juice, parsley, and chive. Gently mix in the lump crab, being careful not to break it up too much.
Top the toasted crostini with a generous amount of the crab mixture and place in the center of the soup.