While my hostess skills are generally top notch, I sometimes struggle to balance the urge to try out new recipes on a captive audience with the golden rule of entertaining: always make your guests comfortable. This year at Thanksgiving, I was mesmerized by an unlikely sounding sweet potato recipe with coconut and curry paste. My mom was busy with holiday preparations, driving out to the organic turkey farm to pick up ‘Professor Wigglebottom’, our free range bird, and I convinced her to put me in charge of the all-important sweet potato side. Come the big day, I was shooing away gawkers wondering why I was mashing an avocado and using an immersion blender. My preparations were not for nothing, these ‘taters were amazing- my best friend Q and I ate the leftovers for three days straight. BUT… apparently, Thanksgiving sweet potatoes are not a side dish you mess with, at least not in my family. Sometimes you have to concede to popular opinion and keep things, err… traditional.
This is why I love cooking for vegans. Sans animal products, my vegan friends are the most adventurous eaters I know. Salty, spicy, sour, curry ice ‘cream’, cashew soup- bring it all on. I made this Pumpkin, Corn and Lemongrass Soup for a recent vegan shindig, and it merits sharing. The spicy pumpkin seed topping packs some serious heat, and the soup itself provides a clean backdrop for their appealing texture and flavor. So make a double batch of pumpkin seeds and serve this at your next gathering of daring guests- I have a great sweet potato recipe to go with it.
Pumpkin, Corn, and Lemongrass Soup with Spiced Pumpkin Seeds
Adapted from The Kitchn
For the soup:
1 fresh lemongrass stalk*
1 large onion, chopped
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 – 2 pounds roasted pumpkin flesh, or any squash, peeled and cut into medium cubes
2 1/2 cups frozen corn kernels
For the spiced pumpkin seeds:
1 cup raw green pumpkin seeds**
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon black salt or sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon paprika
To prepare lemongrass: trim the bottom and all but the lightest part of the stalk (about 6 inches), peel off and discard the outer layer. Smash the lemongrass stalk with side of a heavy knife.
Add olive oil to a heavy pot over medium heat. When hot, add lemongrass, onion, and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook until onion has softened, about 10 minutes. Add pumpkin, corn, 5 cups water, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until squash is tender, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.
Discard lemongrass. Using an immersion blender, puree soup and season with salt and pepper to taste. If soup is too thin for your liking, simmer uncovered over low heat until reduced.
Serve sprinkled generously with spiced pumpkin seeds.
For pumpkin seeds:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss seeds with oil and spice mixture. Spread in a cast iron skillet and bake until toasted, approximately 10 minutes.
*Available at Whole Foods (pricey) or any Asian grocery (cheap!)
**Available in the bulk bin of many grocery stores