Caribbean pumpkin soup with island spices

Caribbean Pumpkin Soup with Island Spices
Serves 4 To 6

1 - 2 1/2 Pound calabaza squash or pumpkin (see sidebar), peeled, seeded, and cut into quarters; 1 cup cut into small dice
2 Cups finely diced peeled Granny Smith apples (about 2 medium apples)
4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 Cup packed light brown sugar
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Cup finely diced Spanish onion
11/2 Teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 Teaspoon minced habanero or jalapeño chile (with seeds)
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1/4 Teaspoon ground cinnamon
5 Cups Chicken Stock (page 253) or low-sodium store-bought chicken broth
1 Cup heavy cream
1 Tablespoon sherry vinegar
2 Tablespoons salted roasted hulled pepitas (see sidebar, opposite page), for garnish (optional)
Freshly ground pepper
Pinch of ground all spice
Pinch Kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Put 5 cups of the quartered pumpkin, 1 cup of the apples, the butter, and brown sugar in a roasting pan, season with H teaspoon salt, and toss well. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake until the pumpkin is soft to a knife tip, about 1 hour. Remove the pan from the oven and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until softened but not browned, about 4 minutes. Stir in the chile, thyme, cinnamon, and allspice and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the stock and pumpkin-apple mixture and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat.

Working in batches, carefully transfer the mixture to a blender (see sidebar, page 28) or food processor and puree, periodically stopping the motor to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, until smooth.

Wipe out the pot and return the puree to it. Stir in the cream, then stir in the vinegar and bring to a simmer. Stir in the reserved diced pumpkin and diced apple. Cook until the pumpkin and apple are softened but still retain their shape, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Divide the soup among four to six bowls and garnish each serving with pepitas, if desired.

A variety of squash popular in Latin America and the Philippines, calabaza is called West Indian pumpkin in the Caribbean. It's very similar to our pumpkins in the United States, but not as sweet. If you can't find calabaza and pumpkin isn't available, substitute butternut or acorn squash.

Pepita is the Mexican name for pumpkin seeds. Small and flat like sunflower seeds, they can be scattered over soups and salads. They are sold raw as well as roasted and salted, which is my favorite type, both for cooking and for snacking straight from the bag.

Sautéed Sea Scallops with Orange-Garlic-Lime Sauce
The sauce for these scallops is what most Latin cooks call mojo de ajo, or garlic mojo. It's traditionally made by toasting garlic in hot oil until golden, then adding cumin, sour orange, and cilantro. Sour oranges, native to Latin America and Spain, aren't at all sweet, so they work well in dishes that need an orange-tinged acidity. They can be hard to find here, so I use a combination of orange and lime juice to approximate their flavor. This mojo is also somewhat unconventional because it includes grapefruit and orange sections, as well as mint. For a more conventional mojo, see the recipe for Cornish hens on page 186.Make this dish only with dry-packed scallops, preferably diver-harvested or day-boat, and the freshest you can buy; steer clear of those stored in milky-white solutions, which preserve the scallops but rob them of their wonderful firm texture and dilute their flavor. This is delicious with Boniato Puree, which drinks up the sauce.

1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup very thinly sliced garlic (about 1 head of garlic)
1 jalapeño chile, very thinly sliced (optional)
Pinch of ground cumin
1 grapefruit, separated into sections, without membranes
1 navel orange, separated into sections, juice from membranes squeezed
1 blood orange (or an additional navel orange), separated into sections, juice from membranes squeezed
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro (leaves and stems)
1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh mint leaves
1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 large dry-packed sea scallops, preferably diver-harvested or day-boat
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

For The Sauce: Heat the oil in a medium heavy skillet over high heat. When the oil is almost smoking, add the sliced garlic and cook, shaking the pan constantly, until the garlic starts turning golden, about 3 minutes. Working quickly to keep the garlic from scorching, stir in the jalapeño, if using, and cumin, then remove the pan from the heat and add the grapefruit sections, orange sections, juice from the membranes, lime juice, cilantro, mint, and basil. Season with salt and pepper and stir to combine. This is your mojo; set it aside.

Heat the 2 tablespoons oil in a large heavy skillet with an ovenproof handle over medium-high heat. Season the scallops with salt and pepper and put them in the pan, with ample space between them. Cook until golden on the bottom, 2 to 3 minutes, lower the heat to medium, turn, and continue cooking for another 3 to 4 minutes, until the scallops are firm to the touch and nicely golden on both sides. Put 2 scallops in the center of each of four plates. Spoon some mojo over the top or alongside the scallops and serve.

About Michelle Bernstein:
A James Beard Award winner, Michelle Bernstein is the chef-owner of Michy's in Miami, Michelle's at Carysfort in Key Largo, and MB in Cancun. A former professional ballerina, she trained at Johnson and Wales and under the renowned chef Jean-Louis Palladin. Michy has appeared multiple times on The Today Show and as a judge on Top Chef. She is the author of Cuisine A Latina: Fresh Tastes and a World of Flavors from Michy's Miami Kitchen is her first cookbook.

Buy the cookbook on Amazon: Cuisine à Latina: Fresh Tastes and a World of Flavors from Michy's Miami Kitchen

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