Sopa de Calabaza con Pepitas is a favorite recipe around the holidays with both of our families. Sergio grew up in Spain, and I spent several years there. Our kitchens smelled of interesting meats, caldos, and spices growing up, especially during the holidays. Soups are popular in Spain and are often served as a first course during the afternoon meal. This is a great soup for the holidays because it is filling and flavorful; the toasted pumpkin seeds, smoked salt, and warm spices create a nutty, creamy soup.

We like to go to one of Oakland’s many farmers markets to get our produce, so sometimes our garnish on this soup will vary, depending on what is available and fresh. Whenever possible, we use local ingredients, or defer to local experts in their field, like John from the Oaktown Spice Shop, who imports amazing spices from Spain. (They carry an incredible whole nutmeg at Oaktown Spice Shop that adds an intense flavor to this soup.) Duende’s Bodega sells a large variety of Spanish Oloroso sherries; while it’s fine to use a lower quality of sherry for cooking this sopa, you may want to sip on the good stuff while you are cooking!

Sergio Monleon and Emily Sarlatte are the Chefs behind Ñora Spanish Cuisine (510nora.com).

 

Sopa de Calabaza con Pepitas

Serves 8

2 butternut squashes

2 Tbsp. butter

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbsp. minced shallots

2 Leeks, finely chopped

5 cloves garlic

6 c vegetable broth

1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg

Salt and pepper to taste

1 c Oloroso sherry wine

1 c cream

1 bunch chives

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Wash and cut squash in half, remove seeds and set aside. Poke squash with a fork, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Pour a thin layer of water in a baking dish, or a cookie sheet with sides. Place the squash halves cut-side-down on the dish. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until a fork can easily pierce the flesh. Cool slightly, then remove the peel. Set aside.

Turn oven to 300 degrees. Place whole garlic cloves on a baking sheet, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and roast in oven for 20 minutes.

Rinse squash seeds and soak in salted water for 20 minutes. Drain and toss with salt and oil. Toss the seeds until they are evenly coated with oil and salt.

Spread out so they are in a single layer, though some overlapping is fine.

Place the baking sheet into the oven preheated to 300 degrees. Roast until the seeds are just starting to brown, about 20 to 25 minutes. If your oven has uneven spots, you may want to stir after 10 minutes. Toss in finishing salt, such as fleur de sel.

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat, with 1 Tablespoon of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Add the leeks and shallots, and sauté for a few minutes, until tender. Add the squash, and mash with a wooden spoon. Add roasted garlic and mash. Add vegetable broth and simmer for 20 minutes. Use an immersible hand blender to puree the soup, or transfer to a blender or food processor in batches, and puree until smooth. Return to the pot.

Season the soup with nutmeg, salt and pepper, then stir in the sherry and cream.

Heat through, but do not boil. Chop chives into tiny pieces. Ladle into bowls, and top with roasted squash seeds and chives. Finish with a touch more fleur de sel if desired, and freshly cracked pepper.

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