Nov 23, 2012

Pumpkin-Ginger Soup & Mussels

This dish is so, so appropriate right now. Here are three good reasons why: 

1) If you celebrated Thanksgiving, you're likely stuck with leftovers. I'm hoping pumpkin is one of them

2) It's a superb time to be eating mussels. When I lived in France, my poissonier would tell me "les moules se mangent pendant tout les mois en 'bre' " which means that all months that ended in 'bre' were the best time of the year to buy mussels. Septembre, Octobre, Novembre, et Decembre. Additionally, it's now or never to be cooking with the other key ingredient here, pumpkin.


3) Brrr, it's getting cold. Soup. Enough said. 

And finally, for the cherry on the cake, if I could tell you that this dish is tremendously easy to make and incredibly healthy, would that further justify making this divine Pumpkin-Ginger Soup with Mussels and a drizzle of Safflower Oil? I hope so! 

Ask your fishmonger to pack the mussels with ice, so that they remain cold during the ride home.
Before cooking the mussels, make sure you clean them well and get rid of any fibrous clumps or "beards" stuck on shells. Do not use a knife to do this. Clean them off under running cold water with your bare hands. Yes, it's painful but it will all be worth it at the end. 
In a deep pot, heat some olive oil (or butter) and chopped onions. The idea is to make the onions "sweat" until they are transluscent. They should not turn into a golden colour or become crispy. 
Then, add some white wine to the pot, gently add the mussels and from here on it's literally a matter of minutes for the mussels to open up
It's almost time...
Here they are, all open and ready to enjoy.
For the soup, if you don't mind the taste of ginger, I highly recommend including some. It will give a nice fresh kick to the dish. And on top of that, ginger is healthy and aids digestion. Another reason to be eating this after Thanksgiving!
This is a light but tasty, rich-feeling soup. No heavy creams or butter. Pureed pumpkin, vegetable broth, ginger and onions. Full of flavour.
If you have safflower oil, mix some with safflower and drizzle just a bit at the last minute. Combined with some mussels kept in their shells, this is a nice and quick way to add a decorative visual touch. 

Recipe for Pumpkin-Ginger Soup with Mussels and Safflower Oil
Directions & ingredients only. I tend to eyeball most of my savoury dishes (vs baking where I a have to be precise).

For the mussels:
Fresh mussels, kept on ice in the fridge for minimal time prior to cooking
Onion, chopped finely
White wine 
Olive oil or butter

For the pumpkin soup:
Pumpkin, cooked without peel
Organic vegetable broth
Ginger, fresh preferably
Onion, boiled, diced
Salt & Pepper

For the safflower oil:
Safflower oil mixed with safflower

Start off by preparing the soup. Blend all the ingredients together in a blender or with a hand mixer until a smooth texture is obtained. Adjust quantities of all ingredients by tasting throughout. Pass through a sieve for a finer texture if desired. Set on the side. 

Then, wash the mussels under cold running water. Immediately place in the fridge for just a few minutes, to keep cold during the next step (to prevent shells from "yawning"- mussel shells should remain closed prior to cooking). In a large pot, place some olive oil or butter. Heat onions until translucent. They should not become golden and crispy. Add some white wine and continue to cook for another minute. Gently place the mussels and cover pot for 2 minutes. Remove cover- you'll notice some of the mussels have opened at this point. Gently stir contents and cover for another 1-2 minutes. Remove cover: all shells should be open now which means they are ready to eat! Turn heat off, and keep warm on stove.

Heat the pumpkin soup. Transfer onto dishes. Add mussels and drizzle around with a bit of safflower oil. 

Note: for a richer soup, you can add some cream to the ingredients. 
Note on safflower: I realize there are many views on safflower- that it is weak in taste, that it is the "bastard saffron" or that its only value is to add colour to a dish. Agree to disagree. I was given some Damascene safflower which fortunately has a pleasant earthy taste. It doesn't overpower a dish but certainly adds a subtle echo to each bite. 

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