October 14, 2007
We left Chios on a ferry headed for Izmir, Turkey. By the time we arrived, just before lunch, our stomachs were rumbling. The waterfront was filled with wonderful aromas of fish and spices, but all the restaurants were “full”. We hoofed it from door to door, finally begging for a meal to no avail. You’d think a hundred years might wash away Hellenic Genocide, but NO! I can’t even get a glass of raki and an oil cured olive in the middle of the day.
We just happened to arrive on the same day the United States House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Comittee ruled Turkey’s Armenian slaughter “genocide”. NO LUNCH FOR YOU MR. AMERICA!
Our hunger sudued, but our desperation rising we plopped our bags down in front of a small house on the far side of the bay and nibbled the last crumbs of aged sheeps milk cheese while contemplating our next move. The face of an elderly woman magically appeared in the window of the house as spicy pumpkin drifted over and bit our noses.
I twisted my face into the most pitiful knot I could manage. When that didn’t work, I offered her 10 Lira. We feasted like kings! The meze was amazing with tall glasses of raki, but the pumpkin soup was the most memorable.
I did, however, feel a little uncomfortable when she cupped my package while I was thanking her for the recipe upon our exit. The things I do for you, David.
Downhome Pumpkin Stock
Sautee a couple of onions 2 Tbs olive oil until translucent. Add 12 cups of water, turn up the heat to high and add trimmings of celery, carrots, potatoes, parsley, thyme, sea salt and the scrapings from your pumpkin. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, add a turkish (not Greek) bay leaf and simmer for 40 mins. Strain the stock, transfer to a smaller pot, add another Turkish bay leaf and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes more.
Spicy Pumpkin Soup (Kabak Çorbasi)
3 lb pumpkin, calabaza or butternut squash
3Tbs whole butter
1 bulb fennel, thinly sliced
1 cup white wine
3 large shallots or one medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cayenne peppers, deseeded
4 cups stock
2 sprigs thyme
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cardomom
1/2 teaspoon cumin
A handful of fresh basil
As much tarragon as you like
salt, to taste
Sautee fennel in 2 tbs olive oil for 5 minutes until soft. Add the shallots and sautee for a few minutes more until translucent. Add the cooked pumpkin, reserved juices, the cayenne and cook for 5 minutes more. Add the stock, 1/4 cup Raki, thyme, bring to a boil and simmer covered for 30 minutes. Allow the soup to cool for 15 minutes.
When the soup is cool enough to taste without burning your genitals, remove the herb stems and pass through your food mill or puree in your blender. The soup should be a thick, rich and velvety, but not pudding like. Add additional stock to thin as needed, taste for salt, and garnish with tarragon and basil. If your date likes it spicier, garnish with minced fresh cayenne. Serve with Raki (Arrack) or a fine Pastis.