Taste of Morocco: Cinnamon Pumpkin Soup

I am at home, sick. I shouldn't really be cooking at all. But when I am sick, I can't stand reading business magazines or blogs as I normally do, or following anything remotely political (I tried to sit down with NPR's Diane Ream show, something I normally love, and lasted 2minutes). What I do is start reading about food. Since it's fall, there are a lot of recipes out there about comfort food. Since I'm sick, I am dreaming about being comforted with a nice hot bowl of soup served with some very good bread.

Gloria Magazine, published by Finland's Sanoma Magazines, nearly always has a very nice food section. The story about Morocco, and one writer following Gwyneth Paltrow's trail around Marrakesh, caught my eye. I love Morocco - the colorfulness of the country, the full, rich flavors of the food, and the warmth of the people. I visited several years ago with my colleague Jonas while on a business trip, where we ushered around town in a small red car of unknown origin by our friend and colleague Tarek, a native of Casablanca. I have such fond memories of that trip - where I was introduced to both frog legs (is anything really bad when cooked in garlic and butter?) and pigeon pie (you read that correctly) just mere meals apart.

Gloria writer Tiina Rantanen's recipe for Moroccan Cinnamon Pumpkin Soup looked and sounded like Morocco in a bowl. I dog-eared the page to save the recipe for another day - a day when my head wasn't pounding and my nose wasn't dripping; when raising my head off of the pillow didn't cause me to sneeze within minutes.

Then, my stuffy head propped up against pumpkin-orange pillows on my livingroom couch, I did what I have been meaning to do for a long time: read GP's blog, GOOP, which was referenced in the magazine article. And all her energy and enthusiasm somehow inspired me to pull my weary bones off of the couch long enough to throw ingredients in a pot to bubble and simmer and release the comforting aromas into my home.

I made pumpkin soup.

Cinnamon Pumpkin Soup with Saaristo Leipä (Archipelago Bread)

JJ will be happy: because he'll have dinner, and because I emptied our overflowing freezer of a few more containers, using up some of the frozen pumpkin from last fall's bounty, a container of vegetable broth left over from veggies pulled out of the cabin garden a month ago, and the last scrapings of 2010's summer parsley, frozen for a day like this one. And I am thrilled, because despite the fact that I feel like somebody is tapping incessantly behind my temples, the warm smell of pumpkin is making me smile.

Cinnamon Pumpkin Soup
adapted from Gloria's September 2011 issue and translated from Finnish.

500g of peeled, diced pumpkin (or 2 cups/4 dl frozen or canned)
1 large sweet potato (I used 4 medium-sized potatoes, because I wasn't going to the store)
1 large onion, cut in half, and then into large chunks
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh or frozen parsley
1/2 dl or 1/4 cup olive oil
1 table spoon granulated sugar
7 1/2 dl vegetable broth or 4 cups
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 dl or 1/4 cup milk +1/2 dl or 1/4 cup coffee cream (or half & half)

Combine pumpkin, sweet potato or potato, onion, parsley, olive oil, sugar and vegetable broth in a medium-sized, heavy bottom pot. Cook over high-heat until mixture comes to a boil. Lower to medium-low heat so that mixture is at a simmer, and leave, covered, for 20 minutes.

Remove from heat and either using a handheld blender (e.g. Bamix) or a blender, puree the soup until smooth. (Note: if you don't have a hand-held blender, now is the time to invest. It will save you a ton of time and mess: just plunge the tip into the hot soup, press button, hold until fully pureed, and done. No extra blender slop to worry about).

Add cinnamon and stir until combined; add salt & pepper to taste. Add milk and cream mixture. Serve with toasted pumpkin seeds and dark bread.

Serves 4.

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