Little touches, such as the chile pepper and the queso fresco, give this pumpkin soup its distinctive, delicious Latin flavor. In Peru this soup is made with a kind of pumpkin (or very large squash) called zapallo macre. Zapallo macre looks like a big green pumpkin, and has bright yellow flesh. (For great pictures and information about zapallo macre, read more here at canela y comino, an excellent blog about Peruvian food). You can substitute a yellow squash (such as acorn squash) in this recipe, but I like to use canned pumpkin for convenience. This is a great way to use up extra squash from the garden!
- 3 slices of bacon
- 1 large onion, chopped
- Chile powder or chile paste, to taste
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 16 ounces of canned pumpkin, or 2 cups cooked squash, mashed
- 1 1/2 cups whipping cream
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 4 ounces queso fresco (or farmer's cheese), cut into 1/2 inch cubes, for the soup, plus
- 4 ounces queso fresco, cut into cubes, for garnish
- Leftover bread for croutons
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- salt and pepper to taste
- Make the croutons: Chop the leftover bread into crouton-size squares. Melt the butter with the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the bread pieces and sauté on medium heat, tossing croutons to coat all sides as they cook. Season croutons with salt and pepper. Cook until they are golden brown and crispy, then remove them from the heat and set them aside on paper towels to cool.
- Dice the bacon into 1/2 inch pieces and sauté until crispy.
- Remove bacon pieces and reserve. Add chopped onion to the same pan, and sauté the onion in the bacon grease for 3 to 5 minutes, or until golden and soft. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon chile powder, or more to taste.
- Add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 5 to 8 minutes, then remove from heat and whisk in the canned pumpkin.(If you are using fresh squash, you can cook it in the chicken broth during this step. Simmer until it's soft and breaking apart.)
- Blend soup in a blender or food processor until smooth, and return to the pot.
- Stir in cream, sour cream, and half of the cheese.
- Heat soup gently on low, stirring, until the cheese is melted and the soup is heated through.
- Serve soup garnished with croutons, crumbled bacon, and the other half of the cheese cubes.