The last time I was in southwest France during a glorious warm and sunny October, it looked like this. Autumn had pulled out the paintbox, brushed burnished shades across the rolling vineyards, creating a palette of deep colors so beautiful they took my breath away. The old and often wizened vines were giving up their final offerings for the year, large, heavy bunches of deep purple grapes, missed by machines and pickers, hanging low among the turning leaves.
Then along came this American guy. Sauntering through the French vineyard blazing with glorious colors..........
...................he stooped low to pick a missed bunch of those now ripe and shriveled grapes, taste-testing the harvest. Yes, my DH who enjoys a glass of red wine, but can't really tell a good year from a bad, became an unofficial, of sorts, grape taster!
Leaving the vineyard, we continued our stroll to a village where the Pumpkin Fete was underway. French pumpkins are beautiful and French cooks create wonderful dishes with them.
Bon Potage au Potiron
The market lady is also a gardener. She will share cooking tips with you when you buy her pumpkins (potirons). Her recipes are basic and simple but always delicious. She's probably made this soup for years, throwing ingredients nonchalantly into her large pot without measuring or weighing.
Melt 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter in your large heavy pot over medium heat and add an onion, peeled and chopped, cooking a few minutes until pale gold, do not scorch. Add 5 pounds of peeled, chopped pumpkin, leave out the seeds and roast them later for a crunchy snack. Dice a small potato and add to the pot, you can leave the peel on for more nourishment. Pour in 5 cups of water, season with sea salt to taste, decide later if you want to add pepper.
Cover pot, bring to a boil, reduce to medium, keep covered and cook 25 minutes until potato and pumpkin are very soft. Remove from heat, cool slightly then puree until smooth with that wonderful kitchen must-have, your stick blender. Serve with a swirl of thick cream, a sprinkling of Gruyere cheese and a chunk of fresh-baked farm-style bread. Bon appetit!
Oh yes, a little reminder, don't forget to take something to the market to carry home all those fabulously huge pumpkins.........then get out your soup pot!
All images taken in Southwestern France - Oct. 2008