With its pale pumpkin hue and flecks of intense orange carrot, this is a good-looking soup. It’s also a tasty one, with an appealing blend of contrasting textures and flavors. Go easy on the hot pepper if you’re making this for kids—or add more if you’re serving it to heat-seeking types.
I like to use the food processor to shred the carrots; it’s faster and the shreds are thicker than the kind you get by using a hand grater. Take note that the soup will appear unappetizingly "clearish" until you add the milk, then it will smooth out beautifully and look creamy and pretty.
1. Heat butter and bay leaf in soup pot over medium-low heat. Stir in onions and carrots, cover and let vegetables "sweat,” stirring often, until they are limp and onions are translucent, 10-15 minutes. Stir in minced chili during the last few minutes.
2. Stir in buckwheat, coating every grain. Add 4 cups of the stock, bring to simmer, cover and cook over low heat until grains are tender, about 15 minutes. Uncover and stir in pumpkin puree and chopped parsley; simmer 10 minutes. Stir in milk, pesto or chopped cilantro and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer 5 minutes. If you want to thin the soup further, add more stock or milk. Garnish each bowl with Parmesan and chopped cilantro.
*This recipe uses white hulled buckwheat, not kasha, which is roasted buckwheat. You could substitute white rice, coarse bulghur or another grain. Or use a cooked grain like wild rice or brown rice instead (you just won't need to simmer it as long).
**For pumpkin puree, cook pumpkins like potatoes. Poke them in several places with a meat fork and bake at 350 degrees until fully tender (1-2 hours). Split them open to cool a little, then remove (and reserve) the seeds. Spoon out and puree the flesh, then use it in this and other soups, and in pies and side dishes.
And what about those seeds? Rinse off the fibers in a colander, let the seeds air-dry, and toss with olive oil. Roast until crunchy then shake on sea salt while they're still warm. Serve them right away or at room temperature, for a savory, nutrition-packed snack.
Canned pumpkin may be substituted, but use less than what’s called for, because canned puree is much denser than homemade.