There are lots of ways to celebrate Halloween, from choosing jack-o'-lanterns and costumes to eating soup from a pumpkin.
I did all of this on my recent trip to Oregon, plus a few extras, like wandering through dried corn plants in a twisty maze and disappearing in another maze of towering sunflower plants.
They buried themselved in a giant haystack set up for leaping and sliding, talked to farm animals, took the wheel of a vintage tractor and begged to go on pony rides and hay rides.
Grandma didn’t make the soup, though. That was prepared by Dale Fowler, excecutive chef of the Rogue Regency Inn & Suites in Medford for a winemaker dinner at Harry & David. the store with the dazzling holiday catalog. (Mine arrived the other day, and I’m salivating over photos of delicious Royal Riviera pears and chocolate truffles.)
Harry & David’s huge store in Medford was outfitted for Halloween with stacks of pumpkins outside and pumpkin-shaped candies inside.
Mini-pumpkins served as bowls for Fowler’s creamy, spicy-scented squash bisque, and pumpkin seeds floated on top.
The next course involved pumpkin too—Anderson Ranch lamb loin in a pumpkin seed crust accompanied by a salad of wild chanterelles, grape tomatoes, endive and shaved Rogue Creamery asiago cheese.
The wine that accompanied the soup was a 2005 Claret, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc from Rocky Knoll vineyard on the outskirts of Medford. So choose a mellow red wine to go with the soup for Halloween (or Thanksgiving) dinner.
If you can find mini pumpkins. cut off the tops, scoop out the seeds and strings and bake them until partially cooked, then reheat them before pouring in the soup. Clean and toast some of the seeds for decoration.
And if you happen to be in Medford next fall, don’t miss the country harvest festival. It takes place on weekends for a month leading up to Halloween.
The location is Pheasant Fields Farm, 1865 Camp Baker Road, Phoenix, OR. Tel: (541) 535-3873.
SQUASH BISQUE IN A PUMPKIN
(From Dale Fowler, executive chef of the Rogue Regency Inn & Suites in Medford, Oregon)
3 pounds butternut squash (1 large)
1 pound acorn squash
2 carrots, about ½ pound, peeled and cut in chunks
2 stalks celery, cut in chunks
1 large onion, cut in 6 wedges
6 black peppercorns
1 small cinnamon stick
3 whole cloves
1 small piece nutmeg
1 whole star anise
1 1/2 quarts chicken stock
½ cup whipping cream
1 ½ teaspoons salt, or to taste
¼ teaspoon white pepper
Crème fraiche and toasted pumpkin seeds for garnish
To make the squash easier to peel, pierce them all over with a sharp knife, then microwave them one at a time until slightly softened. This will take up to 10 minutes depending upon the size of the squash. If microwaved too long, they will become soft and difficult to peel.
Let the squash stand until cool enough to handle, then peel, cut in half, scoop out the seeds and strings and cut them into chunks.
Place the squash chunks in a stock pot or large Dutch oven. Add the carrots, celery and onion.
Wrap the peppercorns, cinnamon stick, cloves, nutmeg and star anise in a double thickness of cheesecloth to make a sachet and tie securely with string. Or put the spices in a teaball, as I did, cracking the cinnamon stick into smaller pieces so that it fits.
Add the chicken stock to the pot and bury the spice bag in the center. Bring to a boil, then boil gently, loosely covered, until the vegetables are very tender, 30 to 35 minutes.
Remove the spice container. Blend the soup in batches in a blender. Or puree it in the pot using a hand blender. Stir in the whipping cream, salt and pepper.
Serve in prepared mini pumpkins or in heated soup bowls, topped with a spoonful of crème fraiche and a few toasted pumpkin seeds.
Makes 3 quarts plus 1 cup, or 12 servings.