Mini-Pumpkin Soup with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds, Shaved Parmesan, Fried Sage
3 1/2 to 4 inches across
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Slice off about 1/4 inch of the top with the stems from 8 of the pumpkins. Slice the other 8 in half. Scrape out the seeds with a spoon. Pull the seeds away from the stringy membrane, clean, rinse, and pat dry.
Toss the seeds with the vegetable oil and salt. Arrange in one flat layer on a baking sheet. Bake in the middle of the oven, stirring occasionally, until golden and crisp, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Place the pumpkins and the lids cut side down on lightly oiled baking sheets and bake until tender, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool the pumpkins on wire racks. Scoop out the cooked flesh from the halved pumpkins. Scrape most of the pulp from the remaining pumpkins, leaving just enough in each so that it retains its shape.
Melt the butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the scooped-out flesh from the pumpkins. Pour in enough of the stock to cover and season with salt and pepper. Simmer over medium-high heat for 20 minutes.
Puree the soup in a food processor or pass through the fine setting of a food mill. You should have about 8 cups of puree. Return it to the pot and season again with salt and pepper.
Heat 2 inches of vegetable oil to 350 degrees in a deep saucepan. Add the sage in very small batches and fry until translucent, about 20 seconds. (The oil will bubble up furiously when you add the sage to the hot oil.) Drain on paper towels.
To serve, warm the pumpkin shells in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. Heat the soup until hot, adding water if necessary to thin it slightly. Put each of the shells into a shallow soup bowl and ladle some of the soup into the shell. Top with a few fried sage leaves, some Parmigiano-Reggiano shavings, and a few of the toasted pumpkin seeds. Place the lid slightly askew on top and serve at once.
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