Spiced Squash Soup with Pumpkin Seed Pesto

Yield: about 20 cups


For toasts
15 slices firm white sandwich bread
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened

For soup
12 lb butternut squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh jalapeño chile, including seeds
1 teaspoon ground cumin
7 cups chicken broth or water
5 cups water plus additional for thinning
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste

For Pumpkin Seed Pesto

Yield: Makes about 2 1/2 cups

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups unsalted hulled (green) pumpkin seeds
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup water
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
4 scallions, chopped
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste


Preheat oven to 400°F.

Make toasts:
Trim and discard crusts from bread. Spread 1 side of each slice evenly with butter and season with salt and pepper. Halve slices diagonally to form triangles and arrange, buttered sides up, on a baking sheet. Toast bread, turning once, in middle of oven until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Transfer toasts to a rack to cool.

Make soup:
Put squash, cut sides down, in 2 greased shallow baking pans and roast in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of pans halfway through roasting, until very tender, about 1 1/4 hours. Cool and scoop out flesh.

Purée squash in batches in a blender with jalapeño, cumin, and broth until very smooth (add additional water as needed to facilitate puréeing).Transfer to a 6- to 8-quart heavy pot and stir in 5 cups water. Simmer, stirring, 10 minutes, then stir in lemon juice, enough water to thin to desired consistency, and salt and pepper to taste.

Serve soup in bowls topped with slices of toast spread with pesto.

Make Pesto
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large heavy skillet over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then cook pumpkin seeds with salt and pepper to taste, stirring constantly, until seeds are puffed and beginning to pop (some will brown, but do not let all of them), about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Transfer to a plate and cool completely.

Pulse seed mixture in a food processor with water, cilantro, scallions, and remaining 4 tablespoons oil until mixture forms a coarse paste (not finely ground). Transfer to a bowl and stir in lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.