Sunday, November 13, 2011

Eat: (not your average) Pumpkin Soup

Earlier this week, after narrowing down my recipe choices, I called my husband to ask if he had a preference. The first option: spiced apple cake. The second option: pumpkin soup. Before I could even finish the sentence, Matthew eagerly declared “pumpkin soup!”. Thus began this culinary adventure. I was intrigued by this particular recipe because it includes several ingredients that I had never before seen in pumpkin or squash soup, like pureed black beans, balsamic vinegar, cumin, and shallots. Suffice it to say, this is not your grandmother’s pumpkin soup. What it lacks in appearance (dark brown instead of the soft orange I had imagined), it makes up for in rich and savory flavors. In the end, we both agreed (as did our dinner guests) that this soup does not actually taste like pumpkin at all. However, that does not mean that we didn’t like it. In fact, we loved it!

The original recipe, found in the November 1996 issue of Gourmet, uses Sherry and Sherry vinegar. Since I am not a fancy-pants lady, I did not happen to have either of these on hand. Fortunately, I found there are several alternatives. In place of Sherry, one can use dry white or red wine, vanilla extract (1 tsp for every 2 tbsp), apple cider vinegar, wine vinegars, or even citrus juice. I used apple cider vinegar but would only recommend it if you don’t mind the strong kick of vinegar. Should I make this again, I will try white wine instead. Similarly, in place of Sherry vinegar one can use red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, or cider vinegar.

TIME: 1 hour
YIELDS: 9 cups
MY SOUNDTRACK: Steve Martin & the Rare Bird Alert

three 15oz. cans of black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup of diced tomatoes, drained
1 ¼ cups of chopped onion
½ cup minced shallot (or ¼ cup dried)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon & 2 teaspoons of cumin
1 teaspoon of salt
½ teaspoon of black pepper
½ stick of unsalted butter (1/4 cup)
4 cups of beef or vegetable broth
16oz. can of pureed pumpkin (not pie filling!)
½ cup of apple cider vinegar
3-4 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
Optional: ½ - 1 pound of cooked ham, diced

1. In a food processor, combine beans and tomatoes. Puree coarsely.

2. Heat a large (at least 6-quart) pot to medium heat. Stir together the butter, onion, shallot, garlic, cumin, salt, and pepper. I added the butter first and let it melt before putting in the other ingredients.

3. Once the onion has softened and begins to brown, stir in the bean-tomato blend. Next add the pumpkin, broth, and apple cider vinegar. Simmer, uncovered, for approximately 25 minutes. Stir the dish occasionally to avoid burning along the bottom of the pot. You can check its progress by dipping a spoon into the pot; the soup should get thick enough to coat the spoon.

4. Before serving, add the balsamic vinegar and ham (if desired) and cook until heated through. You may garnish the dish with sour cream and toasted pumpkin seeds.


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