My friend Michelle gave me two whole sugar pie pumpkins a few weeks ago. Michelle is a gardener and a foodie, and a generous one too. She dropped them off on the way to her wine and food pairing class (she’s a wino like me, we met working at NHJ winery) and in an ironic exchange I gave her two gluten-free pumpkin raisin muffins made with pumpkin from a can. Poor girl, goodness knows it wasn’t a fair trade, but I just had to give her something for her generosity.
They are two beautiful, perfectly round, basketball orange gourds. So pretty I didn’t want to use them right away – why would I do that when I have nary a piece of seasonal décor in our little house? I put one on top of the television and one on the bookcase. There are few flat surfaces not yet occupied in our hut. So there they sat, looking so sweet, reminders that now’s the time for baking sweet things.
This Sunday, after looking at them for a few weeks and wondering just how many pumpkin pies I could sucker out of them, I decided it was time to make some food. I desperately wanted to make up the perfect pumpkin pie for you, my friends, but we’ve been eating enough sweets around here lately to make me think twice about generating yet another dessert for our fridge. Besides, I could always make up a pumpkin pie later, when Thanksgiving is just a few weeks away. I’d surely have enough pumpkin to freeze, and enough to make up some pumpkin muffins too (though these will surely have more soul).
Pumpkin is one of my favorite things. Just last week you could find me moaning over a pumpkin cake doughnut someone told me I just had to try. Last week Mark and I split a seasonal Pumpkin Ale from Elysian Brewing Company here in Seattle (which was fabulous, pumpkin-y with a hint of nutmeg). I got to the farmer’s market late today, and by one o'clock the pasta guys had run out of their pumpkin ravioli, otherwise I would have bought a little bit to complete my week-long pumpkin binge. Chances are, if it has pumpkin as an ingredient, I’m in.
The pies would have to wait, but what about a hearty pumpkin soup? I’ve made butternut squash soup and gingered carrot soup which are lovely on a cool Fall day. Pumpkin soup might be good, with garbanzo beans and a sweet and savory spicy curry. I split both of the pumpkins in half, scraped out the innards and laid them face down in a baking dish. There is something so terribly familiar, so evocative about cut fresh pumpkin. It’s that pungent jack-o-lantern smell that you first smelled as a kid. About a month ago I was doing my daily run along the running path, red and gold leaves overhead and beneath my feet. Blue skies and sunlight - everything around me sighed like Fall. I caught a whiff of something… so… familiar. Right away I knew what it was. Pumpkin guts! I looked quickly to my left and there on a back porch, 50 feet away was a dad and his two kids and five pumpkin carcasses laid a mess. There’s just no mistaking that smell. I could have been another 50 feet away and still have recognized those pumpkins.
I set a pot of water to boil, added roughly chopped carrots and onions, and later some dried garbanzo beans and kombu. After the beans softened, I add a chopped apple. The pumpkin was roasted and cooled by this time. I took a small forkful of orange flesh and mashed it against the roof of my mouth. It was sweet and soft and wonderful. This will make a fantastic soup.
This was Slow Food for sure. I spent most of my Sunday buying kale at the farmer’s market, roasting the pumpkins and then letting those beans soften up for hours. I don’t always plan to spend most of my Sundays making food, but seemingly the food makes plans for me. I begin with an idea, and the vegetables willfully take over.
This time I won’t share a recipe with you, as this soup was so much of a little of this and a little of that, but I’d be happy to list out the ingredients and let your own vegetables take over the plans. All I can say is that the richness of the pumpkin and the variety of spices make this one of my best soups yet.
Maybe Michelle will accept a bit of this soup as a fair trade – Michelle, what do you think? Let’s pair it with a nice gewurztraminer and talk pies.
Friendship Pumpkin Soup
Water or stock
Kala masala spice mix
Sliced fresh ginger
Moroccan spice mix (coriander, cinnamon, cumin, mint)
Freshly grated nutmeg
Cayenne or other ground hot pepper
Ground Black Pepper