10/4/07

Savory and Sweet Pumpkin Soup

Pumpkin soup with roasted walnutsOctober marks a transition. A transition to fall after September's equinox. A transition from lush green to spare orange. It's a harvest month. A time when autumn's vegetables supplant summer’s fruits and berries.

Ask people what they associate with October, and many will say Halloween and its requisite pumpkins. But pumpkins can be used for more than just jack-o-lanterns. You can use fresh pumpkins to make a delicious, savory/sweet soup that’s just the thing on October’s chilly evenings:

Pumpkin Soup

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 1 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 1 2-pound pumpkin peeled, seeded, chopped (about 6 cups—you can substitute two cans pure pumpkin for the fresh, just add the pumpkin during the puree process) approx. 4 cups chicken stock or low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Several shakes of allspice (to taste)
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)

Reserve:

  • 1/4 cup whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons honey (brown sugar also works very well--you can alter the amount to suit your sweetness cravings)

Melt the butter in a large, heavy soup pot over medium-high heat. Toss in the carrots, celery and onion (this is called mirepoix, if you want to get fancy and Frech). Saut├ę about 8 minutes or until tender. Add the pumpkin, the chicken stock and spices. Cover and simmer about 25 minutes, or until the pumpkin is tender (you should be able to pierce it with a knife with bare resistance).

Puree the soup in a blender using short pulses (Safety warning: take the top off the blender after every two or three pulses to allow the steam to vent out. I didn’t, and pumpkin splatter shot out the stop and all over my counter, floor and clothes). You can also use a food processor. Put the soup back in the pot and stir in the cream and honey. Add salt and pepper to meet your tastes (or you could always let your guests season the soup at the table). For a delicious additional touch, pan roast a small handful of walnuts for each bowl of soup. October is harvest month for walnuts and the only time you can get fresh ones.

This soup can be made well in advance and frozen. It also keeps well in the refrigerator--just heat and serve.

What to pair it with?
This soup calls for a wine that's going highlight the sweet and savory characteristics. A good white pairing would be a gew├╝rztraminer, as the spice and floral characters would enliven the soup's flavors. If you wanted to go red, however, I think a petite syrah would do well, or you could always fall back on a solid California Zinfandel.

Ravenswood  2005 Vintners Blend ZinfandelRavenswood Vintners Blend
2005 California Zinfandel
Ravenswood wines traditionally offer great value. They are all new world in style, very drinkable and pair well with a broad range of foods.
Color: A marvelous cranberry red that fades to salmon at the edges
Nose: Fruit. Definite berry (strawberry) and other red and dark fruits. A hint of vegetation or moss and a touch of leather and spice.
Palate: Very bold. Berry flavors and some spice. Strong body with little complexity but is highly food friendly. Nice tannins and a good structure.
Finish: Clean. Lingering hints of the nose, particularly the leather. Leaves you eagerly anticipating a bite of food, or another gulp from the glass.

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