Pumpkin is the quintessential fall vegetable, and it offers some exceptional health benefits: better eyesight, weight loss, heart health, cancer prevention, boosted immune function, and mood elevation. And pumpkin is also beautiful and delicious. What’s not to like? The hassle of actually dealing with a pumpkin when cooking—the tough skin, the seeds, and those annoying, stringy threads.
Canned or boxed pumpkin puree is an excellent substitute for fresh pumpkin, especially when making a soup or dessert, and it is a whole lot easier to manage. When buying pumpkin puree, make sure to look for brands packed in a Tetra Pak or BPA-free can and make especially sure that you are buying a pumpkin puree that is not already seasoned for pie filling. I especially like Farmer’s Market brand organic pumpkin, which is readily available at Whole Foods, as well as other natural-food stores and amazon.com.
Smoky Pumpkin Soup
1 medium onion
1 or 2 garlic cloves (optional)
2 (16–ounce) containers of organic pumpkin puree or 2 (15–ounce) cans of organic pumpkin puree
4 cups vegetable stock
2 tablespoons honey
1 medium canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (or more, to taste) (see Beginner’s Tips below)
Salt and pepper
Optional garnish: plain Greek-style yogurt or crème fraiche, toasted pumpkin seeds
- In a large pot, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil, or just enough to lightly coat the bottom of the pot.
- Dice onion and cook over medium heat until softened and translucent. Do not allow the onion to brown. If using garlic, finely chop it and add it to the diced onion.
- Add pumpkin puree, vegetable stock, and honey. Bring mixture to a boil.
- Reduce heat to simmer, and add 1 chopped chipotle, along with the sauce clinging to it, to the pot.
- Simmer soup for 20 minutes, until flavors are melded.
- Puree the soup until smooth, using a blender or food processor.
- Add salt and pepper to taste. If the soup is not smoky enough for you, add more chipotle peppers.
- Optional garnish: serve soup with a dollop of yogurt or crème fraiche and some toasted pumpkin seeds.
- Basic Pumpkin Soup. Eliminate the chipotle pepper and add fresh herbs such as thyme or sage.
- Smoky Pumpkin Soup with Corn Kernels. Add fresh or frozen (warmed) corn kernels to each bowl of Smoky Pumpkin Soup before serving.
- Smoky Butternut Squash Soup. Substitute 6 cups of cubed, roasted butternut squash, or 2 cans of Farmer’s Market brand butternut squash puree for the pumpkin puree.
Canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce can be found in most grocery stores, usually in the ethnic food section. Look for a short, squat 7-ounce can under the brand names of Goya, La Costen͂a, San Marcos, or Embasa. You use a small amount for this recipe—chipotle peppers in adobo sauce pack a punch—but leftovers store well in the refrigerator for a very long time. Try using chipotle peppers in adobo sauce in other soups, salad dressings, dips, or anywhere you would like a smoky, spicy flavor.
Pumpkin is the type of vegetable your grandmother would tell you is good for eyesight. Pumpkin, and carrots as well, are great sources of lutein and alpha- and beta-carotene, the latter of which is converted to vitamin A in your body. Both lutein and vitamin A are often recommended to help protect eyes from the effects of aging.
Soup makes a lovely, elegant first course for any meal. Warm soups, specifically, have the added benefit of necessitating slow eating, which helps you to eat more mindfully. Mindful eating—taking the time to enjoy and honor every bite—allows for greater meal satisfaction and satiation, and can help with portion and calorie control.