Halloween Magic – Turn Jack O’ Lanterns into Soup

To so many of us, pumpkins are for carving and lighting, or turning into pie. That’s a pretty limited role for this big, delicious vegetable that’s available through the Holidays.  Of all the uses for pumpkins, my favorite is soup, any and every kind of soup —  a creamy bisque sweetened with cider, spiked with curry, creamy with coconut milk as well as a big pot of hearty pumpkin minestrone with plenty of white beans and kale. Both make a real meal in a bowl. Pumpkins are a winter cooks dream.

Pumpkin, like squash, are ubiquitous in just about every part of the world. They work well in a range of cuisines — Asian, African, Italian, Mexican – so the way to prepare and season them are endless.

If there’s a challenge to working with pumpkins, it’s in the peeling. The frequent mistake is to attack the pumpkin or squash with a standard vegetable peeler. Quicker and more reliable is to cut the pumpkin into wedges, then rest each section on a cutting board and use a sharp, heavy knife to cut the peel. You’ll take some of the flesh with it, but given the vegetables size, that’s OK.

You can cook just about any pumpkin, but I like the smaller, varieties  such as Sugar or Sugar Pie Pumpkins; these have the most tender skins and the sweetest flavor. All varieties of winter squashes work beautiful well in pumpkin recipes, too.  Low in fat and calories, packed with vitamins and fiber, pumpkins are a deliciously healthy Halloween treat.

Halloween Pumpkin Soup

Serves 4 to 6

Think of this recipe as a series of suggestions; you can add other vegetables you have on hand, substitute the chickpeas for white beans, try winter squash in lieu of pumpkin. Toss in left over turkey or chicken and call it stew.

2 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil

1 medium onion, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 cups pumpkin,  peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 to 2 tablespoons Za’atar or more to taste

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Generous pinch red pepper flakes

4 cups chicken, turkey or vegetable stock

2 cups canned, diced tomatoes with their juices

1 cup cooked or canned white beans, drained

t tablespoon grated orange zest, or to taste

1/4 cup fresh orange juice, or to taste

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1/2 cup thinly sliced kale

In a deep stockpot, heat the oil over medium and sauté the onion and garlic until soft, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the pumpkin, Za’atar, salt and pepper, red pepper flakes and toss to coat. Add the stock and tomatoes, reduce the heat, and simmer, partially covered, until the pumpkin is very soft, about 25 to 30 minutes. Stir in the beans, orange zest and juice, and parsley and continue simmering another five minutes until the flavors meld. Adjust the seasonings and add the kale before serving hot.

Photo by Mette Nielsen