Just P-p-p-p-pump it Up – Pepitas and Pumpkin Back Bean Soup
Let us begin Part II of the pumpkin chronicles. As Dustin and I discovered last week, one average sized pumpkin makes A LOT of pumpkin puree. Which is great if you are planning to feed an army of pumpkin pie eating adults during the holiday season, but if, on the other hand, you are two young professionals who like to eat food on occasion that does not involve pumpkin, using all of the puree requires a significant amount of creativity. First and foremost I highly, highly recommend freezing a portion of the puree. I typically pack portions into large zip lock bags for freezing, just make sure to extract as much air as possible before placing the pumpkin in the freezer. Once frozen the puree will keep for several months and can be easily defrosted by submerging the bag in a bowl of room temperature water for a few hours.
Now, in my mind, one of the greatest pleasures of slicing, dicing, roasting, and pulsing your own pumpkin to make puree, is that you also have a golden opportunity to take advantage of the little treasure that hides inside of the pumpkin, the seeds. Like pumpkin puree, pumpkin seeds, which are often referred to as “pepitas” (the Spanish name for the seeds) can be bought in many supermarkets, but home made pepitas are noticeably different than their store bought counterparts. Most store variety pepitas are sold with the outer shell removed, which makes for a softer bite but a less toasty flavor. I found a recipe for home made pepitas which calls for the seeds to be first boiled in salted water and then roasted, the result is a crunchy exterior, strongly toasted flavor, and delicate center. I personally, much prefer this to the store variety, and highly recommend trying your hand at it at home!
To make the pepitas, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Separate the seeds from the stringy core and rinse them well. In a small saucepan, add the seeds to water, you will need about 2 cups of water for every half cup of seeds. Stir in about a half tablespoon of salt for each cup of water and bring to a boil. Let the water simmer for about 10 minutes before removing the pan from the heat. Pour the seeds into a colander over the sink to drain. Toss the seeds in about a tablespoon of olive oil and spread them on a baking sheet. Bake the seeds for 15 mins or until they turn a nice golden color. These make a nice crunchy afternoon snack and are great on salads.
Part of my motivation for the great pumpkin puree project was to have an opportunity to try out a great fall soup recipe I had found for a black bean and pumpkin soup. As I read over the recipe and began to thinking about a strategy for incorporating some of my own favorite flavors into the original, I thought about how I could better leverage the pumpkin itself, and the byproducts of the roasting process, to make a better soup. What I discovered, was that a roasting pumpkin tends to release a lot of water, and I decided that, rather than discarding the pumpkin water I would try to save as much as possible and us it as a sort of broth for the pumpkin soup.
This soup really has that special “Je Ne Sais Quoi.” There is a nice subtle hint of smokiness and spice from the sausage, vegetarians can recreate this flavor profile with a little hickory salt and some pepper flakes. In terms of pepper flakes, my veggie friends, I would try either Aleppo or Chipotle, don’t go overboard, the soup is not intended to be “spicy” just spiced, a pinch or two will suffice. The texture is really divine, give the beans a good long whirl in the food processor, if the mixture is too thick to really “whirl, try thinning it out with a bit of water, or broth, or tomato puree from your canned tomatoes, whatever makes the process easier. To all of the vegans out there, the butter in the recipe isn’t really necessary and a nice olive oil can be easily substituted – combining this with the spice substitution I recommended above will transform this into a delicious and vegan friendly fall recipe.
Pumpkin Black Bean Soup – adapted from Smitten Kitchen
1 TBSP Olive Oil
1/2 Pound Cooked Chicken or Turkey Sausage (Preferable an Andoullie, Chorizo, or other Smoky and Spicy Variety)
Three 15 1/2 Ounce Cans Black Beans, Rinsed Well
1 Cup Canned Plum Tomatoes, Chopped
1 1/4 Cups Diced Onion
1/2 Cup Shallot, Thinly Sliced
4 Garlic Cloves, Minced
1 TBSP Plus 2 TSP Ground Cumin
1 TSP Salt
1/2 TSP Freshly Cracked Pepper
2 TBSP Unsalted Butter
4 Cups Pumpkin Broth – See Note Above on Pumpkin Broth (or Vegetable or Chicken Broth)
1/2 Cup Vodka
1 1/2 Cups Pumpkin Puree
Start by placing the beans and tomatoes in a food processor. Lock on the lid and let it whirl. If the mixture is too thick add up to a 1/3 cup of water to make the pureeing process easier.
While the beans puree to a nice smooth consistency, begin cooking the turkey sausage (vegans and vegetarians, omit this step.) Heat a 8 qt stockpot of medium heat, add a TBSP of olive oil and sautee sausage until lightly browned on all sides. Remove the sausage with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Add enough oil to the pot to equal about a TBSP and a half. Once the oil is hot add onion, shallot, garlic and cumin and sautee until translucent. Add salt, pepper, broth and vodka and bring to a boil. Boil for about 3 mins to cook off some of the alcohol, reduce heat to medium and add beans and pumpkin puree.
Stir well and add additional water if needed to reach the desired consistency. Simmer for about 15 mins. Finally, taste for seasoning adding additional salt and pepper as needed.
Serve topped with home made pepitas and enjoy!