Pumpkin soup in May. I know what you’re thinking: she’s finally lost that last (lonely) marble. But hear me out: I realized yesterday that June is nearly upon us; and with June comes the first onslaught of seasonal produce. My CSA will start, and with it kale, chard, cabbage and all those gorgeous Spring greens. Strawberries will show up in June as well, ripe for the picking. And then the summer squashes and cucumbers start coming, and cherries and raspberries, then before you know it, we’re drowning in tomatoes and peaches, and elbow deep in preserving every night of the week. Now is the time my friends: now is the time to take stock of the chest freezer, eat up last season’s put-ups, and defrost the freezer in anticipation of squirreling away another season’s produce. You’ll want that freezer space when it’s 12:54 am on a sultry August weeknight and you simply can’t face firing up the canner one more time (you know it’ll happen).
So, in the category of “taking my own advice” (something I so rarely do), I took stock of the situation in the chest freezer yesterday. And things are good, if your criteria is a varied, healthy and local diet; things are not so good if you need to empty and defrost said chest freezer sometime within the next month. I’ve still got plenty of kale, zucchini & pattypan squash, pole beans and wax beans, corn and various bell peppers, juices and stocks, blueberries, currants and cranberries. That’s not to mention a recent big order from Flying Pigs, a couple of loaves of Wave Hill bread and various flours from Wild Hive Farm. While certainly I can (and will) put some of these frozen goods into coolers, and my kitchen freezer, for half a day while I accomplish the defrosting, I don’t have that many coolers. Life will be so much easier if I just use up, or can for shelf-stable storage, some of that produce first.
To that end: pumpkin soup. I found a big bag of pumpkin chunks in the freezer, so that was an easy choice. We love pumpkin soup any time of year in this house and even a big batch will disappear pretty quickly. While I was in “freezer clean-out” mindset, however, I realized that I had a couple of jars of pumpkin juice in the freezer, leftover from making pumpkin purée, and a couple of jars of chicken stock, leftover from a roasted chicken I had made with lots of chipotle powder and orange zest. Wanting to use up the chipotle chicken stock (which was a deep, rich brown and rather spicy), but thinking that it might not play nicely with the cardamom and sage in my typical pumpkin soup recipe, I decided to go a different route.
Oh, happy was the day when I decided to clean out the freezer, because if I wasn’t focused on maximum freezer clean-out, I may never have invented this soup, and that would have been sad indeed, my friends, because it is outstanding. Deep orange roasted pumpkin, some onion & garlic for balance and aroma, enough smoky chipotle to make you sit up and take notice, and the pièce de résistance: chocolate. Not just any chocolate: good chocolate. And not just a whisper, not just a shaving, or a hint, but a good chunk of chocolate: enough to smooth out the spice of the soup, enough to add creaminess and depth, enough to make you want another bowl of soup for dessert. Pumpkin, chile, chocolate: food of the Gods.
For those of you who don’t have (or can’t fit) a chest freezer in your digs, or who didn’t squirrel away any pumpkin last Fall: I’m sorry. Bookmark this recipe and leave yourself a reminder to come back to it in October. For those of you who are in Freezer Clean-Out Crisis, just like me, and have been looking for a way to make winter squash in May exciting: you’re welcome.
Adapted from Pumpkin Soup with Crispy Sage Garnish in Homegrown: Pure and Simple by Michel Nischan
- 3 lbs cubed pumpkin flesh (or other winter squash; from about a 4.5 lb pumpkin), (fresh or frozen)
- 3 tbsp grapseed oil, divided
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 and 1/2 large yellow onions, cut into 1/2-inch slices
- 1 head garlic (about 12 cloves), cloves separated and peeled
- 1/2 small habañero chile, seeded
- 6 cups stock, chicken or vegetable (I used 4 cups chipotle chicken stock and 2 cups pumpkin juice)
- 1 tsp ground chipotle
- 4 – 8 oz good quality chocolate
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a large bowl, toss the pumpkin cubes with 2 tbsp oil and a generous amount of salt and pepper. the pumpkin evenly on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for about 25 – 35 minutes, or until nearly tender when pricked with a fork.
- In the same large bowl, toss the onion slices, garlic cloves and habañero in the remaining oil. Transfer to another baking sheet or an oven-safe skillet. When the pumpkin is nearly fork tender, put the onions & garlic in the oven. Roast vegetables for another 15 – 20 minutes or until the onions and pumpkin are tender, and the pumpkin is just beginning to brown. Keep an eye on the garlic to make sure it doesn’t burn. When done, transfer all the vegetables to a medium stockpot.
- Add the stock and chipotle to the stockpot and bring to a simmer over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the pumpkin begins to disintegrate. Blend soup with an immersion blender, or transfer to a blender or food processor and purée. (Continue to simmer over low heat if you want to further thicken the soup; I usually need to simmer for about 15 minutes after blending). Season to taste with salt and pepper, and additional chipotle if desired.
- Garnish each bowl with a light sprinkling of chipotle powder and a nice helping of shaved chocolate.
Serves 8 – 10.
- Don’t skimp on the chocolate; use a good quality eating chocolate and add about 3/4 – 1 oz per serving. The soup is good with just a small shaving of chocolate, but it is sensational when the chocolate becomes a main player. I prefer a dark chocolate, but milk chocolate adds a nice smooth creaminness to the soup, and cuts the spice of the chipotle a bit more. Use whatever chocolate you love to eat.
- This soup started out as my basic roasted pumpkin soup: that said, I’m not sure you need to roast the vegetables in this version. I generally think that it adds great depth of flavor, and such may be the case here, but the chocoalate & chipotle are adding so much depth to this soup that roasting may be superfluous. Come Fall, I will definitely make this again, and may try it without the roast. (I’ll report back!).
- The chipotle alone adds a pretty good kick to this spicy soup; if you are less tolerant of the chile bite, omit the habañero. Also, if you don’t have chipotle powder, you could substitute chipotles en adobo; I’m not sure of the amount (maybe start with a tablespoon?) since I can never find it, but start small and adjust as you taste.
Up to 5 days refrigerated. Up to 6 months frozen.
Fall through winter, or Freezer Clean-Out season (Spring!)