black bean pumpkin soup

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I know this sounds like the tiniest of triumphs in a world of people who have respectable accomplishments to be proud of, but nonetheless, it brings me great pleasure to announce that I have found a pumpkin soup that meets my approval.

Yes, I know, who talks about pumpkin soup in November? It seems like strictly an October affair. Pumpkins crowd the markets, and the people gather round with an evil glint in their eyes, eager to carve them up and roast their innards, mwa-ha-ha. You can barely turn your head without finding another half dozen pumpkin recipes, and oh, I know, I’ve spread my share around.

Alex and I bought three smallish pumpkins to carve this year, but the weeks leading up to Halloween were chaotic and we never got to them. Feeling guilty that they were about to go to waste, I roasted and pureed one and a half of them (and stupidly deleted the pictures before, uh, downloading them from the camera), before deciding it was an absolutely excessive amount of work and entirely not worth it. I hear everyone goes through this same process once in their lives.

Nonetheless, I have cups and cups of puree, and I decided it time to find a pumpkin soup I can actually get along with. Your see, I pick on a good lot of them. I don’t like them sweet. I don’t like them with cinnamon or warm spices. I don’t like them with cream. I don’t like them too smooth and I especially don’t like them boring, like warmed pumpkin milk. Suffice it to say, I don’t eat a lot of pumpkin soup.

But this is about to change. This soup is loud. Beefy, spicy, smoky, textured and complex, ten times better than I even knew pumpkin soup could be. It has no cream. It is thickened by coarsely-pureed black beans. The pumpkin puree is just one star in an ensemble cast.

With a salad and a crusty piece of bread, it is substantial enough to be a meal, and I cannot wait to eat it again tomorrow, which is actually somewhat inconvenient, considering the whole new recipe every day thang this month. Fear not, though. I have something else up my sleeve, but you knew that. Don’t I always?

Accompaniment: Elise’s brined and baked pumpkin seeds, which will be my new go-to recipe

One year ago: When the Stars Make You Drool

Black Bean Pumpkin Soup
Gourmet, November 1996

Yield: 9 cups

Three 15 1/2 ounce cans black beans (about 4 1/2 cups), rinsed and drained
1 cup drained canned tomatoes, chopped
1 1/4 cups chopped onion
1/2 cup minced shallot
4 garlic cloves minced
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
4 cups beef broth
a 16-ounce can pumpkin puree (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup dry Sherry
1/2 pound cooked ham, cut into 1/8-inch dice
3 to 4 tablespoons Sherry vinegar

Garnish: sour cream and coarsely chopped lightly toasted pumpkin seeds

In a food processor coarsely puree beans and tomatoes.

In a 6-quart heavy kettle cook onion, shallot, garlic, cumin, salt, and pepper in butter over moderate heat, stirring, until onion is softened and beginning to brown. Stir in bean puree. Stir in broth, pumpkin, and Sherry until combined and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 25 minutes, or until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Just before serving, add ham and vinegar and simmer soup, stirring, until heated through. Season soup with salt and pepper.

Serve soup garnished with sour cream and toasted pumpkin seeds.

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