I’m a big fan of butternut squash soup. It’s one of those dishes that I always order whenever I see it on a menu. (I really enjoyed the Southwestern version that I had at Centro, in Boulder, Colorado, when I was there for business just the other day.) I also love its close cousin, pumpkin soup. Although it’s harder to come by than butternut squash soup, you’ll have more luck finding it this time of year. Needless to say, I try to get my fill of pumpkin soup before it’s out of season. In fact, these days, I’ve become a bit of a regular at Raku, an innovative Asian restaurant in Bethesda—their Ginger Pumpkin Soup is positively addictive.
I enjoy pumpkin soup so much, I decided to see if I could concoct my own version at home—I’ve never made this type of soup before, and I was wondering if I could create one that wasn’t as high in sodium as most other soups. It took two attempts. The first, involving fresh pumpkin, was an embarrassment I’d rather forget. The second, a canned pumpkin puree version, was good; I’m curious to hear what you think. (Note: Unless you hoard canned pumpkin, you have only a few months to make pumpkin dishes; by early next year, the cans will be scarce on supermarket shelves.)
There are so many reasons why pumpkins are a good pick—they’re subtly sweet and have a natural creaminess. Plus, they’re nutritional powerhouses: A mere 1/2 cup of canned pumpkin puree is just 45 calories, contains 4 grams of fiber and douses you with nearly four times the daily value for vitamin A. (It’s fine to get that much at once when it’s the plant form of vitamin A—beta and alpha carotene.)
Unfortunately, the health perks are often dashed by all the sodium in so many pumpkin soups. My version is 50 percent (or more) lower in sodium than the other pumpkin soup recipes I found in cookbooks and online. I did this by skipping salt entirely while cooking. So, don’t panic if it’s pretty bland when you ladle it into bowls. At that point, you add a pinch of salt to each bowl (some of you will be happier with two pinches, which is fine), then garnish with flavorful spiced pumpkin seeds and a spritz of lemon juice.
Pumpkin Soup with Spiced Pumpkin Seeds
Makes 6 servings (about 1 cup each)
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 35 minutes
For the soup:
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup peeled, chopped shallots
2 cans (15 ounces each) canned plain pumpkin puree (not spiced pumpkin)
2 fresh sage leaves, minced
6 to 12 pinches salt (about 1/16 teaspoon each)
1 1/2 to 3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
For the spiced pumpkin seeds
Vegetable oil cooking spray
1 teaspoon olive oil
3/4 cup hulled raw pumpkin seeds
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch (about 1/16 teaspoon) of salt
1. Heat a large, heavy-bottomed stockpot or high-sided sauté pan over medium heat. Add 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil, let heat for 20 seconds, and then add shallots. Sauté over medium heat for about 3 to 4 minutes, until soft and translucent.
2. Add pumpkin puree to pot along with 3 cups water, cover and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove lid and simmer another 2 minutes.
3. While soup is simmering, combine all spices and sugar for pumpkin seeds in a small bowl. Heat a medium sauté pan (I used cast iron) over medium high heat. Coat with cooking spray and olive oil. Add pumpkin seeds, stirring, for about 2 minutes, then add spice mixture, cooking and stirring another minute. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
4. When pumpkin mixture finishes simmering, add sage, stir, and turn off heat.
5. Let cool slightly, and then blend in a food processor blender until sage becomes small specks.
6. Ladle out 1-cup servings into soup bowls. Garnish each serving with a pinch of salt, a spritz of lemon juice (about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon) and top with 2 tablespoons of spiced pumpkin seeds. If it’s not salty enough, add another pinch of salt.
Protein: 11 g
Carbohydrate: 18 g
Dietary Fiber: 5 g
Total Sugars: 5 g
Total Fat: 16 g
Saturated Fat: 2.9 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Calcium: 56 mg
Sodium: 183 mg (366 mg if you add 2 pinches salt to soup)