The Pleasures of Pumpkin Soup

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

Ingredients
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

Instructions
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.

Nutritional Information
1 serving
Calories: 238
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)

 

 

 

 

About Janis Jibrin, M.S., R.D., Best Life Lead Nutritionist

Janis can’t help but be immersed in nutrition, and not just because she is a registered dietitian or writes about the topic daily for TheBestLife.com. It’s also because she simply loves food, and will try just about any dish you put in front of her. In addition to her work for The Best Life, Janis is a contributing editor at SELF magazine. She also wrote The Life You Want with Bob Greene and psychologist Ann Kearney-Cooke and The Best Life Guide to Managing Diabetes and Pre-Diabetes (Simon & Schuster 2009), along with Bob and endocrinologist and Best Life chief medical advisor John J. Merendino Jr., M.D. When she’s able to get away from the kitchen and her computer, she often walks around Washington, D.C., a wonderful walking city with lots of ethnic food stores, farmer’s markets and great restaurants. (Did we mention she loves food?)

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  • Susan Rubio

    Janis, I am a huge fan of pumpkin, but I’ve never had pumpkin soup. This is a “must try!” The spiced pumpkin seeds sound like a scrumptious addition! I haven’t had much luck cooking with fresh pumpkin, but my grocery store carries an organic canned pumpkin that I’ve used for muffins. I am definitely going to try this, and I’ll let you know what I think! YUM!

  • Delica Tessen

    I love the Ginger-Pumpkin soup at Raku Restaurant !
    I tried making some this evening for dinner and it came pretty close.
    I quartered a small pie pumpkin and steamed it till soft. Let cool a
    bit and scooped the pulp from the skin. Oh yeah, removed the seeds
    before steaming. Pureed the pulp and added very finely grated fresh
    ginger and a clove of garlic. Added juice from 1/2 a lemon and about
    a tsp. of herbed salt, four pats of unsalted butter and a dash of tamari.

    Then I toasted some whole grain bread and spread it with herbed goat
    butter. This was served as a side to the soup.

    Marvelous…. simply marvelous ! But, I still need those amazing croutons
    that Raku tops their superb ginger pumpkin soup with. Enjoy !