This weekend came with a heavy dose of nostalgia that followed me into the kitchen. It all started when I went to see Matt Nathanson in concert in Chicago on Saturday night. (If you’re not familiar with him and like indie pop music and talented songwriting I couldn’t recommend him more highly.) It was particularly fun because the last time I saw him in concert was in October of 2005, so when he played some of his old material it was like a trip down memory lane. It took me back to the place in my life when I had just graduated from college. I was living on my own for the first time and trying to navigate so many new experiences – post-college dating (which, quite frankly, I think I am continually trying to master), homeownership, and a full-time professional job. It was also when I first began to cook in earnest. And as if I wasn’t digging far enough back in my memory, this recipe is inspired by an even earlier moment in time. Believe it or not, I had never had pumpkin soup (that I remembered) until I was 13 and on a summer educational trip to Australia and New Zealand. One of the few dishes I still remember from the trip was the pumpkin soup. I still remember its richness, golden color, and ever so light hint of cinnamon. It was so good that I’m amazed I’ve never made it sooner.
This is my version. It came together quickly thanks to the pantry staples of vegetable broth, canned pumpkin, and evaporated milk.
Since I normally prefer to make things from scratch canned pumpkin feels a bit sacrilegious. But I have to admit, having made my own pumpkin puree before that I think fresh pumpkins can be pretty inconsistent in flavor and texture. Some are robust and creamy, others watery and a bit bland. So canned pumpkin for me it is. Also in my pantry arsenal was some Pacific Foods Organic Vegetable Broth I was sent to sample for the blog. I’ve cooked with, and loved, their beef and chicken broths in the past and the vegetable broth was equally great. I do believe that homemade broth usually has the best flavor, but if you don’t have the time to make your own, this brand tastes the closest to homemade of what I’ve tried.
My version does take a departure from the more classic creamy pumpkin soup with the addition of chipotle peppers and goat cheese that are blended right into the soup. I was struck with the idea after eating my Smoky and Spicy Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Bacon and Goat Cheese. Eating them I kept thinking that not only would the goat cheese and chipotles pair well with Pumpkin as well, but also that I would love them as a soup. I skipped the bacon to make it Meatless Monday appropriate, but I imagine that it would be as tasty in this soup as it was in the sweet potatoes. However, I have to admit that there were so many tasty flavors going on in this soup that I didn’t miss it.
I garnished my soup with crumbles of additional goat cheese and blue corn tortilla chips, but I imagine this would be great with some crumbled up corn bread as well and perhaps a little crema or sour cream to balance out the heat of the chipotles. I loved the way the flavors of this soup worked together. The chipotles added the perfect amount of heat, the goat cheese added just the slightest tang, and cinnamon rounded out the flavors. And I’m always a sucker for the creamy flavor and texture that comes from a mix of evaporated milk and half and half. All and all it was perfect for slow sipping on a chilly fall afternoon.
Very loosely inspired by Libby’s Creamy Pumpkin Soup
Yields 10-12 servings
-2 tablespoons butter
-1 medium onion, diced
-1 cup diced carrots
-1 cup diced celery
-2 cloves garlic
-1 quart vegetable broth
-1 29 ounce can pumpkin
-2 tablespoons minced chipotles in adobo sauce (this yield a medium to hot soup for my taste, if you prefer something milder, cut back to 1 tablespoon)
-1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
-1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
-1/2 cup half and half
-4 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled, plus additional for garnish, if desired
-2 tablespoons brown sugar
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-Freshly ground black pepper to taste
-Blue corn chips, if desired, for garnish
Melt the butter in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery and sauté 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté 5 minuts longer.
Add the vegetable broth and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low so broth is at a simmer; cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.
Add the pumpkin, chipotles in adobo, and cinnamon. Simmer for 15 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.
Transfer soup, in batches, to a blender or food processor. Cover tightly and blend until smooth. Return soup to the dutch oven.
Keeping the saucepan on low, stir in the remaining ingredients until the goat cheese is well incorporated, the brown sugar has melted, and the soup hot enough to serve. Season with the salt and pepper. If soup is too spicy, add additional half and half to mellow it out. Ladle into bowls and garnish with blue corn chips and additional goat cheese crumbles as desired.