Friday, October 21, 2011

Pumpkin and Rio Zape Bean Soup

This Sunday at the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market you can expect the following produce from SLO FarmSweetwater Farm, and Songbird Farm:
  • apples: Liberty, Gala, Jonagold, and apples for processing available in bulk
  • pears and Asian pears
  • pie pumpkins and ornamental pumpkins
  • tomatoes: heirlooms and cherries
  • cucumbers, zucchini, eggplants, string beans
  • peppers including bell peppers, poblano, and hot peppers 
  • root vegetables including beets, turnips, and kohlrabi
  • multiple varieties of potatoes
  • kale, chard, lettuce, Italian parsley, cilantro 
  • onions, leeks, garlic
  • eggs, honey

As soon as we saw these lovely little pie pumpkins from SLO Farm at the market last Sunday, my kids started lobbying for pumpkin pie. All in due time, I thought (here's an excellent pecan praline version I like to make for Thanksgiving), but what I really wanted for a chilly October day was some soup. And what I really wanted in a pumpkin soup was something that had no resemblance to a pumpkin pie.

Also I still had some dried heirloom beans from last year's CSA from Lonesome Whistle Farm to use up before our next season starts. Inspired by a black bean and pumpkin soup from Smitten KitchenI combined these pretty purple rio zapes with a riot of autumn colors: our orange pumpkin, and red peppers and purple onions from Sweetwater Farm.

I started the soup with sauteed onion, peppers, and garlic, to which I added a rich spice palette of cumin, chipotle chili powder, and smoked paprika, and a chopped tomato.

While this base cooked down, my son and I attacked the pumpkin, me with a chef's knife and he with an ice cream scoop.

If you're deconstructing a pumpkin, you may as well use the goopy insides to make a quick stock, which can simmer while you carve off the skin and toast the seeds.

Then I quickly pureed the soup base into a paste in the bottom of my slow cooker, added in cubed pumpkin and beans, and left it to simmer on low for 6 hours. Once both pumpkin and beans were nice and soft, I fished out a few of the beans for texture, and pureed the rest. The final soup was rich and hearty with the natural sweetness of the pumpkin tempered by the toasted spices and beans, and it was enjoyed by even the most ardent pie proponents.

Pumpkin and Rio Zape Bean Soup

1 small pie pumpkin
2 cups (1 lb) rio zape beans (or substitute black turtle beans), sorted and rinsed
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small red pepper, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tomato diced (or substitute 2 Tbsp tomato paste)
2 Tbsp neutral oil such as grapeseed
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp ground cumin
3/4 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp chipotle chili powder
8 cups water
salt to taste
splash of dry sherry
sour cream for serving

1. With a large chef's knife, slice the pumpkin in half and use an ice cream scoop to remove the insides. Reserve the seeds for roasting and use the remaining pumpkin pulp to make a quick pumpkin stock. Combine the pulp with about a quarter of the chopped onion, 8 cups water, the red pepper flakes, and a generous amount of salt. Simmer for about half an hour. Then pass through a strainer to collect all of the solids. You should have about 7 cups of stock. Taste and adjust seasonings.

2. While the stock simmers, cut of the skin of the pumpkin and cut the flesh into 1 1/2 inch cubes. If you like, toss the pumpkin seeds in olive oil, some coarse sea salt, and (if there are no objections from the peanut gallery) some smoked paprika, and roast in a 350 oven or a toaster oven for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally (watch that they don't burn).

3. Heat a skillet or the base of a slow cooker if yours can go on the stove top. Add the oil and saute the remaining chopped onions until glassy. Add the diced pepper and saute for another couple of minutes. Add the garlic and saute for a minute. Then add the spices and allow to toast in the oil for a couple of minutes. Add the tomato, reduce to a simmer, and cook for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally, until you have a fragrant, thick sauce. 

4. At this point, your stock should be ready. Add a cup of stock to the spice base and transfer this mixture to the base of a slow cooker. If you want to ensure a smooth soup later on, you can use an immersion blender at this point to puree the mixture into a smooth paste. Now add the pumpkin cubes, the dried beans, and the remaining stock. Cook on low for about 6 hours until the pumpkin and beans are both soft. Alternatively you could cook this from the start in a Dutch oven on the stovetop over very low heat, which will require less time but more supervision and a little more liquid.

5. Once the beans and pumpkin are soft, you can finish the soup. If you would like to preserve some whole beans, fish out about 1/2 cup of them with a slotted spoon. Then puree the pumpkin and beans with an immersion blender. Taste and adjust the seasoning, add back the reserved beans and add a little water if the soup seems too thick. To brighten the flavor, add a splash of dry sherry as you rewarm the soup after pureeing it. Serve the soup with a dollop of sour cream, and, if they haven't already been nibbled away, a garnish of roasted pumpkin seeds.

Other recipes for heirloom beans


Renee said...

Very interesting. I wonder if I would like it. After my last attempt I thought perhaps pumpkin soup wasn't my thing. Thanks for the recipe!

Elly said...

I had all the ingredients on hand from our CSA (except the pumpkin which I got last weekend at Thistledown during our pumpkin patch adventure). I used Swedith Maydor Beans because that's what I had, and I had already roasted the pumpkin. I couldn't resist making pumpkin pie and pumpkin scones (even before Thanksgiving!!), but still had plenty leftover in the freezer. Yum!! Thanks for a great dinner idea!