This recipe arose from a desire to make a hearty, heart-warming pumpkin soup, but to avoid the pitfalls of a soup that tastes a tad too much like pumpkin pie. I was inspired by a black bean and pumpkin soup from Smitten Kitchen, but here I started with dried beans (some lovely purple rio zapes, but black beans would work as well) and a real pumpkin that yielded up not only flesh for the soup, but pulp for a quick broth, and paprika roasted pumpkin seeds for garnish. —Fairmount_market
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.
While the stock simmers, cut off the skin of the pumpkin and cut the flesh into 1 1/2 inch cubes.
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.
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. I'm a fan of cooking beans in a slow cooker because I like the way the slow, low heat allows them to plump up and infuse with flavor.
While the soup is cooking, roast the pumpkin seeds. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees. Toss the pumpkin seeds in a glug of olive oil, a sprinkle of smoked paprika, and some coarse sea salt. Spread them on a cookie sheet with a lip and roast them for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally (watch that they don't burn) until they are nicely brown and fragrant.
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 a garnish of roasted paprika pumpkin seeds.
I'm a biology professor and mother of two, and in my (limited) free time I love to cook, which is much more forgiving than laboratory science. Last year I helped start a farmers market in my neighborhood, and to promote it, I created a food blog: fairmountmarket.blogspot.com. I enjoy the challenge of coming up with recipes for local, seasonal ingredients and finding fun ways to cook with my children.