Pumpkin Black Bean Soup
MUSIC PAIRING: Citizen Cope, The Clarence Greenwood Recordings
There’s an energy to Fall. It’s like an unspoken electricity that people of all ages and personalities share. When you live in a walking city, this electricity is more apparent as everyone you pass by on the sidewalk, with their pumpkin lattes in hand, seems to be in on the same secret. We break out our comfy sweaters, our cute boots, our fingerless gloves – oh wait, that’s just the hipsters – and we relish in the crisp, cool air that’s replaced the swamp that is a New York City Summer. I’ve most often referred to the way I feel in Fall as ‘frisky’. Anyone else feel me on that? I think Fall whisks in a comfort that can only be felt when the nights are cool enough for soup and red wine.
I thrive on tradition. I love the way you can measure a life by the traditions you share with people you love. This year, that’s taken on a new meaning as I cope with the loss of my father. He’ll no longer grill steaks for Labor Day or annoy Mom on Thanksgiving by going in and out of the house all afternoon or steal sausage balls from the platter before everything is ready on Christmas morning. These moments, these traditions I have built my life upon, bring with them joy and pain this year. Despite the heartache that my family will feel for years to come when we face each tradition-heavy situation, it is in that very tradition that I’m able to find joy in sadness. Because of the years we’ve spent as a family defining and practicing tradition, we will be able to think of my dad and smile because he always fell asleep on the couch with an unfinished glass of wine on Christmas Eve.
One of the more adolescent traditions I love is pumpkin carving each year. Allison and I started doing so in 2008 and we’ve kept it alive since aside from when I lived in Denver. The day goes like this. We meet up, chat a bit over some cocktails, get down to carving business and have dinner together after. I make a new pumpkin themed dish each year and since Allison has now gone to wine school, she pairs the wine. Sorry to brag but our food and wine skills are on point, yo. We really should marry each other. Anyhow, it’s such a fun day and this year, Colleen and Stacy joined us.
Dinner each year has typically been a pumpkin pasta dish but I went in a different direction this time. Switching from humid Summer air to crisp Fall air always makes me want soup. Always. So, I finally dusted off the recipe I’d printed from Smitten Kitchen so many years ago and got to work.
I wish the smell of onions cooking in butter could be a perfume. I’d wear that business all day. That or bacon perfume. Think I’d attract even more guys if I wore that?
While quite the ugly duckling of photos, it’s not of flavor.
I know, that puree looks like something from the sewer. Let’s just move on.
A lot of folks commented on this recipe saying they couldn’t taste the pumpkin really so I doubled it. I still didn’t get the punch of flavor I was hoping for but if anything, this makes a killer black bean soup.
I thought the pumpkin would actually make it look much better but no, it does not.
I served this soup with a healthy dollop of sour cream, some crusty French bread and a delicious arugula salad tossed in sherry-grape vinaigrette with toasted almonds, grapes and sharp provolone shaved over the top. The salad alone could’ve stolen this pumpkin show so I’ll most likely be posting the recipe for that soon because dang, it was good.
I hope that whatever Fall traditions you share with your friends and family, they’re as cozy, memorable and special as mine. And if you don’t have any in place yet, maybe pumpkin carving is just the ticket to get that started.
Why Citizen Cope? He’s got this systematic way about his music that I totally dig. I often play Citizen Cope when I’m looking to kinda zone out a bit but not in the I’m-thinking-about-nothing way but more in the methodical get-in-a-routine kinda way. Chopping and stirring lends itself to getting in that zone so I was definitely feeling Cope while I made this soup.
Recipe barely adapted from: Smitten Kitchen
- Three 15 1/2 ounce cans black beans (about 4 1/2 cups), rinsed and drained
- 1 cup drained canned tomatoes, chopped
- 1 1/4 cups chopped onion
- 1/2 cup minced shallot
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 stick unsalted butter
- 4 cups beef broth
- Two 16 ounce cans pumpkin puree
- 1/2 cup dry Sherry
- 1/2 pound cooked ham, cut into 1/8-inch dice
- 3 to 4 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- A couple of dashes of cayenne pepper
- In a food processor, coarsely puree beans and tomatoes.
- In a 6-quart heavy pot, melt the butter over medium heat and cook onion, shallot, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper, stirring until onion is softened and beginning to brown. Stir in bean puree. Stir in broth, pumpkin and sherry until combined and simmer, uncovered and stirring occasionally, for 25 minutes or until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
- Just before serving, add ham and vinegar and simmer soup for 10 more minutes. Taste and season with more salt and pepper as needed.
- Serve soup garnished with sour cream and toasted pumpkin seeds (if yours actually aren't burned to a crisp like mine).
- While you can buy some generic "sherry cooking wine" at the the store, I encourage you to pick up a small bottle of something inexpensive at the liquor store such as Tio Pepe. The flavor is so much better and less, I don't know, "fabricated" than the grocery store stuff. Plus, you can use it again to make my sherry mushrooms with fontina cheese that I'll be posting soon. Win!