Waiting for the Great Pumpkin (Soup, that is)

I dont’ know about you, but when the leaves begin to turn, the days shorten, and the evenings get a chill, my tastebuds long for something warm and savory. And nothing satisfies that longing quite like a steaming bowl of creamy soup.

One of the best bases for low carb savory soups happens to be everywhere this time of year, in fields, grocer’s bins, roadside stands, and for the next month or so, carved and lit on neighborhood front porch steps. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the pumpkin.

A pumpkin is, of course, a member of the squash family and as such weighs in pretty low in sugar and starch, pretty rich in fiber, and as a heavyweight in nutrient density. A half-cup of cooked pumpkin contains only a bit over 6 grams of effective carbohydrate in addition to about 3 grams of fiber. But the real payload in that same half cup comes from the 15,000 plus micrograms of betacarotene and 250 mg of potassium it contains! As a potassium source, bananas can only stand openmouthed in awe. Granted, cup per cup, bananas (at 445 mg per half cup) have more potassium than an equivalent amount of pumpkin, but per gram of useable carb, pumpkin has twice as much. In other words, to get the same 252 mg of potassium provided by a half cup of pumpkin (for 6.3 grams ECC) you’d have to eat 13.4 grams of banana carb.

In addition to its obvious role as a filling for holiday pies, pumpkin, roasted and pureed, makes a great addition to muffiins, cookies, and other quick breads, makes a hearty thickener for the broth of soups or stews, and, as in this case, makes a great soup unto itself.

Since we’ll all be awash in pumpkins from here to New Years Day, I thought now might be a good time to start breaking out the “what to do with” pumpkin ideas from the vault.

Here’s a recipe for one of our favorites, called Velvety Pumpkin Soup. Enjoy it now, as the weather chills, but keep it at the front of the recipe box, because it makes a great first course for Thanksgiving dinner, too.

Velvety Pumpkin Soup

Serves 6

Ingredients

½ stick unsalted butter
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced fine
2 packets Splenda (or Stevia)
2 cups chicken broth
½ cup water
½ teaspoon coarse salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 (15-ounce) can solid pack pumpkin or about 2 cups cooked pumpkin, mashed
2 cups half and half
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 teaspoons crème fraiche or heavy cream (optional garnish)
6 fresh sage leaves (optional garnish)

1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and when it foams and just begins to turn golden, add the onion and garlic. Cook for a minute or two until soft.
2. Add the chicken broth, water, salt, pepper, and sweetener and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook for another 10 to15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Stir in the pumpkin, half and half, and cinnamon and cook another 5 minutes to heat through.
4. Blend with an immersion blender(or transfer soup to a blender or food processor in batches if necessary) and blend until smooth. May be kept a day or two in the refrigerator (once cooled) if desired.
5. Reheat to serve.
6. Garnish each bowl of soup with a dollop of crème fraiche or a flourish of slightly thickened heavy cream and a single leaf of fresh sage in the center.

Enjoy! Oh, and in the meantime, Happy Haunting!

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