Because I always want it to be summer, I am dismayed when I see rows of pumpkins lined up in front of my local supermarket. Not yet! Not yet! But then, there's always an upside if you look for it. For anyone who is ready for the shift, this will be welcome, and if you're not ready, at least there's some consolation in delicious fall food.
Roasted pumpkin simmered with onion, celery, yellow pepper and tomatoes and spiked with coconut milk makes a quintessential vegetarian fall soup. Take the work out of roasting the pumpkin by placing halves on a baking sheet, seeds, peel and all. Once it softens in the oven, scraping out the seeds and peeling is easy.
For cooking and baking, look for sugar pumpkins, also called pie pumpkins. They have dense, smooth flesh and weigh from three to five pounds. Larger “carving” pumpkins have stringy, watery flesh and little flavor, so save them for jack o’lanterns or decoration.
Roasted pumpkin soup with coconut milk
1 sugar pumpkin (about 3 pounds)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (or olive oil for vegan)
1 onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into large dice
2 plum (Roma) tomatoes, cut into large dice
2 teaspoons coriander seed, crushed in a mortar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup cooked chickpeas
1 can (15 ounces) light coconut milk
4 cups water
3 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
1. Set the oven at 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Halve the pumpkin. Place the halves, flat side down, on the baking sheet. Roast for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the flesh is soft. Cool on the baking sheet to warm room temperature. With a sharp spoon, scoop out and discard the seeds (or save them for roasting). Scoop out the flesh and discard the peel.
3. Meanwhile, in a large pot over medium heat, melt the butter (or heat the oil.) Add the onion, celery and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes, or until soft. Add the tomatoes, coriander seed, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Cook and stir for 1 minute.
4. Add the pumpkin, chickpeas, coconut milk and water. Bring to a simmer, and cook for 15 minutes. Stir in the lime juice and honey.
5. In a blender in batches, puree the soup until smooth. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, pepper and lime juice, if you like. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with chopped cilantro.