Vegetables in the kitchen with cat

Well, OK. There is one little goblin still hanging around my pumpkins–our kitty, Bear.

Now that the ghosts and goblins have flown for another year, my pumpkins have been pulled in off the porch and earmarked for bigger and better things: soup, bread, pie and pudding. Yet, as I look down my street, I can’t help but lament and lust for the little orange beauties that sit on my neighbors’ porches–most destined for the compost (at best) or the garbage (at worst). While some folks have “clued in” to how easy it is to fix pumpkin and how good fresh tastes over canned—especially those little sugar pie pumpkins—most still view them merely as decoration—a canvas for a scary face or a prop for the family fall photo.

In an effort to encourage a better use of pumpkins everywhere, I’m offering two of our family favorites—Pumpkin and Black Bean Soup and Classic Pumpkin Bread. If you look at the recipes and STILL don’t think you’ll make a pumpkin dish from scratch, you can use canned pumpkin and consider just splitting and tossing your fresh pumpkins to the back of your yard where squirrels, deer, birds and other hungry critters can nibble with delight.

bowl of soup with glass of wine

Sweet, spicy and warm. Pairs really nicely with dry white wine.

We’ve had much-needed rain this week, but it left our days dreary and damp. So to bring back the warmth we made Pumpkin and Black Bean Soup. It’s easier to start this dish the day before—preparing the pumpkin and beans ahead; then, the rest is a breeze.

What You Will Need:

  • Three cloves garlic, minced
  • Half cup chopped red onion
  • One eighth cup olive oil
  • One tablespoon cumin seeds and one more teaspoon ground cumin
  • One teaspoon sea salt
  • One teaspoon cinnamon
  • One half teaspoon allspice (This is a rather interesting choice for soup. If you are not a big fan of allspice and clove flavors, you could certainly omit this. We, however, like the sweetness.)
  • Two cups chopped whole tomatoes (I still have plenty of cherry toms from the garden, so I used those. Frozen works, too, as does a 14.5 oz. can of whole tomatoes in a pinch. If using canned, I’d suggest Muir Glen.)
  • One and a half cups pumpkin puree (Or, if you absolutely must, a 16 oz. can pumpkin. When I’m in a pinch for pumpkin, I trust Farmer’s Market Foods brand.)
  • Three cups cooked black beans (Soak your dry beans for at least eight hours to overnight. Drain, cover with fresh water and cook until completely done.)
  • Four cups vegetable broth (If you are not a vegetarian, you can always use fresh or from-the-carton free-range organic chicken broth.)
  • Fresh ground pepper to taste
  • Three tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • Toasted pumpkin seeds for garnish
  • Avocado for garnish (optional)

Preparation:

Heat the oil in a large pot. Add the whole cumin seeds and simmer as the oil heats up.

Add the onion, garlic and salt. Cook on low until onions and garlic are browned.

Add the ground cumin, cinnamon and allspice. Give it all a stir.

black beans and tomatoes in blender

Begin the puree like this.

Puree the beans and tomatoes with half of the vegetable broth. I find a blender is the best way to do this. Add pureed ingredients, pumpkin and the rest of the broth to the pot.

Pureed black beans and tomatoes

Puree until you get a fairly smooth consistency.

Simmer uncovered until thick, about 40-45 minutes. Before serving, stir in balsamic vinegar and season with fresh black pepper.

Serve with toasted pumpkin seeds and avocado, if you wish.

Want it extra spicy? You could always add a fresh hot pepper, a dash of Harissa or a high-end chili powder. Be brave and creative!

The best part of using fresh pumpkin is that you almost always end up with a little more than you need for one recipe. So I took my extra pumpkin and whipped up our all-time favorite pumpkin bread from The Joy of Cooking. I’ve never found a better recipe than this one—and, believe me, I’ve tried plenty. This one became the hands-down winner when I decided to use up a little extra organic buttermilk for the amount of milk in the recipe. O-M-G. This bread bakes beautifully and freezes to perfection; I always double it, if I can.

slices of pumpkin bread

Classic Pumpkin Bread from The Joy of Cooking

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and have all your ingredients at room temperature. Grease one 9 x 5 standard loaf pan.

Whisk together thoroughly:

  • One and a half cups all-purpose flour (I like a combination of one cup spelt with one-half cup whole wheat pastry flour.)
  • One and a half teaspoons cinnamon
  • One teaspoon baking soda
  • One teaspoon salt
  • One teaspoon ground ginger
  • One half teaspoon ground nutmeg (I zest mine from whole nutmeg and increase to one teaspoon.)
  • One fourth teaspoon ground cloves
  • One fourth teaspoon baking powder

Combine in another bowl:

  • One third cup water or milk (For me this is buttermilk!) and one half teaspoon vanilla

In a large bowl:

  • Beat six tablespoons of butter until creamy, about 30 seconds to a minute.
  • Gradually add one and a third cups sugar (I usually reduce to one heaping cup of raw or organic brown sugar or a mixture of both. Pumpkin has its own sweetness.). Beat on high speed until lightened in color and texture, three to four minutes.
  • Add two large eggs, beating after each addition.
  • Add one cup of pumpkin purée, beating on low just until blended.
  • Add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the milk mixture in two parts, beating on low speed or stirring with a rubber spatula until smooth and scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary.
  • Fold in one half cup chopped walnuts or pecans (We like pecans.) and one third cup raisins or chopped dates (I don’t always add the dried fruit, and I have used cranberries instead of these options.).
  • Scrape the batter into the pan and spread evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about one hour. Let cool in the pan for five to 10 minutes before unmolding to cool completely on a rack.
Pumpkin split in half for baking

Here’s another way to roast a pumpkin: split in half, scrape out the seeds and roast at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes. A great option for larger squash.