I can’t pass up a pumpkin. As soon as I see winter squash laid out in rows at our local produce stand, I have to stop and buy many more than we’ll actually eat. My daughter will insist that we pick up a pie pumpkin or two, while I’m drawn to the less traditional ones: the crookneck cushaws (which actually taste better in pies than the pie pumpkins), the blue hubbards, the pretty sweet dumplings, the hard-to-find kabocha. If a pumpkin is truly fresh, it will keep through most of the winter in a cool place, but every year it seems I don’t use at least one in time and it goes from being a pretty table decoration to expensive compost. The thing that makes winter squash so attractive, their colorful skin, is the same thing that makes them seem intimidating and time-consuming to cook. That colorful rind is hard to peel and tough to cut through.
There’s an easy solution, to the peeling part at least. I bake it. I still need to get out my biggest, sharpest knife to cut it in half, but once I’ve muscled through that job and scraped out all the seeds and goop, I plop it into the oven and cook it until the orange flesh practically falls off that pesky skin. Then I add it to dishes where it doesn’t need to be too solid, or I blend it until it’s smooth and creamy, as in this soup, which isn’t quite ridiculously easy but is fairly simple. Once the baked pumpkin was cool enough to handle, I scraped it off the rind and straight into my Vitamix, added the other ingredients, and blended it until smooth. (I was able to get the entire batch blended in my Vitamix with no problem, but if you’re working with another blender, you may need to blend it in batches.) Most bisque recipes call for the soup to be strained, but I like keeping all of the fiber, and the Vitamix makes it just as smooth as a fancy French strainer would.
I was in the mood for berbere, the aromatic Ethiopian spice mixture, so I used some I had leftover from making Ethiopian-Inspired Red Lentil Soup. I’ve included the berbere recipe in the notes, but the truth is, you can season this basic soup with garam masala, curry powder, or just about any seasoning that catches your fancy. But if you like flavors that are sultry, spicy, and a little sweet, you really ought to give this Ethiopian-inspired version a try.
Ethiopian-Spiced Pumpkin Bisque
This is a very versatile recipe. You can use any type of winter squash instead of pumpkin and any type of seasoning instead of berbere, so this could be Curry-Spiced Butternut Soup or Baharat-Spiced Cushaw Soup. Just be sure you use around 3 cups of cooked squash and add seasonings carefully because they vary in potency.
- 1 small (about 3-pounds) pie pumpkin or winter squash (about 3 cups cooked pumpkin)
- 1 small onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 3 cups vegetable broth
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 – 4 teaspoons berbere spice mix* (or to taste)
- 1/2 – 1 cup non-dairy milk,as needed (I used unsweetened So Delicious coconut beverage, but any kind will do)
- 2 teaspoons lime juice
- salt and black pepper, to taste
- pumpkin seeds for garnish, optional
- Preheat oven to 350. Cut the pumpkin or squash in half and scrape out all seeds and strings. Place it cut-side up on a baking sheet and cover with foil (or place in a large, covered baking dish). Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until flesh is very tender when pricked with a fork. Remove and allow to cool until it can be handled comfortably.
- Cook the onion in a large, non-stick pot over medium-high heat until it begins to brown. (If it starts to stick, add a tablespoon of water and stir well.) Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add a splash of the vegetable broth to deglaze the pan, and then pour the onions into the blender. Scrape the pumpkin out of its shell and add the flesh to the blender, along with the remaining broth, tomato paste, and berbere spice mix. Blend until smooth.
- Pour the contents of the blender back into the pan, cover, and bring to a low boil. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Add the non-dairy milk, using as much as needed to reach the right consistency. Add the lime juice, salt, and pepper, and simmer for about 5 more minutes before serving. Serve in shallow bowls, sprinkled with pumpkin seeds, if desired.
To make the berberé spice mixture, combine:
1 tsp. ground cardamom
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground fenugreek
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. cayenne pepper (use less to decrease spiciness or substitute paprika)
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. ground sea salt (optional)
This makes 4 tablespoons of seasoning, but the bisque only calls for 2-4 teaspoons. Store the leftover seasoning in a spice jar in a cool, dark place.
Preparation time: 10 minute(s) | Cooking time: 50 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 6
Nutrition (per serving, using plain soymilk): 75 calories, 5 calories from fat, <1g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 273.3mg sodium, 749.7mg potassium, 17g carbohydrates, 2.2g fiber, 3.9g sugar, 3.6g protein, 2.4 points.