Savor a Sumptuous Celebration: Pumpkin Soup with Wild Mushrooms and Thyme

Simple and delicious, these recipes taste like harvest and homecoming.

| October/November 2005

Serves 6

This tasty soup has a natural sweetness because of the pumpkin, bell pepper and onion, and a slightly earthy flavor from the mushrooms. If you like spicy dishes, you could add a chopped, dried ancho or pasilla pepper to give this soup a deeper, pungent flavor. Any of the winter squashes can be used in place of the pumpkin. I like to use butternut, blue Hubbard, Delicata and Sweetie Dumpling squash. Take care in adding salt — if your stock is salted already, you don’t want to oversalt the soup.

• 2- to 2 1/2 -pound pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice
• 5 cups vegetable or mushroom stock
• About 3/4 cup dried shiitake or porcini mushrooms, cut into small pieces
• 2 bay leaves, preferably fresh
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 medium onion, diced medium fine
• 6 cloves garlic, minced
• 5 ounces shiitake mushrooms, cleaned, stemmed and torn or cut into bite-sized pieces
• 1 red bell pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded and diced
• 1 generous tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves, crumbled
• 8 fresh sage leaves, stacked and cut crosswise into very thin chiffonade, or 1 generous teaspoon crumbled dried sage leaves
• About 1 teaspoon salt (if stock is not salted)
• Freshly ground black pepper
• 1 pinch ground cayenne pepper, optional
• 4 dashes Angostura bitters
• 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Put pumpkin or squash in a heavy-bottomed soup pot and cover with stock. Add dried mushroom pieces and bay leaves. Cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat and cook at a bare simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In a small sauté pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add garlic and shiitakes and cook another minute or so. Stir in bell pepper and thyme, and cover for 2 minutes. Transfer sautéed vegetables into soup pot with squash. Add sage, season with salt and pepper, and cook over low heat, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes.

Puree the soup in batches in a blender or food mill. Puree all of the soup, if desired, or leave about a third of the soup chunky if you want the texture. Return soup to the pot and season with cayenne, if desired, bitters and lemon juice and stir well. Heat gently, covered, for a few minutes. Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt or pepper. This soup is actually better made in advance, refrigerated and reheated just before serving.

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