Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Soup of the Evening, Beautiful Soup!

I got up ridiculously early this morning to email my comments on her paper to a grad student, but then I discovered I'd left that folder in my office, so instead I made soup.  (Yes, I know a normal person would go back to bed.) This delicious and super-easy recipe seems especially right for this time of year.  I'm a great believer in soup.  It's easy to make, the longer-cooking varieties are especially good at making the house smell wonderfully welcoming, it's usually (but not always) healthy and relatively low in calories, and there's just something cozy and comforting and delightful about a bowl of soup. I always felt that way as a child, when a grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of Campbell's tomato soup was the ultimate comfort food.  Since then I've lost my taste for canned soup, but since most soups are so simple, I don't miss Campbell's (though I do use canned chicken broth). So without further ado, here's the recipe for:

Pumpkin Peanut Butter Soup (3 to 4 servings)
16 ounces canned pumpkin or 2 cups fresh or frozen pumpkin puree (thawed)
2 Tablespoons butter
1 smallish to medium onion, chopped
2 cups chicken broth
1/8 cup (2 T.) creamy peanut butter, preferably the natural kind
1/4 cup heavy cream or milk (or half-and-half, and the fatfree works fine)
salt and pepper to taste
Tabasco or other hot sauce to taste (I use a good couple of shakes)

In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.  Add onion and sauté until light golden brown. Add pumpkin and chicken broth and heat to boiling.  Add peanut butter and cream and stir until smooth. Cover and simmer over low heat for a few minutes.  Season to taste.  Purée in the blender if you like (I do this if I'm using home-cooked fresh or frozen pumpkin, which sometimes has stringy fibers).

Depending on how much energy I have this evening, I may make cornbread to go along with the soup, corn and pumpkin being such classic harvest partners, and this recipe (which I sent to Sunset magazine several years ago and which they actually published!) is delicious and so easy. It makes a slightly sweet cornbread with a nice, moist texture.

Really Good Cornbread
1 cup flour
1 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup plain nonfat yogurt
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 400; spray an 8" or 9" square or round pan (I use a cast iron skillet).
Mix all the ingredients together, pour them into the pan, and bake 20-25 minutes until it's browned nicely on top and a toothpick comes out clean if you poke it in the center.

 It just occurred to me that you could core some apples and stuff the holes with brown sugar, cinnamon, and a little butter on top and put them in the oven when you start preheating it.  They might not be done when the cornbread is, but it wouldn't be much longer until they're tender and you have baked apples for dessert (especially nice with a drizzle of cream or a scoop of ice cream, or maybe a spoonful of sweetened or vanilla yogurt).

 So there you have it: pumpkin, corn, and apples, the perfect autumn supper, with very little effort.

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