Pumpkin Soup & Spinach Salad with Warm Walnut Vinaigrette

It feels strange to be sitting down to write about a meal that consisted of hot soup and a warm vinaigrette-dressed salad. It feels even stranger to know that my dinner tonight is going to be pumpkin pancakes with a hearty mushroom stew. It’s 65 and sunny here. Even my knit sweater feels inappropriate for the weather; forget how silly I feel in the Ugg boots I threw on this morning without consulting weather.com. Still, it’s November, and not even a gorgeous day that reminds me of Father’s Day more than Turkey Day can keep me from talking about pumpkin. (It does, however, make me wish that I hadn’t left my ice cream maker at home, since a batch of pumpkin ice cream sounds just about perfect today!)

In honor of Halloween a few weeks ago, I made myself a dinner consisting of pumpkin soup and a spinach salad dressed with a warm olive oil and walnut vinaigrette. The pumpkin soup actually had to grow on me, as the first spoonful reminded me a little bit too much of chicken stock and not enough of pumpkin. I was expecting a thicker soup, more of a slightly-thinned-out bowl of pumpkin puree, so the broth-based soup that I wound up with really just took me by surprise. In the end, though, I was really happy with it – it was nice and light, yet at the same time – especially when paired with the spinach salad – was actually more than enough for me. I wound up saving half of it for the lunch the next day! The chicken stock, which I might reduce just a smidge next time (reflected in the recipe below), pairs exceptionally well with the pumpkin, making it taste absolutely like fall in a bowl. I also replaced all of the sugar with half the amount of maple syrup, and used nutmeg instead of allspice. It was great! For a more substantial meal, pair it with a loaf of homemade bread, or a nice sandwich (in fact, it’d be just about heavenly next to a sandwich made from Thanksgiving leftovers)!

I didn’t have homemade bread or a sandwich, though – on the side of this soup, I had one of the best salads I have had in a while. I do enjoy traditional salads, but I’m also the kind of person who likes my food hot 9 times out of 10. The creation of a warm oil and nut vinaigrette was the perfect solution for a brisk, fall evening. I really didn’t change much in the recipe – I just used red wine vinegar because that’s what I had, and I admittedly burnt the walnuts a little (but they just tasted reminiscent of popcorn so who’s going to complain, really?). The vinegar added just enough sweetness so that sugar wasn’t necessary, and it was extremely filling due to the heart-healthy fats in the oil and walnuts.  You can find the recipe for the spinach and walnut salad over at In Good Taste.

Pumpkin Soup, adapted from The College Culinarian
Yield: 4-6 servings

The Ingredients
1 can (15 ounces) unseasoned pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons butter
3 1/3 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon maple syrup
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
nutmeg and cinnamon, to taste

The Method
Combine the pumpkin and stock in a saucepan over medium heat. Once the mixture is heated through, stir in the maple syrup and a dash of pepper, then allow to simmer for a few minutes. Drizzle with melted butter, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Adjust seasonings, then serve.


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