Jack-o-Lantern Soup for Halloween

Having a Halloween party? A neighborhood soup night in late October? A family soup supper after Trick or Treating? How about a delicious, healthy soup in Halloween colors. No kid in the world will consider corn chowder an acceptable substitute for candy corn, but the grownups need something of substance. And even the candy-stuffed kids might surprise you. Especially if you offer them Jack-o-Lantern Soup.

Jack-o-Lantern Soup is essentially pumpkin soup. Don’t even try to start with a big pumpkin from the market; lots of work for very little gain. Make it easy on yourself – use canned pumpkin. (But read the labels. Make sure you buy just plain canned pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling, which has added sugar and sweet spices. Not the taste you want in soup.) Add sweet potatoes for vivacious color and extra nutrition. Make a big batch of soup and divide it in half; keep it simple for kids, more complex for the adults.

A basic recipe follows. For a kid version: add grated apple and a pinch of cinnamon. Grown-up version: add a dab of sriracha, or curry powder and coconut milk, or adobo sauce, or fried basil leaves, or . . . . you get the idea.

Totally Simple Pumpkin Soup    Makes 4 servings

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, diced
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil or olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree
  • 2 cups stock (chicken or vegetarian)
  • 1 cup cream or half-and-half
  • Salt and white pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup (optional)
  • Garnishes: grated apple, sliced green onions, toasted pumpkin seeds.
  1. In microwave or 350-degree oven, bake sweet potatoes until very soft. When cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and mash with fork to baby-food consistency.
  2. Meanwhile, saute onion and garlic in oil until very soft, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle on cornstarch, stir well and cook slowly until the cornstarch is absorbed into the vegetables.
  3. For a smooth final product, at this point run the onion mixture and the sweet potatoes through a food processor or blender (using a blender will be easier if you add in a bit of the stock). This step is optional, but I think you’ll like the texture.
  4. In large saucepan, combine the potato-onion mixture with the pumpkin, the stock, salt and pepper, and the maple syrup, if using. Blend thoroughly.
  5. Slowly whisk in the cream; simmer until heated.
  6. Taste, adjust seasonings if needed. If it seems too thick, add boiling water bit by bit, stirring as you go.
  7. Divide enough for the kids into separate saucepan. For the grownups, add extra flavorings to the remainder (see suggestions above.) Or not.
  8. Serve with garnishes in small bowls.

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