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Black Bean and Pumpkin Soup

Here are a couple of fall pumpkin recipes from associate wine guy Jim Bandy — can you tell his hobby is cooking?

As the temperatures drop and garden produce wanes, one of my favorite fruits arrives en masse: pumpkins! To most of us, the round orange gourd conjures thoughts of fairy tales, jack-o-lanterns, or Thanksgiving pie. Too often, we miss the wonderful flavor pumpkin imparts to savory dishes.

Here are two of my hearty and homey favorites that I want to share with you. Of course you know that picking the right pumpkin is as important as picking the right apple, or berry. Choosing a smaller 'pie' pumpkin, usually about 1 to 3 pounds, gives the best taste and texture. Also, cooking with fresh pumpkin does mean that you need to seed and peel the gourd. I like to cut pumpkin first into slices, similar to cantaloupe. It seems to make the process easier.

These fall delights are great on their own. I usually choose to pair them with a cheese. After each recipe, I offered some of my favorites. Enjoy!

Makes 9 cups

A more refined taste than your average Black Bean soup.

3 15.5-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomato, or 1 cup seeded and chopped fresh tomato
1-1/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped shallot
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt - less if using prosciutto
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/4 cup unsalted butter
4 cups beef stock, or quality beef broth
1 16-ounce can pumpkin puree
1/2 cup dry Sherry
1/2 pound prosciutto, or cooked ham, diced
3 to 4 tablespoons Sherry vinegar
sour cream for garnish

1. In a food processor, coarsely puree beans and tomatoes (a few pulses will do)
2. In a Dutch oven over medium heat, melt butter. Sauté onion, shallot, garlic, cumin, salt, and pepper until onion is soft and beginning to brown.
3. Stir in bean/tomato puree, broth, pumpkin, and Sherry until combined. Simmer, uncovered, 25-minutes, stirring occasionally, until thick enough to coat a spoon.
4. Stir in ham and Sherry vinegar.
5. Serve garnished with sour cream.

I serve this with mild chèvre or Manchego and baguettes from Grapevine Cottage.

Pumpkin Pirlau

Pirlau is a Low-Country term for rice stew.

Serves 4

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 cup peeled, seeded, and diced pumpkin
2 carrots, diced
1 large onion, diced
1 leek, trimmed, cleaned, and sliced 1/2-inch thick
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 bay leaf
1 cup basmati rice, rinsed
3 cups chicken stock, or good low-sodium broth
2 medium ripe apples, or pears, peeled, cored, and diced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, or 1/2 teaspoon dried
6 slices prosciutto, cut into julienne strips.

1. In Dutch oven, melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Add pumpkin, carrots, onion, leek, sweet potato, and bay leaf. Sauté for 2-5 minutes, or until onion and leek just begin to soften.
2. Add rice, and stir for 1-minute to coat. Add 2-cups of stock and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook 15-20 minutes, or until rice is tender and broth has been absorbed.
3. Meanwhile, bring remaining 1 cup stock to boil in a small saucepan. Reduce to 1/2-cup. Remove from heat and keep warm.
4. Transfer rice to serving bowl, discarding the bay leaf. Stir in remaining butter, stock, and apples. Season with thyme. Stir in prosciutto.

I serve this with cheddar or Manchego and baguettes from The Grapevine Cottage.