I bought several pumpkins this year. I can’t really explain what got into me, only that my husband had never carved a Jack-o-lantern, never experienced a Halloween, and I wanted him to get into practice for our kids so…. I bought pumpkins and a really good carving knife and put him on the internet. Luckily, pumpkin seeds are as much a Lebanese tradition as they are ours so the seeds were devoured in a few hours.
The problem with buying a lot of pumpkins for the sole use of perfecting the Jack-o-lantern is that you have a lot of leftover pumpkin. I don’t like to waste so I set to work roasting 4 massive pumpkins. One by one, about an hour each in my ill-heating oven. That’s a lot of pumpkin puree, my beauties. Oh I made pies, pumpkin lattes, even a little diy beauty in a Pumpkin Cacao Enyme Mask. We had a dinner party a few nights ago and, as I was planning the menu all that pumpkin came flooding into my mind. Soup! What better way to use up all that pumpkin puree than a nice, hearty, thick pumpkin soup? Hubby had a different idea as his nose turned up at the very thought of putting pumpkin in a soup. As usual I told him to get out of my kitchen and set to work.
I should explain my love affair with sage before I tell you about the soup. It all began in Italy, long ago. (Isn’t that the way most love stories begin?) Skipping to the end of that story (which involved another loved story) , a simple plate of fresh ravioli con ricotta, parmigiano, e spinaci (spinach) con burro (butter) e salvio (sage) and I was hooked. Six of the most perfectly fried sage leaves in the richest, freshest, raw cream butter had my heart for an eternity. I still go into my kitchen, pop some butter into a frying pan and fry sage leaves to eat like popcorn. I don’t do it often, lest my husband have me committed, but sometimes, I just can’t help myself. To this day, I make my own ravioli stuffed with ricotta, parmigiano and spinach.
Back to the soup. Sage pairs beautifully with pumpkin and the hint of cinnamon with a kick of cardamom(my favorite) or nutmeg if you can’t find cardamom just gives it a hint of something mysterious yet divine. I warmed the leftover bowl the next day for lunch adding a kick of cayenne pepper and that was delicious too!
The verdict. My guests loved it. The women all left with the recipe and instructions on how to roast a pumpkin (happily, the Lebanese haven’t discovered canned pumpkin so they don’t mind roasting one) and I received two calls in two days with questions about seasoning. My hubby was shocked that something so “orange” could turn out so delicious.
The great thing about this recipe is you can play around with the flavors. If you don’t like sage, try ginger. Add some chilies to the mix if you like a spicy kick. There are endless varieties of spices that pair well with pumpkin. Don’t have a lot of pumpkin? Use any squash. Butternut squash makes a particularly delicious partner. I tried it once with sweet potato and it was surprisingly delicious.
High in fiber this fall and winter staple is great for healthy bowel function. Rich in beta-carotene and caratonoids it is an immune booster and amazing anti-inflammatory. It is rich in alpha-caroteine which slows cataract formation and can slow down or halt macular degeneration. It is loaded with calming magnesium and hypertension lowering potassium. Pumpkin is alkaline helping maintain the alkaline-acid balance in the body further increasing the body’s ability to combat inflammation.
Like rosemary, its sister herb in the mint (Labitae) family, sage contains a variety of volatile oils, flavonoids (including apigenin, diosmetin, and luteolin), and phenolic acids, including the phenolic acid named after rosemary—rosmarinic acid. Rosmarinic acid is a strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. It is recommended to be used as a seasoning for those with inflammatory conditions such Rheumatoid Arthritis, asthma, and atherosclerosis. It boosts brain function and is a memory enhancer. In fact, the dried root of Salvia miltiorrhiza, also known as Danshen or Chinese sage, contains active compounds similar to those developed into modern drugs used to treat Alzheimer’s Disease.
Heat the oil or ghee in a stock pot over medium heat. Once the oil is "sizzling" hot, add all the sage leaves and cook until very dark green. Scoop them out and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
Add onions to the sage oil and sauté until lightly golden 10-15 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
Add in pumpkin puree. Stir well. Add the stock, parsley, thyme and cinnamon. Bring to a boil. Add the salt and pepper to taste. reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
Serve soup chunky or use an immersion blender to puree it. Garnish with the fried sage leaves.
I use grass-fed ghee in this recipe because it gives the sage leaves a whole new dimension of flavor that oil lacks, however, if you are a strict vegan, coconut oil is a delicious alternative. I don't recommend cooking with olive oil but, in a pinch, saute the sage on medium heat being careful not to let the oil smoke.
I use vegetable stock in my soup but you could just as easily use chicken stock with delicious results.
I like to fry a few croutons in the sage oil and top my soup with those croutons. If you do want to do this, I recommend using 1/2 cup of oil.