pumpkin black bean soup.

the fall of 2007 was a pretty lonely and dark time for me. but the glimmer of hope and light that seemed to shine constant was created by two things - my affinity for cooking and the support of family.

on days when i could barely pry myself off of my kitchen floor from exhaustion and/or depression, my family would pick me up... rather, pull me up... with their words of support, frequent visits and time spent just sitting with me. and on the rare occasion when they weren't there for me, i often found myself lost, completely engrossed, in some latest cookbook or foodie blog, making comforting meals for myself as i nourished my body back to health... it's funny how when you start caring for your body, your heart and soul often follow.

during these autumn months, my mother came to live with me. i cried often. i slept rarely. and i drank a lot.  but my mother took it on as her personal mission to make sure that i had food, lots of homemade delicious food, when i didn't have the energy to cook anything for myself and a bottle of red wine seemed like a perfectly suitable dinner.

on one particularly cold and blustery november night, my mother made a meal for me that i have never forgotten. if she's reading this, she's probably wondering what on earth she made that inspired this long of a blog post already. on this night, i took the metro bus home from work per my usual style, and walked the cold, six blocks to my beautiful apartment amongst crispy leaves and a chilly wind. when i opened the door, the smell of cumin, pumpkin, cinnamon and simmering tomatoes filled my nostrils and i almost wept with joy at the smell of it. she had set the table with some beautiful dishes, opened a bottle of red wine, and i was able to sit and enjoy what has gone down in my own personal history as my all-time favorite meal to make when the temperatures drop and the leaves start to turn...

pumpkin black bean soup, which she served with warmed cinnamon scones dolloped with butter. the combination was nothing i would've ever thought of on my own. and it was absolute heaven.

i have since tried to recreate the pumpkin soup recipe, as i'm not sure where she got hers from. when i've asked her for the recipe, she responds with "oh god! that hideous soup?! i don't even remember and i don't want to talk about it..." or something along those lines. can you tell that the women in my family have a hard time taking a compliment?

i have also attempted to make different variations of cinnamon biscuits, scones and breads to try to recapture that fabulous combo. i've come pretty close in my attempts, but nothing is as comforting, nor as memorable, as that meal she made for me in november, 2007. and so, i still find that even in my 30's and even though i am a mama now, i still need my own mama. quite often.

recipe: pumpkin black bean soup
adapted very slightly from here and here

you will need:
medium onion, chopped
flaky salt and black pepper
1 Tablespoon of cumin
a few dashes of cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon oregano
2 cans of pureed pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
4 cups of broth (vegetable or chicken will work)
1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cans of diced tomatoes, in their juices
apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar to taste
for finishing: heavy whipping cream, plain greek yogurt (or sour cream)

first up. find your big stock pot or soup pot. set her (the pot) over a medium flame and add 2 T olive oil. once the oil is shimmering, throw your onions in there and season with the salt (start with 1 teaspoon, you can adjust later), pepper, cumin, cayenne and oregano. saute for about 5 minutes, or until the onions are translucent.

add the pumpkin and broth and using a whisk, blend up the pumpkin so that there aren't any large chunks. add the beans and tomatoes and bring the soup to a boil. reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes. taste and adjust the seasonings to your liking. if you want to add the vinegar for a little bite and flavor, go for it. i tend to add a little vinegar to all of my soups just to up the tang of it. once you've re-seasoned, you'll want to let the pot simmer for a few more minutes to marry the flavors.

now. we're going to add the heavy cream, so you want to make sure that from this point on, you don't boil the soup or simmer too robustly. milk-based soups go from dreamy creamy to nightmarishly curdled in a matter of seconds. so take it easy on the heat and swirl in about 1/2 cup of heavy cream.

serve with a dollop of sour cream or plain greek yogurt and some sort of cinnamon bread or scone. i know it sounds like a strange combo, but i promise you that you will love it.


  1. We're never too old for our mommies. When the kids were about six weeks old (and still only sleeping 2-2.5 hours at crack), I packed them up and drove to my mom's and she took them, led me to her bathtub where she had drawn a hot bubble bath and lit candles, and had spa sounds playing softly in the background. Then I passed out in her beautiful, lavender scented bed for hours.... nobody knows just what you need better than your mama.

  2. First, to MotherRunner, that is a most beautiful image, I loved reading it. What a great Mom. Next, to my dtr...Ashley, this blog has warmed MY heart as much as the pumpkin soup did YOURS a few years ago. And as for trying to re create scones? you have FAR surpassed any effort I ever could have done, you cook, you! Any Sat AM now you can trot right over here with 1 or 3...hint, hint! I love you for this blog.. and I like also that you refer not just to me, but to FAMILY as everyone stood behind you, and me, to make that fall visit possible...


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