Category Archives: soups and stews

Not Your Mom’s Pumpkin Soup

You know it’s pumpkin season when the TV special for the evening is “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!”. Well, there’s that and the playoffs. Two big tip-offs; even I would have to be living under a rock to miss those.

So it’s pumpkin season, and I’ll admit it. When it comes to squash, my favorite way to eat it is usually in a baked good. Oh, I do like acorn squash roasted with butter, but pies, muffins and the the ubiquitous tea cakes are really my favorites. That means that for a main dish I want different ingredients than the usual pumpkin companions, leaving me continuously on the lookout for another interesting way to cook those winter squash. The following recipe uses pumpkin, however I’m betting it would be equally good with butternut, acorn or some other lesser known squash such as buttercup.

This bisque has no apples. It has no cinnamon, no pumpkin pie or apple pie spice mixes. No nuts here, and barely any sugar. What it does have are some incredible flavors in the form of caramelized onions, marsala and bacon. Other than the bacon, there’s little fat in the soup, because it calls for milk rather than cream.

I’ve also made it easy on myself by using canned pumpkin. Feel free to substitute your own roasted pumpkin if you just happen to have one lying about.

Pumpkin Bisque with Marsala and Bacon (Printer-friendly recipe)

4 pieces Bacon
1/2 Onion, diced
3/4 cup dry Marsala
1 15-ounce can Pumpkin Puree
2 cups Chicken Broth
1 teaspoon Brown Sugar
1 Bay Leaf
1 teaspoon dried Thyme
Salt to taste
1/4 teaspoon White Pepper
1-2 teaspoons Balsamic Vinegar
1 – 1 1/2 cups Milk

Note: With the understanding that the bisque will be sweeter, a sweet marsala may be substituted for the dry. If this substitution is made, omit the sugar and use only 1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar.

Fry bacon in pan until crisp. Remove to drain, reserving bacon drippings in pan. To drippings, add onion and cook until caramelized.
Deglaze pan with marsala, then add pumpkin, chicken broth, sugar, spices and balsamic vinegar. Simmer for about 15 minutes.
Puree pumpkin mixture using immersion blender or in batches using standard blender.
Return soup to heat and add milk to achieve desired consistency. Heat through and serve topped with crumbled bacon and a dollop crème fraîche.

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Quinoa Corn Chowder with Dill

Our family was vegetarian and dairy-free for eight years, and while neither of those adjectives describes us any longer, our eating habits are forever changed. Some of the things we still enjoy are meat-free dishes, as well as a broader palate of foods. A now favored [pseudo]grain in our household, quinoa takes well to a number of preparations. Equally impressive is its list of nutritional data:

  • about 36% soluble fiber and 64% in-soluble fiber
  • gluten-free
  • low glycemic index
  • high protein

The best part? Quinoa has an amazing crispy texture once cooked, making it a tasty choice for this soup.

Let’s start with some onion, garlic, and celery sautéed in a few tablespoons of butter until the onion is translucent and just beginning to brown.

Smells great already!

Smells great already!

Now we should stir in just a bit of smoked spanish paprika and salt. Let’s add a bay leaf and chicken (or vegetable) stock, too.

Oh, and better not forget the quinoa.

uncooked quinoa

And we mustn’t forget the potatoes either. Cooking them along with the quinoa allows the soup to thicken a bit on its own.


We’re ready to let the soup simmer for about 20-30 minutes, just until the potatoes are done. At this point the quinoa will be done, as well.

How can we tell? Simple!

First, quinoa only takes about 15 minutes to cook. Second, each grain will have become transparent, and the spiral-like germ will have become noticeable, sometimes separating from the grain.

Now let’s add some corn, dill weed and milk.

I know; I know! Many chowders use half-and-half or even cream. But I figure that this is looking fairly healthy right now, and the potatoes have thickened the broth a bit already. Why mess with a good thing? The butter we sautéed the mirepoix in added a nice bit of umami (how did that word suddenly become trés trendy?) and richness, as did the chicken stock.

Ok, so the milk was cold, and the corn may have been also.

We’ll let the soup sit on the heat for another 5 minutes or so, just until heated through and the temperature has come back up to almost a simmer.

Looks like it’s time to eat! The actual recipe is below.

Quinoa Corn Chowder

Quinoa Corn Chowder with Dill (printer friendly version)
serves 6


2 Tbsp. Butter
1 medium Onion, diced
2 Garlic cloves, minced or pressed
2 stalks Celery, chopped
1/2 – 1 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp. Smoked Spanish Paprika
4 cups Chicken or Vegetable Stock
1 Bay Leaf
1/2 cup uncooked Quinoa, rinsed
1 large Russet Potato, cubed
1 cup fresh or frozen Corn
1 cup Milk
2 Tbsp. fresh Dill or 1 1/2 tsp dried Dill Weed


In a stockpot melt butter. Sauté onion, garlic and celery until onion is translucent and beginning to brown. Stir in salt and paprika. Add stock, bay leaf, quinoa, and potato. Bring to a simmer.

Simmer for 20-30 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender.

To soup add corn, milk and dill. Heat for another 5 minutes or so, just until corn is heated through and soup has again reached a simmer.

Serve immediately.