A few weeks back I had this deep craving to be in nature. Maybe it was because it was mid-October and fall was in full bloom and we were experiencing 90 degree weather. I knew the season was changing and yet it didn’t feel like much had changed since the beginning of August. It was still hot and humid outside and the weekends were filled with sweaty beach days and early morning hikes before the sun could baste its rays upon us. Not that I’m complaining, but the changing seasons are beautifully anticipated and we viscerally yearn for these natural shifts in our environment.
I wanted to feel fall and see the yellow leaves blanket the trees. I wanted to smell crisp cool air and hike through the pines and hear birds sing as leaves crunched under toe. So I packed the family into the car and we headed two hours east to this little apple country town tucked into the inland mountains of Southern California. Before our anticipated hike we stopped at a local, chef-owned restaurant for a bite to eat. We had eaten at this little gem the year before and had loved the chef’s use of local seasonal ingredients and his artistic spin on classic comfort food.
Sitting at a rustic and worn table set outside under the canopy of oak trees at this little hole-in-the-wall restaurant, I ate the smoothest, creamiest, most delicious spiced pumpkin soup. The pumpkin was earthy and mulled with aromatics of cinnamon, clove and nutmeg; it went down effortlessly and nourished every little cold crevice in my body. The hint of heat from the Cayenne pepper zapped away any tiredness that lay dormant. My body craved this seasonal nourishment. The flood of flavors that added warmth, earth and heat led me right into fall.
I left this restaurant, the hike, and the town, inspired. Since that little bowl of soup, my body has been ready to move into the new season with willingness and comfort. It was a taste of change that inspired me to get back into the kitchen and cook foods that would not only taste wonderful for the months and holidays to come, but connect me back to my food and to what my body now needed in this new season.
I’m thankful for that day I craved nature and listened. I heard what the earth and the season and my body was telling me. It was a calling to cultivate health, to prepare warmer and denser foods that stew and cook longer. It was a gentle whisper to look around at what was growing in the ground and what was being naturally produced from pastures. Our bodies respond at optimum levels and immune systems are boosted when we eat this way. Our guts and digestive systems and mental health all benefit. And equally as important, when we eat in season and listen to our body's cravings (for good things that is), we stay grounded, connected to the earth and thankful.
Pumpkin Spice Soup
This is a warm and nourishing soup that is light yet filling. Vegetable broth can be substituted for chicken broth if a vegan or vegetarian soup is preferred.
Yield: Makes 8 servings
(For the best results, I use all organic ingredients)
2 tbs. unsalted pasture butter
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
½ ripe banana, sliced
½ red apple (Fiji or Honey crisp would work well), chopped
½ yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. fresh ginger, minced
¼ tsp. ground all spice
¼ tsp. yellow curry powder
¼ tsp. dried tarragon
½ tsp. ground coriander
1/8 tsp. red pepper (Cayenne)
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. nutmeg
4 cups organic free-range chicken broth (vegetable broth can used)
1, 15 oz. can of regular coconut milk (not light)
2, 15 oz. cans of pumpkin
2 tbs. maple syrup
1 chicken bouillon cube ( I like Edward & Son’s “Not-Chick’n” natural bouillon cubes, which are vegan and gluten-free)
Splash of Bourbon
Himalayan salt and black pepper (to taste)
Toasted pumpkin seeds, topping (optional)
Melt butter in a large heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add celery and remaining 6 ingredients (ending with ginger) and sauté until vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the ground all spice and remaining 6 spices (ending with nutmeg) and continue to cook for an additional 1 minute. Add broth and all remaining ingredients except toasted pumpkin seeds. Boil soup over medium-high heat for 15-20 minutes to blend flavors. Turn off heat and use an immersion blender to blend soup until smooth, or if using a blender, work in batches to puree soup until smooth. Return soup to pot and adjust seasoning if needed.
Divide among 8 bowls, top with roasted pumpkin seeds and serve. Can also be made 1 day ahead. Cool slightly, then cover and refrigerate.
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