Maple caramelized onions lend sweet touch to soup

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 5, 2008

By J.M. Hirsch
AP Food Editor
Pumpkin and winter squash soups lend themselves to easy and awesome improvisation.
Start with a simple base of yellow onions sauteed with olive oil and herbs, such as thyme and sage. Peel, seed and chop your pumpkin or squash, then add it to the pot with a bit of liquid (white wine, broth or water), then saute until tender.
From there, whimsy and taste rule. For a sweet and savory soup, add a few peeled and diced apples. When everything is tender, add milk and puree. Return the soup to a simmer, season with salt and pepper, then serve with bread.
Or for something with a bit more kick, add grated fresh ginger and peeled and diced sweet potatoes at the same time as the squash or pumpkin. When tender, puree the whole thing with milk, then heat and season.
For a chunkier take, skip the pureeing. Once the pumpkin or squash is tender, add chicken broth, a can of diced tomatoes and whatever other veggies you have on hand. Simmer for a bit, season, then enjoy.
With all of these recipes, you can speed things up by using canned pumpkin or squash puree. Just be sure you get unsweetened and unseasoned purees (pumpkin, not pumpkin pie mix).
These soups are great topped with toasted pumpkin seeds, also called pepitas. To make these, buy raw shelled pumpkin seeds and place them in a dry skillet over medium heat. Toast, stirring constantly, until puffed and fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Curried Pumpkin Soup with Maple Caramelized Onions
Start to finish: 30 minutes
Servings: 4
4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
2 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
1/4 C. maple syrup
1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp. curry powder
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 large apple, peeled, cored and diced
15-ounce can pumpkin
Juice of 1 orange
3 C. milk
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
8 small toasts or crackers
In a large skillet over medium-high, combine 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and half of the onions. Saute until the onions are very soft and lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
Add the maple syrup and ginger, then reduce heat to medium-low and continue cooking, stirring often, until the onions are thick and caramelized, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven over medium-high, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the remaining onion, the curry powder, red pepper flakes and the apple. Saute until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes.
Mix in the pumpkin and orange juice, then transfer everything in the Dutch oven to a blender or food processor. Add the milk and puree until smooth. Return the soup to the pot and return to a gentle simmer. Season with salt and pepper.
To serve, ladle the soup into bowls, then top each serving with 2 crackers or toasts. Arrange some of the caramelized onions over the toasts.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 388 calories; 162 calories from fat; 18 g fat (4 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 11 mg cholesterol; 50 g carbohydrate; 9 g protein; 6 g fiber; 413 mg sodium.