While driving home from the airport last week and trying to not lose my mind in the Bay Area traffic, a commercial encouraging listeners to "Spice up the holidays!" caught my attention. I had received a sample of dried peppers from Marx Foods this month to use in their "A Spoon & A Chili" recipe contest and I was still pondering what to make. At the same time, I was yearning to make a vegan pumpkin dish that wasn't a pie, for the holidays. As the traffic started moving again and the music began to flow over the airwaves, an idea had formed. Why not combine the flavors of the sweet woodsy pumpkin with the spicy earthy peppers for a dish sure to warm anyone up on a cold winter day?
Now to fit that warmth on a spoon...
This dish is a complete meal in a bowl, bringing the nutty flavors of red quinoa together with the sweet pumpkin and spicy Aji Cereza peppers. The Aji Cereza is a Peruvian pepper that's only slightly less spicy than an Habanero pepper measuring in at 75,000 Scoville units (the index used to measure the heat of a pepper). Marx Foods sells an organic version of this pepper which is pictured above (it's the cute little one that looks like a cherry!). I also played with the milder De Arbol chili (the long skinny chilies above) to make a salt which was used in roasting the pepitas. You can make this dish without the seeds, and I almost did (because I almost ate them all prior to serving... they were just that good!) but they add another flavor and texture to the dish which I enjoyed.
I chose to roast my own sugar pumpkin, but you could also used canned pumpkin. If you are roasting your own, just cut it in half, seed it, and bake it at 375 degrees for 60-90 minutes. You can also opt to use different milk substitutes but recognize this may affect the nutritional information. This soup freezes well, although the quinoa did not fare as well being reheated, so I would recommend making a smaller batch of quinoa fresh for each serving rather than freezing a larger batch.
Aji Cereza Pumpkin Soup with Red Quinoa & De Arbol Pepitas
Aji Cereza Pumpkin Soup
1 tbsp organic canola oil
5 cloves of garlic (sliced thin)
1 tbsp organic onion granules
2 organic Aji Cereza chili peppers (soaked, deseeded, diced)
2.5 cups mashed pumpkin (approximate yield from one medium sized sugar pumpkin)
1 tsp salt
.25 tsp black pepper
8 oz. vegetable broth
12 oz. light soy milk
Heat oil in a deep pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic, onion, and chili peppers. Cook for one to two minutes until garlic begins to brown. Add pumpkin, salt, and pepper. Cook for another three to five minutes until pumpkin begins to bubble. Add broth and soy milk and stir to combine. Reduce heat to low and simmer for ten to fifteen minutes. Use an immersion blender or blend soup in small batches and continue to simmer for another ten minutes. Pour around cooked quinoa in bowl.
1.5 cups red quinoa
3 cups water
Combine red quinoa and water in saucepan. Bring to boil and then cover and reduce heat to simmer for ten to fifteen minutes (until quinoa has absorbed the water).
Pumpkin seeds from one pumpkin
2 De Arbol chili peppers
1 tbsp pink Himalayan sea salt
Blend chili peppers and sea salt together. This will make more powder than you need so store the rest in an airtight container for future use.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a baking pan with your preferred method (I brush canola oil lightly on the pan). Layer seeds in a single layer on pan. Sprinkle with seasoning salt and bake for 10-15 minutes, stirring the pan once during the baking time. Store extra seeds in airtight container and enjoy as a snack.
Nutritional Information for 1/6th of soup -- 70 calories; 3 grams of fat; 10 grams of carbs; 3 grams of fiber; 2 grams of protein
Nutritional Information for 1/6th of quinoa -- 156 calories; 2.6 grams of fat; 27 grams of carbs; 3 grams of fiber; 6 grams of protein
Nutritional Information for 1 tbsp of pumpkin seeds -- 18 calories; .8 grams of fat; 2.1 grams of carbs; .7 grams of protein