If I were to make a list of the condiments I didn't want to live without, Harissa would be near the top. Traditionally used as an accompaniment for middle eastern dishes like couscous, Harissa is a mixture of smoked hot chili peppers, garlic, olive oil and spices. If you haven't had it, think of Sriracha without the sugar and with the addition of aromatic spices like cumin, coriander and sometimes caraway seeds.
To the right is the jar I recently got at Trader Joe's. In other grocery stores you can look for other brands of Harissa in the international food aisle. I recommend having a jar on hand to liven up a whole range of dishes, including not just soups, but also roasted vegetables, hummus, pasta and other grain dishes too.
While many pumpkin soups pair pumpkin with apples, curry or just onion and garlic, the addition of Harissa in this version adds another layer of warmth to the soup. A bowl of hot soup with a touch of a heat from the Harissa can really warm you up on chilly days. In the fall, it's a great antidote to Halloween candy overload too.
One teaspoon of Harissa as listed in the meal gives the soup an undeniable flavor that lingers a moment on your tastebuds. If you have young children or family members who are not up for the heat, you can serve the Harissa right at the table alongside the soup and allow everyone to add their own. Personally, I like to spoon another 1/2 teaspoon on top of my bowl for an added punch.
The creamy part of this soup comes from cashew cream, made in your blender. The cashews provide a whole food source of healthy fats, but we skip the added fat of oil by softening the garlic and onions in a water sauté. Your body needs fat, but it's nice to use fat sources that come with nutrients too!
Creamy Pumpkin Soup with Harissa
½ cup raw cashews
½ cup + 3 TB water, divided
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups cooked pumpkin purée (I like Long Island Cheese Pumpkin)
3 cups vegetable broth
1 tsp sea salt
1 TB agave or maple syrup
1 tsp Harissa (or more, to taste)
Soak the cashews in half a cup water in a blender for two hours, then blend on high until smooth. (The soaking can be omitted if you have a high speed blender.) You have just made cashew cream. Yum. Set it aside.
In a soup pot or Dutch oven, sauté the onion and garlic in the three tablespoons of water over medium heat until they are softened. Add the cashew cream, pumpkin and vegetable broth. Heat through.
Use an immersion blender to puree the soup, or add in batches to the blender (no need to rinse cashew cream out) and blend until smooth.
Add the salt and sweetener and stir to combine.
Swirl the Harissa into the soup and taste. Increase the Harissa, as desired, or serve and allow everyone to add more as they wish.