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White Bean and Smoked Paprika Sugar Pumpkin Stew

(post, Rachel Levine)

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Our dear friend the pumpkin is out and about in two ways during Fall.  You can find him whole and squat in the pumpkin patch, surrounded by the obligatory farm fare, hayrides and apple trees prior to meeting his jack-o-latern fate. Or whipped neatly into a can of puree, where a spatula will cleanly scoop out his fleshy goodness in prep for the bread, muffin or pie of his namesake.

Somewhere in between carving pumpkins on the floor over newspapers and scooping puree out of a can is this White Bean and Smoked Paprika Sugar Pumpkin Stew. Rarely do we see pumpkin peeled, seeded and cubed in the grocery store the way we do butternut squash, and I think this unfamiliarity makes the prospect of buying your own whole pumpkin (no it doesn't need to be 20 lbs), removing the seeds and flesh by hand (but I don't own a machete), and cooking and pureeing in the kitchen (ahhhh is this a Halloween prank) so scary and daunting.

But do not fear the portly pumpkin! You can buy these tots at any grocery store—aim for one the size of a large acorn squash. Even I was surprised at the soft flesh once I cut inside; spongy and soft rather than hardened and dense. 

This pumpkin stew recipe is all about spice. Embodying more of a Latin American flavor, it utilizes fresh cilantro, spicy serrano pepper and of course, smoked paprika. Savory or sweet flavors notice you will not; rather it's that spicy note beneath every bite that rounds out each simmering, flavorful pot. Even before I prepared the pumpkin, I could tell this dish was going to be a hit: the fragrant flavors of stewed tomatoes, onion, garlic, broth and cilantro were just that aromatic. The sugar pumpkin and beans transform the chili-like cognizance of the base into an emboldened fall stew with a lovely texture, and a generous squeeze of fresh lime rounds at the dish at its finale.

White Bean and Smoked Paprika Sugar Pumpkin Stew
Serves 4

1 15 oz can white kidney beans
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, minced (about 2 cups)
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 serrano chile, sliced
Kosher salt
¼ teaspoon hot or sweet paprika
1 ½ tablespoon tomato paste
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
15 sprigs cilantro
1 small sugar pumpkin (peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch chunks)
Juice of ½ lime

1. In a stockpot over medium-high heat, warm olive oil. Add onion, garlic, serrano chile, and ¼ tsp. kosher salt. Saute until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in hot or sweet paprika and tomato paste; cook for 1 minute. Add beans, chicken broth and cilantro. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered, for about 20 minutes.

2. Peel, seed, and cut the sugar pumpkin. (See below for detailed instructions. Remember to save the seeds for roasting!) Add pumpkin to bean mixture, plus additional broth to cover, and simmer, partially covered, until tender, about 15 minutes more. Remove and discard cilantro. Sprinkle soup with limejuice, and add more salt if needed. Serve immediately.