The Edgy Veggie

Eating for skin and bones on the Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead Pumpkin Soup
Day of the Dead Pumpkin Soup
Ellen Kanner / For the Miami Herald


Sopa de Muertos (Day of the Dead Pumpkin Soup)

Enjoy this seasonal soup as part of Day of the Dead festivities, but it’s definitely meant for the living. Rich, thick and the color of autumn leaves, it comforts body and soul. The fact that almost every ingredient comes with beta-carotene is a plus. It keeps, refrigerated, for several days, and the flavor improves over time.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, chopped

2 pounds of pumpkin or calabaza, cubed (about 6 cups)

1 poblano, seeded and chopped

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

1/2 cup corn kernels (about 1 ear of corn)

4 cups vegetable broth

1 large sprig fresh sage

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon paprika (sweet, smoked or hot, your choice)

Pinch chipotle or other chili powder

Juice of 1 lime

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1 small bunch kale, chopped into skinny ribbons (about 8 cups, loosely packed)

Sage leaves or toasted pumpkin seeds for garnish (optional)

Heat olive oil in a large soup pot over medium high heat. Add the chopped onion, garlic, pumpkin, poblano, carrots and corn, stirring to combine.

Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook vegetables 20 to 30 minutes, until tender. Set aside to cool slightly.

Working in batches, puree vegetables in a blender or food processor. Return puree to soup pot.

Stir in the vegetable broth, sage sprig, cumin, paprika and chipotle. Simmer over medium-high heat 20 minutes.

Remove sage sprig, stir in lime juice and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Add kale ribbons by the handful. Stir and allow them to wilt, about 5 minutes.

Garnish with additional sage leaves and/or pumpkin seeds, if desired. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Per serving: 162 calories (19 percent from fat), 3.6 g fat (0.5 g saturated, 1.7 g monounsaturated), 0 mg cholesterol, 9.5 g protein, 26.4 g carbohydrate, 4.8 g fiber, 456 mg sodium.

Feliz Dia de los Muertos — the Day of the Dead. Mexico’s answer to Halloween, this is the time the Aztec believed the dead visit their living families. The living welcome them back with skull art, from brightly painted faces to elaborately decorated skulls made from sugar (not bones — that wouldn’t be vegetarian at all).

Traditional Day of the Dead foods include tamales, a simple sweet yeast bread called pan de muerto (bread for the dead) and candied pumpkin. In fact pumpkin, a Mexican staple, is on the menu all season long. It’s naturally sweet and offers abundant amounts of fiber and beta-carotene.

The dead can’t get the benefits of beta-carotene, but we fleshy living creatures can. We take in its antioxidant properties, by eating orange, red and rosy-hued fruits and vegetables like carrots, pumpkin, plums, corn and that green exception that’s good for whatever ails us, kale. Even paprika, pepper, chili and sage, the rich, warming spices typical of Mexican cuisine, contain beta-carotene.

Our bodies convert beta-carotene into vitamin A, which supports the immune system and benefits the eyes, bones and skin. Vitamin A is where pricy retinol products come from. Pumpkin’s cheaper, and a far more delicious choice, especially combined with other native Mexican favorites like poblano peppers, with their gentle heat, and Mexico’s ancient staple, corn.

Corn symbolizes abundance, always a good thing, and while it may not rival kale when it comes to nutritional benefits, together with pumpkin gives you a double dose of fiber and beta-carotene. Choose organic when possible to avoid corn that’s genetically modified (most corn in America is GMO).

Day of the Dead festivities start Thursday at midnight and go to Nov. 2, All Souls Day. Whether you’re living or dead, you’re invited to the party. On Saturday, Fort Lauderdale’s Museum of Art NSU hosts its 13th annual Day of the Dead. Wear skull makeup, paint a sugar skull, have a blast. And don’t forget the pumpkin.

Miami writer Ellen Kanner is the author of “Feeding the Hungry Ghost: Life, Faith and What to Eat for Dinner.”

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