Pumpkin Soup with Lime and Chipotle

Happy Halloween! It’s officially soup and pumpkin season—so, pumpkin soup.

I don’t know about you, but on the whole, I’m way more into savory pumpkin dishes than sweet. The natural sweetness of the pumpkin is just begging for a little sour/ hot/ salty complement.

Here’s a little riff on a Williams-Sonoma recipe (theirs is Butternut Squash and Roasted Garlic Puree from the Soup book):

Pumpkin Soup with Chipotle

1 Hokkaido pumpkin (also called Red Kuri or Baby Red Hubbard squash)—you could probably use any similar winter squash, but I’m partial to these

5 or 6 garlic cloves

a few tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup water

2 onions, chopped

5 cups broth (chicken or veggie)

Salt and pepper

Chipotle with adobo sauce (canned, located with Mexican grocery items)

Lime

First, preheat your oven to 350. Peel the pumpkin and cut into quarters or sixths. Scoop out the squishy middle and the seeds.

On a cookie sheet or roasting pan, brush the pumpkin and garlic cloves with oil, then pour in the water. Roast until soft and golden, 35 plus minutes or so.

Meanwhile, saute onions until softened. If you have a stick blender (a soupmaker’s very best friend), combine the onions, pumpkin, and garlic all in your soup pot with the broth. Blend. If you don’t have a stick blender, get one. You’ll love it. In the meantime, use part of the broth to blend up the veggies in your blender, a batch at a time. Then combine with all the broth in the soup pot.

Season with salt and pepper to taste. In individual bowls, garnish with a little teaspoon or so chipotle/ adobo sauce, according to your taste. I never use a full can at once, so I usually freeze the rest of the can to have on hand in the freezer. Love me some chipotle. Squeeze a little lime on top. Yum.

If you have non-spice-loving eaters at your table, just leave the chipotle out. Not that you needed me to tell you that.

Last year at our school’s pumpkin fest, someone made some fantabulous curry pumpkin soup (sounds weird, tastes great) but I never figured out who made it or what recipe they used. ISHR friends, anyone know the whereabouts of said chef or recipe? Or do you have a curried pumpkin recipe? I’d love to try it.

What are you dressing up as? I had hoped to be Effie Trinket from The Hunger Games but realized I just didn’t have the time to devote to making a costume. After all, my little witch and my little green ninja have to come first in the Halloween department. Maybe I’ll have a moment to paint my face, though.

Here’s hoping you have power and water. My prayers go out to those of you who don’t, and I hope all will soon be restored.

Also, in other news, if you live in the Charlotte area, our local chapter of the WNBA (no, it’s not basketball, it’s Women’s National Book Association) is a great place to meet people who love books. We’ve got writers, booksellers, editors, agents, and booklovers of all kinds. Our next meeting is a cookbook event called “A Toast to Cookbooks” at Total Wine on Monday November 12. Details about the event and our organization here. Our last event, a multi-author dinner called Bibliofeast, was way, way fun.

Good night, and enjoy your treats, everyone!

Green Apple-Avocado Salsa

Now that the weather is finally getting warm here in Germany, I’m starting to think about salads and fruits again. This is an old favorite Cooking Light recipe. When I made it last week I didn’t have any red onion, so I subbed scallions, and my bell pepper was yellow (not red), so it was a little less colorful than usual but just as delicious. One recipe note: when I’m using red onion, I like to cook it slightly to make its impact a tiny bit milder.

Last week I served this with pork chops but also spooned the salsa on top of roasted broccoli and on top of my green salad, too. I couldn’t stop eating it. I imagine it would also be fantastic with black bean tacos or tortilla chips.The salsa is really the star of the show, so you could build a meal around it however you like.

Side note: The first time I had this salsa was when my former boss made it for me once with pork fajitas because she knew I loved pork. What an awesome boss, right?

For more less-meaty recipe inspiration, check out this page.

A Year of Less Meat

Last year, as a casual sort of a New Year’s resolution, I decided to eat more vegetables. I figured that the only way to do it was to learn some more interesting vegetable recipes, so I bought Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian and combed through it and some other favorite recipe sources.

I didn’t make any big promises or specific goals about vegetables. My plan was simple: if I made the vegetables the main event of the meal, instead of an afterthought, then meat would become secondary, and the vegetables wouldn’t be a chore to eat.

I don’t ever envision myself as becoming a complete vegetarian. There are too many meat dishes that I truly love. But I’m moving toward saving those as a special treat and skipping the meat when it isn’t anything special—for health and also because of a growing concern about how our meat is produced and what it takes to produce it. The family (husband, two kids) has been surprisingly flexible with the new recipe testing.

Besides How to Cook Everything Vegetarian (HTCEV) I’ve especially enjoyed the blog 101 Cookbooks and Foster’s Market Cookbook (sometimes altering FMC recipes to cut the meat content). Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood cookbooks are also a great place to start if you’re looking to reduce your meat intake.

The collage above includes our favorite recipes from 2011. Many of them I blogged about. Maybe they’ll inspire you.

From left to right, starting from the top:

1. Spicy Cauliflower  from 101cookbooks

2. Baked Rice and Red Kidney Beans, Jamaican Style from HTCEV

3. Spicy Baked Chickpeas from HTCEV

4. Simple Bean Tostadas—filling from Healthy Latin Cooking

5. Tortilla Soup from 101cookbooks

6. Curried Cauliflower with Cashews, inspired by 101 cookbooks but really I just followed the directions on the curry paste package and added toasted cashews.

7. Beer-Glazed Black Beans from HTCEV

8. Tuscan White Beans with Pasta from HTCEV

9. Pasta-Chickpea Salad with Tomato and Basil, my own creation

10. Falafel in pita, from a falafel mix, with Tahini Sauce from HTCEV

11. Tabbouleh made according to mix directions, with vegetables and Yogurt Sauce from HTCEV

12. Strawberry-Peach Agua Fresca

13. Rustic Pine Nut Sauce from HTCEV

14. Pumpkin Soup (with chipotle/ adobo sauce swirled in) from the butternut squash soup recipe in the William-Sonoma Soup book

15. White Bean Chili from Foster’s Market Cookbook (minus the chicken)

16. Pa Jun (Korean style veggie pancakes) from HTCEV

17. Red Lentil Soup with Lemon from 101cookbooks

18. Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Garlic from HTCEV

Almondy Cookies

Fairly often when I pick up my son from Waldorf kindergarten, there’s some little treat they’ve made that Frau F. insists I try. I’m not one to ever turn down a treat. Once not too long ago there were these tiny almond-meal cookies that I just couldn’t stop thinking about later. Such great texture, not too sweet, perfect. When I asked for the recipe, though, Frau F. said it was something her daughter had made up and she didn’t really have a recipe. Rats!

I kept obsessing and finally found this recipe, then altered it to suit me. In Germany, there seem to be a lot of tiny cookie cutters, which I just love. I mean, sometimes you only want a little bite, right? Or a bunch of little bites. The cookies just seem better that way. Unfortunately we don’t have but a couple itty bitty cutters, since the kitchen store was nearly sold out last time I looked, but I’ll try again.

Yeah, I know this is kind of a Christmas post in January, but who says you can’t make cookies now? Who?

The cookies turned out really well. Very tender and great flavor, though they don’t look like anything special at first glance. They were all gone in a flash.

ALMONDY COOKIES  (heavily adapted from cooks.com)

250 grams butter (2 sticks plus 1 1/2 TB or so)

1/2 cup white sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1/4 tsp. almond extract

1 1/2 cups almond meal

1 cup  all purpose flour

2 cups spelt flour (did I use white or whole grain? I can’t remember but either is fine)

pinch of salt

Cream together butter, sugar, egg, and almond extract. Beat in flour, almond meal, and salt.

Make a ball and flatten it, wrap in wax paper and place in the fridge for an hour or a day.

Preheat oven to 325°, roll out dough, and use cutters to cut shapes. Ours were a little thicker—in the 1/4 inch range but you could go thinner, depending on how crispy or chewy you want yours. Just watch the time—you definitely don’t want to overcook them.

Bake for 8-10 minutes. They should be very lightly browned.

**

The words on the cookies is an inside joke. Santa brought a nifty contraption that allows you to print words on your cookies. Little Miss wanted to print everyone’s names, but the letters are really too fiddly and tiny to do that much work. I told her to pick one word we could print on lots of cookies. She came up with “Leibniz,” which is the cookie brand of Hannover’s famous Bahlsen factory. This cracked me up, as it’s like printing “Keebler” on your homemade cookies.

Leibniz, the father of calculus, was from Hannover, and they love to name things after him here. So awesome.

Oh, we also tried these Swedish Rye Cookies from 101 cookbooks. They rocked.

Korean-Style Veggie Pancakes (Pa Jun)

I had to try these after I read the description: “nearly addictive savory cakes…almost crêpelike in their crisp and chewy texture.” Once again, from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman. I made the dipping sauce, too, and I’m totally hooked. They remind me of the scallion pancakes from one of our favorite eateries near Boston.

One problem: I don’t know if I didn’t follow the cooking directions right, or if they need to be adjusted, but I had trouble getting the pancakes to cook through. They were delicous but a little too soft in the middle. When I ate the leftovers (just as good the next day) I baked them a little in the toaster oven, and the texture was perfect. I guess next time I’d just finish them in the oven for a few minutes at 350 or so.

The kids didn’t go for these. I mean, they do look kind of crazy to a kid, and my kids are (aren’t they all?) suspicious of wayward veggie chunks mixed into things like pancakes. I think my daughter (7) did take a bite, but it was just not her thing.

I’m making them again anyway! They were too good not to.

Get the recipe here. Below is the recipe for the dipping sauce:

Soy and Sesame Dipping Sauce, Korean Style

from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian

1/2 cup soy sauce

2 TBS rice vinegar

2 TBS dark sesame oil

1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds (whoops I forgot to toast mine but it was still great)

1 TBS sugar

2 large cloves garlic, minced

1 TBS peeled, minced fresh ginger (I think I cheated with good-quality powdered ginger)

1/4 cup minced scallions

Mix everything together and enjoy. Keeps up to 2 days in the fridge.

Also, I made this lemony lentil soup (pictured below) the other day from 101 cookbooks  and love loved it. Totally repeat-worthy. It’s very similar actually to Awanti’s Family-Friendly Dal, but the lemon and spinach give it a nice twist—also the Greek yogurt as a condiment is perfect.

I blended up the onions with the stick blender (at the same time you’re supposed to blend the lentils) so the kids wouldn’t see them. I served it to the kids without spinach (side of green beans instead) and one kid ate it and liked it, the other did not, but hey, he ate a bunch of fruit so I’m not going to quibble.

I have to try the Roasted Lemon Chutney on 101 cookbooks also. Sounds amazing. And the Barley Risotto on Mark Bittman’s site.

For other posts on trying (mostly) vegetarian recipes, see my “Food” category.

* I wonder if you could make this with all rice flour and make it gluten-free. If you’re a Hannover friend, you can find rice flour at the Thai shop on Ferdi-Walli or probably at any of the Asian shops around town.

Unrelated: I just read this excellent essay about creativity and silliness and faith here. So worth reading. Thank you to my sweet neighbor back in the U.S. for sending it my way.

Tuscan White Beans with Pasta and Fried Bread Crumbs

The weather’s getting cooler—time for comfort food!  This is a new recipe we love.

It’s Mark Bittman’s Tuscan White Beans, from his cookbook How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. I serve them over pasta and add fried bread crumbs.

These are just bread crumbs (I make them from stale bread and keep them in the freezer) that I fry up in olive oil with garlic. Somehow with this treatment they take on an almost bacony-like flavor. So good.

On top, add the garlic olive oil from the Bittman recipe and a good grating of parm. It’s like grown up mac and cheese—but leave out the parm and it’s vegan.

The recipe makes a lot, so if it’s too much for one evening, you can freeze some to save for later. Just make sure that you thaw gently (at room temp or at a very low temp) or you’ll end up with mush.

In other news, really enjoying my blogging class (Blogging Your Way with Holly Becker of decor8). It’s making me think about ways I may want to re-tool my blog, improve it, and tighten its focus. What would you like to see more of? What are your favorite posts? I’m thinking of spinning the food section off into another location. Not sure.

Currently reading Russell Shorto’s The Island at the Center of the World, which follows the history of the New Amsterdam colony before it became New York. It’s slow-going, with a large cast of van der _____’s to keep up with, but the subject matter is really interesting. There’s an enormous trove of Dutch archives on the subject which until recently had been unexamined. The premise of the book is that while the study of American history has always focused on the English roots of our country, that the Dutch influence, via New York, is actually quite significant.

Also recently read Jean Craighead George’s The Buffalo Are Back with the kids. It so made me want to go see the buffalo. It’s a kind of historical picture book with a fair amount of text, a format I’m not usually as into these days, but it totally works, and the illustrations are great. May need to make a prairie trip when we return stateside. It sounds so exotic in the book.

Off to eat some leftover pumpkin soup (made last night). I’m not much into sweet pumpkin things but the savory soup, especially with a little chipotle swirled in, really hits the spot.

Chicken Curry Kebabs

This recipe is a total crowd pleaser, great for parties. I’ve been meaning to share it here for a long time.

I often serve it with curried rice. You can see how much we love this recipe (below).

Thanks to our friend Sally for sharing. The recipe came from her mother, Peachy Levin.

Kebabs should cook on the grill for about 6-7 minute per side.

In other news:

-I’ve been making my own falefel, just using the mix in the box. Really easy and so delicious. Also I have a thing for tahini dressing lately, using Mr. Bittman’s recipe. I can’t seem to get enough of it.

-loving Downton Abbey (tv series we’re watching on DVD). It’s soo excellent. Highly recommended, especially if you love the whole Gosford Park/ Pride and Prejudice type stuff.

-saw someone with mustard yellow tights the other day and can’t get them out of my head. It’s a color I’d never wear near my face, but they looked so fun and happy on the legs. I’ve been searching high and low for my own pair with no luck. Tempted to try making my own leggings version using this tutorial.

-Meanwhile in full-swing revisions on my young adult novel. I’d better get back to work.

Have a great weekend!

Pasta-Chickpea Salad with Tomato and Basil

I threw this together the other night with stuff we had in the house. I didn’t measure anything, but here are the basics:

  • cooked chickpeas (2 cups or so), marinated in olive oil and lemon juice, salt and pepper. I also smashed one clove of garlic in the marinade and later removed it.
  • cooked pasta (I used bowtie pasta made of 25% butternut squash), maybe 2-3 cups?
  • a few diced tomatoes
  • a few chopped scallions
  • fresh basil
  • cubed buffalo mozzarella (I think feta might be a better choice, as the mozzarella’s flavor was lost in the stronger ones)

It turned out really well. I liked the heft the chickpeas gave, though I think I would up the lemon (I only used a half) and lengthen the marinating time.

I’ve been entertaining family and doing a lot of small trips lately. Hope to update you on some of that soon.

Spicy Baked Chickpeas with Cheese

You’re going to think all we eat are beans around here. Contrary to squeaks from the peanut gallery, it isn’t true. But beans are what I’m into exploring these days.

This was another recipe from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. Really loving that book. The actual title of the recipe is “Baked Chickpeas with Fresh Cheese,” but I didn’t think that did it justice.

Here’s before baking:

You make it with a spicy Indian-style tomato sauce and coconut milk (or cream) and crumbled cheese. I subbed feta for the Indian cheese since I knew it would be a wild goose chase to find it. Sounds a little strange but it was so so good.

Here it is after baking:

We ate it with rice. There were no leftovers. However, while I was cooking it, I got scared I wasn’t going to like it. The smells and flavors just didn’t seem to work together until the last minute, when everything clicked into place, and boy I’m getting hungry just thinking about it right now.

Anyone know the etiquette for posting recipes from cookbooks? I did ask permission for the last one I posted, but I don’t feel right posting a bunch. Here’s a version of this recipe here.  And oddly you can find the page on google books here, but isn’t that kind of weird? Shouldn’t you have to buy it as an e-book? It would make a great e-book since it’s sooooo huge, but the last time I checked it wasn’t available that way.

If you enjoyed this post, you may want to see the one about Jamaican-Style Baked Rice and Kidney Beans from the same cookbook.

Baked Rice and Red Kidney Beans, Jamaican Style

In my ongoing quest to eat more vegetables, I’ve been randomly trying a few things from Mark Bittman’s encyclopedic How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. It has all kinds of things I’d never thought to try, or known existed. The number of bean dishes alone could be a book all to itself.

This recipe turned out to be delicious. Comfort food without animal fats—coconut milk instead. It’s not labor intensive, and it has this wonderful crusty finish.

Here’s my version of the recipe, using canned beans and brown rice. Please note, if you’re using the original recipe with dried kidney beans, you should pre-cook them alone and then add in to the recipe, as dried kidney beans have strong toxins that need to be rinsed away after cooking. Look on the FDA website for more info.

2 TB extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 fresh hot chili, cored, seeded and chopped *

1 TB minced garlic

3/4 cup canned kidney beans

1 1/2 cups long-grain rice (I used brown)

1 14 oz can unsweetened coconut milk

2 tsp fresh thyme leaves or 1 tsp dried thyme, to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Put the oil in a large ovenproof pot over medium. A minute later, add onion, pepper, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add beans and cook together for a few minutes.

2) Use a potato masher or back of a spoon to smoosh the beans in the pot (not too smooshy).

3) Stir in the rice, coconut milk, and a good amount of salt and pepper (watch the salt since you’re using canned beans since they will already be salted). If you don’t want a crust to develop, cover the pot. Bake in the oven until the rice is tender, around 60+ minutes with brown rice (less for white rice), adding water as needed. I probably added at least a cup, maybe more, of water. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add thyme. Can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two days (reheat and stir in a little water and olive oil just before serving).

*I subbed bell pepper since I was hoping the kids would want to try this one. They didn’t, so I wished I had used the hot pepper instead, which I think would make it even better. I’m also thinking I’d add a little squeeze of lime on top next time.

Here’s what it looked like going into the oven:

Have a great weekend!