Pumpkin & Potato Soup

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This was an easy soup made with the leftover pumpkin chunks from my Italian Sausage, Pumpkin and Kale soup the other day.

I turned the heat to medium low (3 out of 10 on my electric stove) and added 1 TBSP of butter. If you want a vegan soup, use olive oil. I just think butter gives it a slightly richer flavor. While the butter melted, I chopped up 1/2 of a yellow onion and tossed into the pot. I let it sweat while I peeled three small russet potatoes and cut into chunks, yielding about 2 cups or so. I already had about 2.5 cups of pumpkin chunks cut up when I chopped up a pumpkin for soup earlier in the week, but if you don’t, then peel and clean 1 small pumpkin and chop it into 1 inch pieces. You will need about 2.5 cups or so and can save the rest for something else.

You should roast the seeds with some olive oil, salt and in this case, paprika for 20-30 minutes at 320° F so you can use a handful as garnish. I already did that earlier in the week.

After 10 minutes or so, the onions had softened and were sweating beautifully. I added 1 tsp of anise seed, 1/4 tsp of cardamom, 1 tsp of salt and 1 tsp of pepper and let cook another 5 to 10 minutes so the heat deepens the flavor of the spices. I then added the pumpkin and potato chunks and pour in enough water to cover them with about an inch of extra water. I put the lid on and let them cook until tender.

Removing the soup from the heat, I mashed the pumpkins and potatoes and then pressed them through a chinois (a metal strainer). You can use a blender or magic bullet or immersion blender or whatever you like. I like using the chinois because it’s low-tech and unlike the blender, it lets you remove the really fibrous bits of pumpkin so you get a smoother soup with a better texture.

Like any potato soup, it is hearty and earthy, but the pumpkin adds some sweetness and the cardamom adds some real heat while the anise seeds just add a grace note like no other. It’s delicious, flavorful and very easy to make. This makes two medium bowls of soup. I sprinkled some roasted pumpkin seeds on top for a garnish and a bit of smokiness.

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Cucumber, Radish and Feta Salad

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I chopped 1/2 of a cucumber, 2 radishes, about 2 tbsp red onion and mixed with 1/2 cup of feta cheese. Adding about 6 leaves of fresh mint chopped up fine, I added 2 TBSP of vinegar and mixed it altogether for a quick and easy salad.

This is a fresh, light salad with a bit of zing from the mint and the radish and lots of creaminess from the feta. This made 4 small servings.

Pumpkin & Kale Soup with Italian Sausage

Pumpkin Kale Soup

 

I love caldo verde and have made it time and time again. However, when I was thinking of what to make for lunch, I focused on using a small pumpkin that had been taking up space in my vegetable basket for two weeks now. I cut it in half and scooped out the insides, intent on saving the seeds to roast. I washed them and set them aside to drain so they would be dry for roasting.

I peeled the pumpkin and cut it up into 1 inch cubes. This gave me about twice what I needed for the soup, so I put half in a plastic bag and stored in the fridge, leaving the remain 3 cups of pumpkin for the soup.

I chopped 1/2 of a small onion and two garlic cloves. Heating 1 TBSP of olive oil on medium low (3 on a 10 scale electric range), I added the onions and garlic, some salt and pepper, and let them sweat for 15 minutes or so until meltingly tender. I wanted rich layers of flavor because I would not be added commercial broth and sweating the onions would bring out maximum flavor. I then added 2 Italian sausages and let them brown. Bringing the heat up to medium, I added enough water to cover the sausages with about an inch of water above them. I put the lid on the kettle and let them simmer for about 20 minutes or so.

Now I spread the pumpkin seeds on a baking dish and sprinkled them with olive oil, salt and paprika, stirring lightly to spread the mixture over all the seed. I put the pan in the oven at 320° F and let them roast.

When the sausages were done and the broth had a nice, spicy flavor, I removed the sausages and cut them into 1 inch pieces and put them back in the pan. Then I added the 3 cups of pumpkin chunks. I let them cook on medium until tender.

Meanwhile. I chopped up two cups of fresh kale, removing the stems and rolling the kale into a pipe shape so I could slice it in a thin chiffonade. I added the kale and let cook about 15-20 minutes until done. By now, the pumpkin seeds were roasted and ready to serve as garnish. This made lots of seeds that I set aside for later.

The sausage is spicy enough that the soup just needs salt and pepper to bring out the flavor of the broth. It’s spicy, hearty and delicious. The pumpkin makes this a very different soup, Less creamy, sweeter, more fragrant. It still has many layers of flavor and texture and the pumpkin seeds add a nice crunch and smokiness. Makes 4 large servings.

 

Aromatic Crispy Brussels Sprouts Salad

Aromatic Brussels Sprouts Salad

This salad is an explosion of flavor and texture. It takes a bit of preparation but if you can multi-task it takes about 25 minutes from start to finish and you end up with a salad that not only looks amazing, but is layered with so many flavors that it tastes like you spent hours on it.

First you need to roast the parsnips because they will be the last thing to finish cooking. Preheat your oven to 420° F and using a vegetable peeler, shave off about 1/4 cup of parsnip shavings. Put them in an oven-safe dish or pan and sprinkle with some olive oil, salt and paprika. Use your fingers and mix it together so they are coated and put them in the oven to roast – about 20 minutes or so. You will finish the rest of the salad by the time they are done. They will be nice and brown but not blackened and will be slightly crispy.

Put a sautee pan on the stove with 1 TBSP of olive oil on medium heat. Chop up about 1/4 cup of scallions and 2 cloves of garlic and toss in. Cook until the scallions begin to caramelize. While that’s cooking, clean and quarter 1 cup of brussels sprouts (about a dozen if they are small).

Put about 12 pistachios in a dry fry pan and toast lightly while you cook the scallions and brussels sprouts. Shake the pan to keep them from burning and remove from the heat as soon as they begin to brown.

When the scallions are caramelized, toss in 1 teaspoon of anise seed and 1/4 tsp of cardamom. Let it cook, toasting the seeds. The perfume will be pretty heady and give you an idea of how tasty this salad will be. Add the brussels sprouts and let cook until they begin to toast/brown.

Meanwhile, cut about 10/12 grapes in half. The pistachios should be done, so you can remove them and cut them in half or thirds.

By now the brussels sprouts are done. Remove from the heat and toss in the grapes and pistachios. Grate some fresh nutmeg on top. Put in a bowl and remove the parsnips crisps on sprinkle on top.

What flavors are there in this salad? Sweet grapes, tart cranberries, smoky paprika parsnip crisps, bright scallions, the umami of pistachios, the fresh earthy sprouts and the rich, heady perfume flavors of anise, nutmeg and cardamom. Then there are the textures, the soft grapes, the dry raisons, the al dente sprouts, the crunch nuts, the crispy parsnip. It’s a small banquet all in one.

Makes just one serving. But you might want to double because you may want seconds.

 

Parsnip, Kale & Red Onion Salad

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I was going to make another parsnip salad, but I didn’t have any parsley, so decided to try it with kale instead. It was delicious.

So, I used a vegetable peeler to peel the parsnips and then continue to use the peeler to get nice shavings of parsnip. I cut them into smaller pieces. I added about 2 TBSP of red onions, chopped. I took one leaf of kale and cut them in chiffonade strips. A little walnut oil and the juice of a half a lemon with some salt and pepper and voila! I let it rest about 20 minutes before eating to let the flavor penetrate the vegetables. It was so bright and fresh and tasty.

 

 

Turnip Slaw with Leeks & Grapefruit

Turnip Slaw

I am running low on fresh vegetables and fruits and it’s about time to go grocery shopping. Sometimes that is when I come up with my most original concoctions. Thankfully, they work more often than not. This one not only worked flavor-wise, but I think it also makes a beautiful salad.

I peeled and shredded one raw turnip for slaw. I had half a leek, the green leafy end which I sliced in narrow pieces and broke apart, mixing in with the turnip slaw. Using a sharp knife, I supremed a grapefruit (cut off the peeling and segment, removing all skin and pith.) I cut the segments into thirds and mixed them in. I add about 1 TBSP of olive oil and salt and pepper. It was a little too sweet, so I added the juice of 1/2 of a fresh lemon and a dash more pepper and it was perfect.

The turnips have a mellow sweetness, the leeks are always a mellower, softer onion flavor. The grapefuit is bright and sweet and tart and the salt and pepper just bring out the flavors. The olive oil melds them altogether and that little bit of lemon juice is just a perfect bit of sharpness. It’s a burst of juicy flavor and so very pretty.  Makes one large serving for dinner, or two side salads.

 

 

Roasted Rutabaga Stuffed with Garlic and Shallots

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I peeled a rutabaga and after finding the side that it balanced on best, I cut thin slices horizontally without cutting down to the bottom. An easy way to make sure you don’t cut too deep is to put a chop stick in front and behind what you cut, so the knife is blocked by the chopstick and does not cut through.  I peeled and squashed several cloves of garlic with the flat of the knife and peeled and sliced a small bulb of a shallot. I put the garlic and the shallots slices in alternating gaps in the rutabaga. I then brushed with some olive oil, added some salt and pepper. Wrapping it in foil, I let it bake at 400° for 35 minutes before taking it out and letting it cook another 15 minutes to get a nice golden color.  It’s delicious and very easy to make. Roasted garlic and onions with any veggie is a delight.

 

 

Salad with Cranberry Dressing

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For me, the Cranberry Salad Dressing is a way to use up some leftover cooked cranberries. I had cooked fresh cranberries in water with some lime-infused sugar, though you can make it with regular sugar and lemon juice or lime juice. Anyway, I had a few cups left over and while it’s nice with a pork chop or two, I still wanted to find some other use for it. I thought it might make an interesting salad dressing. So, I put 1 cup of the cooked cranberries in my Magic Bullet (you can use a blender or food processor) with about 1/4 of chopped red onion,  1/2 cup of olive oil and 1 cup of apple cider vinegar. I tossed in some salt and pepper and let it blend until it was smooth.

I made a salad of 3 leaves of  Romaine lettuce, 6 roasted almonds and a few dried cranberries with a bit of red onion and drizzled some dressing on top. It’s a great salad dressing. It has a  pleasant fruity tartness that works well with the oil and vinegar. I will definitely make this again and again. This made almost 3 cups of salad dressing, so I will be using it again and again.

 

 

 

Apple Parsnip Salad

Apple Parsnip Salad

This is a fast, easy salad with a bright tart flavor. I served it with leftover beef roast that i had coated with cracked black pepper and grated nutmeg and I doubt there could be a better match.

It’s very easy to make. I peeled 1 parsnip and 2 small Jazz apples.  I then sliced them on the mandoline and chopped them into little bits. I could have shredded them, but I had a bandage on my finger acquired while peeling that made shredding awkward. I then sliced about 1/4 cup of red onion and chopped that. I added about 1 cup of chopped parsley. I cut a large lemon in half and squeeze the juice of half of it on the vegetables. Adding some salt and pepper and 1 tsp of mustard, I finished with about 1.5 TBSP of walnut oil (olive oil will do) and mixed it all together.

I let it rest for 10 minutes or so for the flavors to meld and served it with my roast beef. The flavor is fresh and bright, tangy from the parsnips and the lemon with the sweetness of the apples and the earthiness of the parsley balancing them. The mustard added some nice heat to the mix. This made a second serving that I will have for lunch tomorrow and which, I imagine will taste even better since these are vegetables that hold up well in dressing.

 

 

Cucumber & Potato Soup

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Well, WordPress ate all the text, so I am reposting. This is a delicious and subtle soup that can be thrown together in 20 minutes, perfect for a lazy lunch.

Peel and dice 2 potatoes. Toss in a soup kettle with 2 cups of water and let boil until tender.

Meanwhile, peel and dice one medium cucumber or half an english cucumber. Scoop out the seeds before chopping. Dice up one or two green onions – totally depends on your love of onion. It adds a bit of bite and I like it so I used two. I also prepped 1 cup of milk from nonfat dry milk powder. You can use regular milk. I just use milk so seldom that I never buy milk and mix up what I need.

When the potatoes are tender, remove from heat and mash. You can use a blender or chinois or simply elbow grease. I mashed. Then I whisked in 1 TBSP of butter to give it some fat – since I am using nonfat milk. You can also use cream if you want richer soup. Add the cucumbers and onions and return to heat on medium and let cook about 5 minutes until tender. Add 1 tsp of dill weed and 2 TBSP of feta. The feta is completely optional. I like the sourness it adds. You can also get sourness by using buttermilk, but believe me, if I don’t keep milk on hand, I also don’t keep buttermilk on hand. Add a bit of salt and pepper to taste and serve.

This makes 2 bowls, but soup always tastes better reheated, so you want that second bowl. It has delicious earthiness from the potatoes with a freshness from the cucumbers and dill, while the onions add zest and the feta adds a sourness that is so good with the creamy milk potato goodness of the broth.