Well Dined

13Jan/110

Winter Cooking

As a bit of a departure from the norm, I am going to talk a little bit about home cooking. I LOVE the fall/winter food season - butternut and acorn squash, pumpkin, hearty stews - all that heavy, creamy, comforting goodness. Last October (as in 2009) it started to get chilly and I was ready for fall baking so I hit the grocery store, but (disaster of disasters!) there was no pumpkin puree to be found. I tried 5 different stores with no success - I was rather upset. So when that Libby's finally hit the shelves, I bought somewhere near 20 cans in a pumpkin induced panic. Over a year and 2 Thanksgivings later, I still had several cans leftover. Which brings me to the inspiration for this week's meals: get rid of that pumpkin!

I saw this recipe in my store and snatched it up: Spice Pumpkin and Lamb Tagine
I made some changes based on what I had on hand - the most important being the substitution of canned pumpkin for fresh roasted (the point of this week being to get rid of canned pumpkin). I also didn't have tagine spice of harissa on hand. The WS brand tagine consists of paprika, tumeric, ginger and black pepper - but I found an excellent recipe for a more complex tagine blend, as follows:

2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp cardamom
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ginger
pinch of saffron
3/4 tsp garlic powder
3/4 tsp coriander

Let me tell you - that mix smells fantastic. I added another 2 tsp of cinnamon to match the recipe, and I think I will leave it as is next time. I love the combination of cinnamon and meat in savory dishes, but it overpowered that lovely and complex tagine blend I had made. I also added a touch of honey to make up for the lack of powdered honey used in the recipe on the roasted pumpkin. The tagine ended up being really tasty, I will definitely keep it in the recipe box. I recommend serving it with couscous, rice, or (like I did) quinoa.

The next pumpkin recipe I made was a Thai pumpkin soup - recipe courtesy of my Vitamix recipe book (Jasper bought me a Vitamix 500 for Christmas, best present ever!) The soup is creamy and a little sweet. I would recommend pairing it with something savory to balance the sweetness. Alternatively you could omit the coconut cream and use twice the coconut milk to make it less sweet. I did not have any green chilies on hand, so I used a dash of cayenne pepper.

Thai Pumpkin Soup

2 tbsp olive oil
1 lg onion, chopped
1 tbsp tomato paste
2.5 cups canned pumpkin
2 tbsp ginger paste or chopped ginger
1 clove garlic, chopped
3 cups chicken broth
1 tbsp green chilies, chopped
3/4 cup coconut cream
3/4 cup coconut milk
1 tbsp lemon juice

Saute the onions in olive oil until soft. Add tomato paste, pumpkin, ginger, garlic, and broth. Heat through. Place in blender with remaining ingredients and puree. Season w/ salt and pepper. Garnish with sour cream, peanuts, and cilantro. Makes 8 cups.

I often have the problem of leftover produce and not knowing what to do with it. For instance, many recipes call for 1 carrot - but it is more difficult (and more expensive) to buy 1 carrot. I often end up buying a 1 lb pack and having a ton of extra carrots. Sometimes I chop them finely and freeze them to be used in various soups and stews. This method, unfortunately, does not work with celery - the ice crystals destroy the cellular structure and it ends up as brown mush. If anyone has any strategies for leftover celery, i would love to hear them.

Anyway, I found a recipe at the store for a spiced carrot soup and decided to use my extra carrots from the lamb tagine to make it. The soup is creamy (without the use of cream), spiced with curry, and topped w/ crunchy bits of salty prosciutto. I used madras curry instead of vadouvan - which I have yet to try but is a green french curry. The madras curry blend is my favorite of the ones we sell - traditional with great flavors but not spicy. It took me forever to learn that curries did not have to be spicy by nature, and what a marvelous discovery that was for someone who loves bold flavors but can't handle spicy foods. But that is a story for another time. I hope you enjoy this small collection of winter comfort food.

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