Thai-Spiced Pumpkin Soup

October 6, 2011

One of my best friends just moved to California. I am going to miss her so, so much.

Reed and I became friends through our husbands, who are in graduate school together. But we became great friends when we started training for a half marathon.

I learn so many little details about the lives of my running buddies. Many miles require a lot of minutes to be filled with conversation, and we wind up talking about whatever happens to be on our minds. Sometimes we talk about things of great substance. Other times, we talk about why I prefer Jif to Skippy peanut butter. When talking helps each mile tick by, our conversations resemble stream-of-consciousness. It leads effortlessly to close friendship.

Reed taught me to sew my Halloween costume last year. She helped me make jewelry for my bridesmaids. She introduced me to David Sedaris and gin martinis. She taught me the joys of dressing up and popsicles. Last year, she made our friend Kristina and me pumpkin soup on Halloween while we carved jack-o-lanterns.

This is not the same soup she made, but it’s a pumpkin soup, nonetheless. And a delicious one at that. Creamy, hearty, rich-tasting but healthy. And it even freezes well (no cream in this accidentally-vegan soup, folks). It’s a homage to fall, but mostly–in my mind, anyway, its a homage to Reed.

When I run on the bike path alone, I wonder what we’d talk about if she were here. Certainly the foilage, probably the weekend, possibly this pumpkin soup.

More posts involving Reed: Pasta Puttanesca, How to Have a Sick Time in Vegas, Bolognese Sauce

THAI SPICED PUMPKIN SOUP (from 101 Cookbooks)

This recipe is more of a guideline, and less of a formula. The curry paste I used the first time I made this was quite mild, so I used the whole jar! I bought a spicier one the next time, and only used a couple tablespoons.

A bowl of this soup, a crusty hunk of bread, and some salad greens topped with toasted pumpkin/squash seeds, dried cranberries, blue cheese, and balsamic vinegar is a great fall meal!

Serves 6

2 acorn squash, pumpkins, or other smallish winter squash
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 14-ounce can coconut milk
1 teaspoon (or more) red Thai curry paste
water or chicken broth
2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt (or to taste)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Put racks in middle of oven.

Cut pumpkin and/or squash into halves. Spread butter over them. Sprinkle liberally with salt. Place on baking sheet and bake until fork tender throughout (about one hour).

Once squash cool down enough to touch, scoop the flesh into a big pot. Add coconut milk and curry paste. Stir together and place on medium high heat. Once mixture starts to simmer, take off heat and puree soup with a hand blender. Soup will be VERY thick. Add water or chicken broth one cup at a time until you reach desired consistency. Simmer again, then taste, and add salt and more curry paste (if you like) to taste.

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I, and the rest of Christian America, am suffering from Christmas hangover. Too many cookies. Too much chocolate. Too much gravy. Each morning I wake up to find my unlit tree still in my living room. I hum Christmas songs and then remember I’ll need to wait 11 more months to sing them again. And, among many other things, my fridge and pantry are filled with the possibilities of side dishes or desserts that never came to fruition.

First, I found an ample supply of pumpkin puree. I bought that in early November, when I was going to do a test run of my Caramel Pumpkin Pie before Thanksgiving, but I forgot. Fortunately, the pie was great anyway. But I still had that pumpkin to deal with.

Then, I found sour cream in my fridge that was supposed to become a part of my Spinach Quiche. I thought it would be nice to bring some into work on Christmas Day. Fantasies of quiche making were swept aside when I scrambled for last minute gifts. The sour cream was due to expire on January 2nd and I hate, and I mean HATE, wasting food.

I saw the pumpkin and the sour cream, and remembered some bran that was waiting patiently to be used in my freezer, and I thought I ought to make some muffins. That is, a baked good whose main ingredients are not sugar, butter, or cream.  A baked good which has, ahem, cleansing properties. And so, Holiday Hangover Muffins were born.

I am pretty excited because this is the first baking recipe I’ve made up from scratch, without another recipe as a model. When it comes to baking, I usually adapt. But for this, I scanned the internet to find the standard proportions of ingredients and made it my own. I made these muffins three times before they came out like I wanted them to (like I said, I had a lot of pumpkin). It’s interesting to see how your recipe changes. Here’s my original recipe, which I included just in case you were worried I was blessed with good handwriting.

I am pleased with these muffins. They are, like my banana bread, extremely moist. And hearty but not, you know, too hearty. In addition to helping me recover from the morning after Christmas, I would like to make a place for them at the breakfast before Thanksgiving. Thank you, Holiday Hangover Muffins, for putting my holiday leftovers to good use.

HOLIDAY HANGOVER MUFFINS (Pumpkin Sour Cream Bran Muffins) made up by me

Thanks to my friend Beth for suggesting adding a pinch of salt! It helps bring out the other spices.

Ingredients

“DRY” INGREDIENTS

2 c bran

1.5 c white flour

1.5 tsp baking soda

3 tbsp pumpkin pie spice

One pinch salt

“WET” INGREDIENTS

3 c pumpkin puree

2 eggs lightly beaten

2 tbsp molasses

4 tbsp brown sugar

1/2 c sour cream

2 tbsp vanilla

FOR SPRINKLING

Chopped, crystallized ginger or Sugar in the Raw

Recipe

Preheat oven to 350. Grease or add muffin cups to a muffin tin. In a medium bowl, mix dry ingredients together. In a large bowl, mix wet ingredients together. Mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients until just combined (do not over mix). Spoon batter into muffin cups. You can fill the muffin cups to the top, as batter will rise only slightly. Sprinkle tops of each muffin with crystallized ginger or Sugar in the Raw. Bake 20-25 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean (muffins will feel soft but formed on top).

Caramel Pumpkin Pie

December 3, 2010

I know what you must be thinking. “Thank you so much, Elizabeth, for giving me a pumpkin pie recipe AFTER Thanksgiving.” I know, I know. But at my house we sometimes have pumpkin pie at Christmas, so consider it a Christmas dessert idea.

This is the best pumpkin pie I’ve made. It’s like normal pumpkin pie, except that you mix golden caramel in with the pumpkin and spices instead of sugar. The taste is sweet-but not too sweet-and slightly burnt. It is the perfect compliment to smooth and creamy pumpkin.

In other news, I had a great Thanksgiving with Will’s family. And, I had Thanksgiving leftovers for breakfast three days in a row. Perhaps it was time to return to the daily grind and, you know, cereal.

During Thanksgiving week, we also made pumpkin cookies and buttermilk biscuit and spinach casserole. This is Will’s youngest sister, Lily, and his family’s 9 year old neighbor, Derek, making buttermilk biscuits. They turned out great. Lily and Derek both have a knack for this.

Hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving!

What I’m Reading:

CARAMEL PUMPKIN PIE (adapted from Caramel Pumpkin Pie from Gourmet, November 2006)

This pie is supposed to be baked in a 2 inch deep and 10 inch wide fluted metal quiche pan with removable bottom. I have no interest in purchasing a one-trick wonder like that for my kitchen, so I used a standard pie pan. However, I did not change any measurements. I simply cut off the excess pie dough and only filled the crust with as much filling as fit. It was my intenion to save the extra pie dough and make mini pies in a muffin tin, but the pie took longer than I thought it would and I ran out of time. If anyone calculates the measurements for a standard 9 inch pie pan, I’d love you to share.

You will need raw rice or pie weights to make this.

Ingredients

For pastry 

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 to 5 tablespoons ice water

For filling

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 (15-oz) can solid-pack pumpkin (not pie filling; a scant 2 cups)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • Accompaniment: lightly sweetened whipped cream

Recipe

Make dough:

Blend together flour, butter, and salt in a bowl with your fingertips or a pastry blender (or pulse in a food processor) until most of mixture resembles coarse meal with some small (roughly pea-size) butter lumps. Drizzle evenly with 4 tablespoons ice water and gently stir with a fork (or pulse in processor) until incorporated.

Squeeze a small handful of dough: If it doesn’t hold together, add more ice water, 1/2 tablespoon at a time, stirring (or pulsing) until incorporated, then test again. (Do not overwork dough or pastry will be tough.)

Turn mixture out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 4 portions. With heel of your hand, smear each portion once or twice in a forward motion to help distribute fat. Gather all of dough together with scraper and press into a ball, then flatten into a 5-inch disk. Chill dough, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, until firm, at least 1 hour.

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375°F.

Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 14-inch round, then fit into quiche pan and trim excess dough flush with rim of pan. (I still followed these directions with my standard pie pan, I just had excess dough to trim). Chill until firm, about 30 minutes.

Bake pie shell:

Lightly prick bottom of shell all over with a fork, then line with foil and fill with pie weights. Put quiche pan on a baking sheet and bake pie shell until side is set and edge is pale golden, 18 to 20 minutes. Carefully remove weights and foil and bake shell until bottom is golden, about 10 minutes more. Cool completely in pan on a rack, about 30 minutes.

Make filling while shell cools:
Bring sugar and water to a boil in a 3- to 3 1/2-quart heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Boil syrup, washing down side of pan occasionally with a pastry brush dipped in cold water and gently swirling pan (do not stir), until mixture is a deep golden caramel, about 10 minutes.

Reduce heat to moderate and carefully add 1 cup cream (mixture will bubble vigorously), stirring until caramel is dissolved. Stir in remaining cup cream and bring just to a simmer.

Whisk together pumpkin purée, spices, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk in hot cream mixture, then add eggs, whisking until combined well. Pour filling (Or if you use a standard pie pan, as much filling that fits) into cooled crust and bake until puffed 1 1/2 inches from edge and center is just set, 55 to 60 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack, about 2 hours. (Pie will continue to set as it cools.) Remove side of pan before serving.

Soft Pumpkin Cookies

November 15, 2010

A few weeks ago, I had a very confused 88 year old patient. She spent half the day telling each staff member, “I hope you enjoy your freedom, because I’m sending you to prison!” and the other half of the day pointing to women on the TV and saying, “Look at her LEGS! Ooo la la!” Her son came to visit. He was a very nice man, probably in his late 40s, wearing an expensive suit, well groomed, and very polite. As soon as he left her bedside, she pulled me close, as if to tell me a secret. She looked me in the eyes and, with a quivering upper lip asked, “Is my son selling his body for money?” I can only hope that if I become demented, I am half as entertaining to my nurses.

In other news, Will and I are spending our holidays together for the first time. We’ll be at his parents house for Thanksgiving, and I’m trying to audition a few make-ahead dishes for the holiday. I’m aiming for dishes that can be made 24-48 hours in advance, so I’ll take up minimal kitchen space on Turkey Day.

The first thing I made was pumpkin cookies. Will and I just love them! They taste a little sweeter than pumpkin bread (but aren’t too sweet). They have a cake-y consistency, but are slightly browned and chewy at the edges. I will definitely make these for Thanksgiving.

A note on my modification. The original recipe calls for a chocolate drizzle. I liked the plain cookies so much that I decided to drizzle half with chocolate and keep the other half plain. Good thing I did. Will and I both like them better without chocolate, actually. These are a delicate cookie, and we think the chocolate overpowers the subtle spices and the mildness of the pumpkin.

Oh and, uh, the “drizzle.” Some water from my bottom pot spilled into my top pot in my makeshift double boiler. And I just mixed the excess water into the chocolate, convincing myself, “Oh, the chocolate will probably be too thick without a liquid thinner anyway!” It was less of a drizzle and more of a slop. I just spread it around the cookies. Not pretty. Keep them plain. They’re much better. And they don’t look so… you know…

Well, this recipe is definitely a winner. I’m going to audition some more Thanksgiving dishes and will definitely be blogging about them in the upcoming days!

More on pumpkin: Pumpkin Ginger Butter, Pumpkin Ginger Muffins

More on cookies: Cookies Archive

What I’m reading:

PUMPKIN COOKIES (adapted from Chocolate-Glazed Pumpkin Cookies Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food)

My adaptations were to double the amount of pumpkin pie spice and nix the chocolate drizzle. Or “drizzle” in my case.

Yields about 24 cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin-pie spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 can (15 ounces) pure pumpkin puree

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, pumpkin-pie spice, and salt; set aside.
  2. Using an electric mixer, beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg; beat until smooth. With mixer on low speed, alternately add flour mixture in two parts and pumpkin puree in one, beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix just until combined (do not overmix).
  3. Drop dough by heaping tablespoons onto two baking sheets, about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake until puffed and edges are golden, 15 to 20 minutes, rotating sheets once during baking. Immediately transfer cookies to wire racks, and cool completely.
  4. When cookies have cooled, set them (still on rack) over a baking sheet or waxed paper. Cool and enjoy!

Roasted Maple Acorn Squash

November 11, 2010

I am taking all the credit for turning Will on to both Butternut Squash and Acorn Squash. First, I turned him on to Butternut Squash with Butternut Squash and Ginger Soup. Next, I baked him this Roasted Maple Acorn Squash. He loved it so much he asked for it two nights in a row.

This comes together quite simply and easily. Though I’ll write the recipe out formally at the end of the post, here it is: Cut squash in half. Scoop out seeds. Brush with maple syrup. Place butter pat in middle. Stick in oven. Bake about an hour. Eat with a spoon. The (Happy) End.

My parents made this for me often when I was a kid, though my palate requires less maple syrup now than it did then. I wouldn’t have even remembered this recipe were it not for my friend Caitlin (previously referenced here), who so sweetly returned from her trip home to Massachusetts with a jug of real maple syrup just for me. And some maple candy, which was eaten up very, very quickly.

Speaking of maple syrup, I can’t wait until the magical time of year when I can watch this movie. I suggested to Will that we should decorate for Christmas immediately after Halloween, but he vetoed the idea. Actually, he put a moratorium on all Christmas decorating until after Thanksgiving. Ba-humbug.

ROASTED MAPLE ACORN SQUASH

Yes, you can eat the seeds. And they’re delicious. Try the seed recipe from Butternut Squash and Ginger Soup

Serves 2 as a side

Ingredients

1 acorn squash

2 pats of butter (I use about 2 teaspoons per half but since this is for flavor, any amount is fine)

3 tablespoons maple syrup

Recipe

Preheat oven to 375. Cut squash in half. Scoop out seeds and stringy insides. Brush yellow flesh with maple syrup, 1.5 tablespoons for each half. Place a butter pat in each squash half. Bake for 50-60 mins. Squash is done when it gets a little browned and blistered at the edges.

Pumpkin-Ginger Muffins

October 17, 2010

I am not much of a toast person. I’ve never been much for carbs as a routine breakfast, unless I’m out and need something to dip my poached eggs into. The reason why this is odd is because I really like making fruit butter, which doesn’t have too many uses aside from being slathered on toast. Usually, I need alternative ways to use it.

So I thought I’d take a jar of my Pumpkin Ginger Butter and use it in some muffins, on a rainy October day. I am not going to be so obnoxious as to suggest you should make Pumpkin Ginger Butter solely to stir it into muffins, so I’ve included the link to the original version of this recipe as well here.

I think these muffins are quite good, but not life-changing. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve never really been a muffin person. But Will really liked them, more so than the Buttermilk Bran Muffins. So if you are looking for a good pumpkin muffin, these are what you just might need. Next time I make them, I’d like to add some crystallized ginger to the batter. If you try it, let me know how it goes!

The butter: Pumpkin Ginger Butter

More on muffins: Buttermilk Bran Muffins

What I’m reading:

PUMPKIN-GINGER MUFFINS (I adapted the adapted version from smittenkitchen. Originally from the American club, in Kohler, Wisconsin via Gourmet Magazine)

For the original recipe click here

Ingredients

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup Pumpkin Ginger Butter

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/3 cup vegetable oil

2 large eggs

1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

Recipe

Put oven in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Put liners in muffin cups.

Combine flour and baking powder in one bowl. In a different bowl, whisk together pumpkin, oil, eggs, pumpkin pie spice, 1/4 cup sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl until smooth, then whisk in flour mixture until just combined.

Stir together cinnamon and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar in another bowl.

Divide batter among muffin cups (each should be about three-fourths full), then sprinkle tops with cinnamon-sugar mixture. Bake until puffed and golden brown and wooden pick or skewer inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.

Cool in pan on a rack five minutes, then transfer muffins from pan to rack and cool to warm or room temperature.

When I made my Pumpkin Ginger Butter, I realized how little I have been using ginger despite how much I like it. I decided rectify this situation immediately. I found this soup recipe and increased the amount of ginger by a bit. The result is a creamy (but cream or milk free) pureed soup with a mild kick of ginger. I really like it, and anticipate to make this throughout the Fall.

I always think its neat to get multiple uses out of a single vegetable. Though the original recipe gave the option of making Spicy Pumpkin Seeds as a topping for this soup, I wondered if the same could be done with butternut squash seeds. As it turns out, butternut squash seeds are good! I do prefer pumpkin seeds, as they are meatier and easier to gather from the flesh compared with squash seeds, but it is nice to use what you have instead of buying another thing from the grocery store. Since evacuating the seeds from the squash flesh is a bit labor intensive, you should feel free to substitute raw pumpkin seeds if you like.

I think its easiest to pull squash seeds from the flesh by running your fingers through the lines of seeds in the squash, then placing the seeds in a bowl of water. The water will make it easier to pull the remaining flesh off the seeds.

And speaking of getting 2 uses out of one vegetable, I have a neat trick to share with you that my friend Katherine taught me. You can freeze leftover vegetable scraps and chicken bones make your own chicken stock. Use anything that would normally go into chicken soup. Carrot peels, onion tops, celery leaves, chicken leg bones you’ve eaten most of the meat off of. Stick them in a Ziploc in your freezer and wait until the bag fills up. Then, place the scraps in a crock pot with some water, and run the crockpot on low heat for 10 or 12 hours. Strain the stock, then use immediately, or freeze the stock again in individual plastic containers for later use.

For more ginger recipes: Pumpkin-Ginger Butter and Sticky Chicken Wings

What I’m reading:

BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND GINGER SOUP (Soup and Seeds recipes adapted from Martha Stewart’s Pureed Butternut Squash Soup)

Serves 4

Butternut Squash & Ginger Soup Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 piece (3 inches) fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 pounds small butternut squash, prepared and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 3/4 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • Sour cream, (optional)
  • Spicy Butternut Squash Seeds (recipe below)
  1. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook onion until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add ginger, garlic, sweet potatoes, and squash; cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in 4 cups water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Simmer until squash and sweet potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
  2. Purée soup in two batches. When blending hot foods, allow the heat to escape to prevent splattering. Remove the cap from the hole of the blender’s lid, and cover with a dish towel. Stir in juice and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Serve hot, with sour cream, pepper, and pumpkin seeds, if desired.

Spicy Squash Seeds Ingredients

  • Seeds from your butternut squash (about 1/4 cup) or 1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • Small pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice

Spicy Squash Seeds Recipe

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine squash seeds, chili powder, cayenne pepper, salt, and lime juice; toss to coat.
  2. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet; bake until puffed and browned, about 10 minutes.