Thursday, October 28, 2010

tough skins

As the night for ghouls and goblins approaches carved orange squashes sit guarding the entrance to many a festivity. Unlike a Christmas tree ornaments these decorations are undertaken annually only to be discarded once their rooting craved teeth have shriveled up. I can only hope that the seeds got harvested and toasted as a great snack.

Personally, I have no desire to crave these hard-skins and waste the potential of its meat. Unless, I am making a soup it is rare that I will be able to utilize the entire presentation of autumn’s giants. I will carefully cleave the pumpkin is half remove its seeds, and then break the pumpkin down into smaller more manageable pieces that I will then peel. Whatever excess pumpkin I find myself with gets frozen. It is best if you can freeze them on a tray in a single layer, and then transfer into a freezer bag. Come later in the year I will defrost them for pies, custards and breads, or thrown them directly in stews and soups to thaw and cook. I am not opposed to canned pumpkin but why bother when I was get more than I need.

Spiced Pumpkin Bread with Orange Chutney
2-cups (or 15-ounce canned) pumpkin puree
1-cup canola oil
2/3-cup warm water
1-1/2 cups sugar
3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2-teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-teaspoons baking soda
1-1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1-teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2-teaspoon ground ginger
1/2-teaspoon ground fennel seed
1/2-cup almond meal

Pre-heat the oven to 350-degrees.

Grease and flour two 7x3-inch bread pans.

In a large bowl, mix together the pumpkin puree, eggs, oil water and sugar until well blended.

In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, fennel seed and almond meal.

Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin/egg mix until just combined.

Pour into prepared bread pans, and bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean when inserted into the center. Cool for 10 minutes before releasing from the pan.

Orange Chutney
1/4-cup sugar
1/4-cup honey
1/4-cup fresh lemon juice (from approx 1 lemon)
1/2-sliced dried apricots
1/4-teaspoon salt
5 oranges – peeled, seeds discarded and cut into chunks

Add the sugar, honey, lemon juice, apricots and salt in a 2-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer and cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Then mix in the orange chunks a simmer for an additional 10 minutes. Cool completely.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Yesterday, sleeveless
Surviving a transition
Time for a warm bow

Pumpkin Soup – yields approx. 4 quarts
7-pound pumpkin
2-large onions – diced
6-carrots – peeled and diced
1 jalapeno pepper - diced
1/2-pound parsnip – peeled and diced
2-tablespoon olive oil
1-teaspoon fresh thyme leaves - chopped
2-teaspoons fresh sage leaves – chopped
2-teaspoons orange zest
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Cut the pumpkin in half, and scoop out the seeds. Reserve the seeds to the side.

Pre-heat the oven to 375.

Peel the pumpkin, and cut the meat of the pumpkin into 1-inch pieces. Spread the cut pumpkin on a baking tray, and place in the oven. Cook the pumpkin for 15 minutes to lightly brown.

Transfer the pumpkin to an eight-quart soup pot, along with the onion, carrots, jalapeno and parsnip. Cook with four-quarts of water. Bring to the boil, and them reduce to a simmer. Cover the pot, and cook the soup for an hour.

After an hour puree the pumpkin mixture until smooth. Return to the pot, and season with salt and pepper.

While the soup is simmering free the pumpkin seeds from the fibrous meat it clings to. Wash the seeds clean. Spread the seeds onto a baking tray, and dry in the oven for five minutes.

Heat an eight-inch sauté pan over a medium heat, and add the olive oil and pumpkin seeds. Cook the pumpkin seeds until golden brown. Remove from the heat, and immediately toss in the thyme, sage, orange zest, salt and pepper.

Serve the soup garnished with the seasoned pumpkin seeds and a dollop of crème fraiche or a sprinkle of grated cheddar cheese.

Monday, October 11, 2010


Back in the 90’s we were fat phobic. Resulting in the new millennium’s 180-degree turn and the rise of the Two Fat Ladies signaled the repeal of the lipid’s prohibition. Over the past ten years I have had overwrought workings of anything bacon from bacon brittle to pork belly truffles. Denial of anything will result in a zealot’s crusade once unshackled.

Lately, it is sugar. That quick, rush of calories that most of us take in too much of. It is interesting to me that we are addicted to two of the elements in contained in are first meal – milk. I will confess to enjoying a bowl of ice cream, a slab of white cake with rose scented creambutter or white chocolate bark studded with dried cherries. I will even a drink Coca-Cola, but only when it is the holiday of Passover and I find the one sweetened with cane sugar, which fulfills the Jewish dietary restrictions of that 8-day period.

My position with sweet that I like it – but it is more important that I get my sweetening from sugar-in-th-raw, local, unprocessed honey, agave and fruits. I am firm in my rejection of corn syrup, or corn sugar whatever they plan to call it. I did not need it my loaf of bread or in cans of tomatoes or salad dressing. It is a likely element in almost every prepared product put out of the market. It requires us to read every food label and once you do it will be shocking how often you come across the addictive. I am okay that the professional association that markets corn syrup thinks it is okay for little Johnny to consume this unnaturally occurring sweeter – I do not. Nature in her wonder gives us sweet notes throughout every season, and I for one find these sweet notes more than satisfactory. Give me foods that I can easily recognize and trace to their origins without needing a science food degree. We may possess the intellectual ability to isolate chemical compounds, but I fear our metabolic system is still attached to our origin of development and ability to derive nutrition and energy from naturally available food sources.

So, perhaps this time instead of a radical rejection we should take a cleanse and reset our palates then start afresh by going back to the old, tried the true – the natural.

Cucumber Soup - yields approx. 4-cups
2-1/2 pounds cucumber
2-inch piece of ginger - peeled and diced
1/4-cup fresh lemon juice
2-tablespoons mint leaves
1/8-teaspoon black pepper
1/4-teaspoon salt
3/4-cup iced water
Peel the cucumbers, and then cut in half lengthwise. Remove the seed pocket, and roughly chopped the cucumbers.

Place all the ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Chill and serve cold.