Improvising with Inspiration: Ash-e Anar or Persian Pomegranate Soup

Sometimes when your largely raw diet catches up with you right in the middle of the worst week ever, you just need to do something crazy in the kitchen.

So that’s what I did last week.

I’ve long been intrigued by the cuisine of the Middle East.  It’s one of the most foreign styles of cuisine to me personally and incorporates some unique flavor profiles that I could never cook up on my own.  One particularly alluring dish had long been calling my name, and it features the one ingredient, pomegranate seeds, that I intended to use up in my stress-busting kitchen rampage.  That is, Ash-e Anar, or Pomegranate (anar) Soup (ash), a traditional Persian dish featuring sweet and sour flavors mingling amidst a rich depth of complex aromatics.

I had read up on the history and tradition of the dish, primarily via the wonderful ethnic food blogs Habeas Brulee and Tigers & Strawberries (which I would highly recommend reading before trying to understand my botch of the dish below), and unfortunately while the soup did promised to highlight the intended star of the night, it also called for several ingredients that I never have around the house.  But that was part of the fun.  Improvising with inspiration, I’ll call it.

With inspiration in heart, I set off to improvise with what I had on hand.  Of course meaning it would be a health-conscious vegan version of the dish, but, you know.  Funny enough, though, the soup turned out absolutely delicious, if not “accurate,” and it was certainly unlike anything else I’ve ever prepared at home.  So read on for a chronicle of this stress-busting, not to mention heart-healing (ever read about the health benefits of pomegranate and/or turmeric?!), Persian culinary adventure:

The Ash-e Anar Experiment

Serves 2

SOUP

  • Non-stick spray
  • 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1/2 cup red lentils
  • 1 medium beet, small cubes
  • Lotsa (1 tbs?) turmeric
  • Some paprika (2 tsp) and a dash of cayenne (in an attempt to replicate the flavor/color of Aleppo Pepper)
  • Contents of 1 cardamom pod
  • Several dashes of fennel seed
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3-4 cups stock (I used beef – shh don’t tell the real vegans) or water
  • Squeeze of agave nectar
  • About 1/2 cup pomegranate juice (made from pulverizing about 3/4 cup seeds in food processor and straining)
  • Large handful of chopped red chard
  • Chopped cilantro and parsley to taste
  • Cooked white rice (optional)

“MEAT” BALLS

  • 3/4 tube of sausage-flavored Gimme Lean
  • Chopped fresh cilantro, parsley, scallions and chives (the last living scallions and chives from my garden) to taste
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

TO SERVE

  • Clove of crushed garlic sauteed with turmeric until golden
  • Pomegranate seeds
  1. Saute onion in large soup pot until soft and golden brown.  Add garlic cloves and saute until fragrant.  Add lentils and continue to saute until they take on some color (a few minutes max).
  2. Add 2-3 cups stock or water (NOTE: you may have to add water/stock later as the soup thickens.  Do as looks right to you at the time).  As you bring to a boil, add turmeric, paprika, cayenne, cardamom, fennel seeds, S&P, and cinnamon stick.  As you reduce from boil to nice simmer, add beet.  Let simmer.
  3. Prepare “meat” balls!  With whatever meat or meat substitute you have on hand, prepare balls by mushing together with chopped herbs and garlic.  Make them about the size of a chestnut or walnut.
  4. NOTE: When finished with “meat” balls, I popped them right into the simmering soup.  In retrospect I should have browned them first, then popped into soup, as the vegan sausage does not cook through properly when simmered like lamb (which is traditionally used).
  5. Once “meat” balls are added to soup (whether browned first or not, your choice!), continue to simmer for another 20 minutes or so.  Most important thing here is that the lentils and the “meat” balls cook through, so play it by ear/taste/touch!
  6. When you’re getting close and your lentils are soft, add a nice squeeze of agave nectar (or honey or sugar or whatever), the pomegranate juice, the chopped chard (or kale or spinach or whatever), and the chopped herbs (really almost any herbs will do).
  7. Simmer until chard wilts and fish out cinnamon stick.  If you would like to have rice in your soup, you can add at this time.  I had no rice, but mixed about 3/4 cup into my boyfriend’s portion.
  8. Serve with a golden-yellow garlic clove and pomegranate seeds.  Voila!  Vegan “Fauxash-e Anar!”  Yum!!
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Goodbye New Mexico, Hello Raw Beet Soup

Hello again, blog.

As you may have noticed, I’ve been away for a while.  It’s true.  I left you.

For this (green chili cheeseburger at Perea’s):

And this (chile rellenos and enchiladas at Padilla’s):

And this (green chili stew at Maria’s):

And a WHOLE lot of this (IPAs at La Cumbre Brewing):

But I’m back now.

Needless to say, New Mexico was quite a marathon.  ABQ eats are certainly friendly going down, but they’re not so friendly afterwards.  After 14 straight days of drinking and irregular eating habits, it’s time to normalize.  Back to a world where people don’t consider melted cheese a food group and tortillas a vegetable.

Luckily today I came across this little bugger to the right from Harvard (a non-bureaucratic smart person attempt at the food pyramid known as the Healthy Eating Plate) to remind me that even through there’s still a whole basket full of Christmas candy and a dump trucks worth of nuts n’ bolts at home, it’s time to start actually using my brain when it comes to what I’m putting in my body.

To kick things off strong, I started with a meal that could cleanse the bowels of a two ton rhino — Raw Beet Soup with Sauerkraut Shitake Seitan Hash:

Raw Beet Soup with Sauerkraut Shitake Seitan Hash

Serves 2

FOR SOUP:

  • 2 whole red beets, unpeeled
  • 1 carrot, unpeeled
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 1/4 white or yellow onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • juice of 1/2 lemon (with seeds)
  • vegetable stock/broth as needed
  • dill (fresh, preferably, or dried) to taste
  • fennel seeds to taste
  • agave nectar (or honey) to taste
  • dash apple cider vinegar
  • sea salt and pepper to taste
  • VITAMIX, BLENDTEC, OR OTHER HIGHPOWER BLENDER ESSENTIAL!

FOR HASH:

  • lacto-fermented sauerkraut (good, simple recipe here – my recipe will follow, sometime)
  • handful of mushrooms
  • seitan (omit for gluten free version)
  1. To make soup, put everything in the blender and BLEND. Seriously. That’s it.  But blend for long time.  Like 4 minutes. Adjust seasonings/add stock/broth as needed to achieve desired texture.
  2. To make hash, chop all ingredients thinly and mix.
  3. Pile hash, pour soup, serve with water-thinned greek yogurt (if not vegan), cashew cream (if vegan), or nothing (if lazy).
  4. CLEANSE AWAY!

Dijon Maple-Seared Tofallops Over Raw Marinated Brussels Sprout and Oyster Mushroom Salad

Following a week of unexpected indulgence that included an impromptu splurge at the brand new vegan spot from the Horizons folks, Vedge, and a last minute invitation to The Farm and the Fisherman‘s Pork and Beer dinner featuring pork from Wyebrook Farm and Lew Bryson to navigate pairings from Spring House Brewing in Lancaster, PA I needed a major cleanse meal.  Thankfully, somewhere between the vegan cocktails and shots of 41% ABV beers (needless to say I am referring to Brewdog’s unforgettable Sink the Bismark) I found time to get my hands on this beautiful stalk of brussels sprouts from Culton Organics:

With this bad boy on hand, there was definitely a cleanse meal in the cards.  With their powerful anticancer properties (thanks to high levels of glucosinolates and sulforaphane), brussels sprouts provide unparalleled support to the body’s detox system.  Plus they are full of antioxidants AND can help lower your cholesterol!  Now that’s what I call a power vegetable.

Need even more convincing that brussels sprouts might be the best veg ever?  Those leaves up top?  Delicious raw or stewed.  The stalk?  Matchstick it up and saute with some olive oil.  Side dish of champions.  This is a true snout-to-tail-type of plant – my favorite.

What really pulled this meal together, though, was a 1/4 pound stem of ethereal gray oyster mushrooms just begging for attention in my refrigerator.  Not wanting to do anything to compromise the delicate, pillowy cream-colored flesh of the mushrooms, or, for that matter, the nutritional content of the brussels sprouts I opted for a raw salad.

The phrase “raw brussels sprouts” likely elicits a sneer from most folks.  But what most folks don’t realize is that it’s cooking your brussels sprouts that puts you at risk of releasing those danky sulfuric compounds that have so wrongly criminalized this lovely little brassica.  When sliced thinly and marinated, the raw brussels is a refreshing treat.

Inspired by a great little blog called Warm Kitchenette, I realized that scallops would be a great pairing for a light raw brussels sprout and mushroom salad.  In the minutes following, I then realized that Ippolitos had just closed.  Scallops were quite clearly not an option.  So I got creative.  “Tofallops” it was.  And you know what?  You ALMOST couldn’t tell the difference.

Dijon Maple-Seared Tofallops Over Raw Marinated Brussels Sprout and Oyster Mushroom Salad

Vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, Serves 2

  • 1/2 block of firm or extra firm tofu
  • 1 tbs dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • 1 pint brussels sprouts (I used about 1/3 from the whole stalk)
  • 1/2 pound (roughly) oyster mushrooms
  • slivered almonds
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tsp honey or agave nectar
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • S&P
  1. With a paring knife, cut scallop-sized circles out of your tofu block.  Arrange “tofallops” on a towel and press firmly on all sides repeatedly until all the surfaces of each one are dry to the touch (this helps them sear!).  Leave them on a towel to continue to dry while you prepare salad.
  2. Mix marinade of juice from 1/2 lemon, honey, olive oil, and S&P to taste.
  3. Preferably with a mandoline (you can use a very sharp knife, but with small handheld mandolines available for under $15, like this one from OXO, I suggest you invest!) slice the brussels sprouts thinly and rinse clean.
  4. Shave mushrooms very thin with sharp knife.
  5. Toss brussels and mushrooms with marinade and let sit.
  6. Using a spatula or spoon, coat the top sides of each “tofallop” with dijon mustard.
  7. Heat a saute pan over med/high flame.  Coat generously with nonstick spray.  Add 1 tsp maple syrup.
  8. Once hot, place “tofallops” dijon side down in the pan.  Let sit undisturbed for about 5 minutes, or until you can smell the syrup caramelizing and the dijon becoming fragrant.  Quickly coat the other side of the “tofallops” with dijon, and then gently flip to the other side.  Allow to sear for another 4-5 minutes or so.
  9. While the “tofallops” are searing, add a handful or two of slivered almonds to the brussels and mushroom and toss.  Distribute salad between two plates.
  10. Once “tofallops” are nice and lightly brown on both sides, place on top of your plated salad.  Voila!  Dinner is served.

Autumnalyum: Seckel Pear and Delicata Squash Soup

On one gray Sunday evening with only some rapidly declining seckel pears and a pair of lonely delicata squash on hand, I endeavored to create a quick and easy supper.  And this Saveur-inspired soup turned out to be just the ticket.  It turned a desperate Sunday night into a gastronomical “aah!” with it’s perfectly autumnal balance of delicate sweetness and rich savory.

The dish didn’t look pretty, and hopes certainly weren’t high — but boy were our taste buds pleased.  Even my MSG-addicted boyfriend licked the bowl clean *swear it*.  Too boot: it’s fat-free 🙂  Yum!

Seckel Pear and Delicata Squash Soup

vegetarian, optionally vegan, gluten free

serves 2 as a meal

  • 2 seckel pears
  • 2 small delicata squash
  • 1/2 onion (white or yellow)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tbs balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cups broth/stock of your choice
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • my non-fat crème fraîche substitute*
  • real, tasty, trees on the bottle maple syrup
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Halve delicatas, scoop seeds and roast, open side down, for 20-40 minutes, or until flesh is soft.
  3. While roasting, chop onion and garlic, and quarter pears (if you’re using a high-powered blender no need to remove seeds or stems).
  4. Heat non-stick spray in a large wide pan.  Add onion and saute until soft.  Add garlic and saute more until fragrant.
  5. Add pears and saute until soft.  Add thyme and saute more until fragrant.
  6. Add balsamic vinegar, stock/broth and salt & pepper to taste.  Bring to boil and then remove from heat.
  7. Then there are two options: a) toss it all into a high-powered blender (preferably a Vitamix :)) and keep ‘er going until very smooth, or b) use an immersion blender to puree until the soup is very smooth.
  8. Serve with nice drizzlies of non-fat crème fraîche and maple syrup. YUM!

reduced-fat crème fraîche substitute

  • lemon juice
  • low or non-fat grass fed sour cream or greek yogurt (or the vegan sour cream or yogurt sub of your choice)
  1. Add approximately 1 tsp of lemon juice per 1/2 cup of sour cream or yogurt.  Mix and you’re done!  (If it’s too thick you can add some water)

The Snack Most Worth Waiting For: Dilly Beans

This past summer I picked up a load of green and wax beans from my Aunt’s garden.  Not knowing what else to do with ’em, I took a nod from Marisa of the fantastic canning blog Food in Jars and went for Dilly Beans — an old fashioned pickled treat.  Lucky for me, the finished product was buried so deep in my pantry that I couldn’t be tempted to break in early.  After a full four months (three, even, would have probably sufficed) I opened a jar for the first time.  Verdict?  AMAZING.  My boyfriend and I literally ate the whole jar within an hour — well before we finished anything else on the associated cheese plate.  Even better news: NO BOTULISM!  So go ahead, have some fun.  Dilly those beans.

Dilly Beans

  • Wide mouth pint jars or 12 oz. jelly jars
  • Other associated canning supplies*
  • String beans (a combo of green and wax is nice!)
  • Garlic cloves (2 per jar)
  • Split hot chili pepper – fresh or dried (1 per jar)
  • 1 tsp dill seed (per jar)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt (per jar)
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne (per jar)
  • 1/4 tsp celery seed (per jar)
  • 1/4 tsp black peppercorns (per jar)
  • fresh dill
  • water
  • white vinegar
  1. Sanitize jars.*
  2. Trim string beans so that when stuffed upright in jar they are about 1 inch from the top.
  3. Fill jars while still warm with string beans, garlic cloves, split chili pepper, dill seed, salt, cayenne, celery seed, peppercorns and a spring of fresh dill.
  4. For each jar you’ve filled, add 1 cup water and 1 cup white vinegar to a large pot.  Once boiling, pour the hot brine over your beans leaving 1/2 inch headspace at the top of each jar.
  5. Run a chopstick or whatever you have on hand around the outside of the jar to remove any air bubbles. Wipe the rims very clean with a paper towel to ensure a clean seal.
  6. Apply warmed lids, screw on bands, and process in boiling water canner for 10 minutes.*
  7. They’re ready to eat basically immediately, and will last about a year in your pantry.

*I’ve never bothered to put together a nice primer on canning but they are certainly available out there. For something comprehensive, try the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning – it’s a bible of sorts.  Alternatively, here’s a quick and simple Canning 101 from Simple Bites!

Make These Now: Easy Airy Kale Chips

Tuscan kale – aka lacinato kale or dinosaur kale – is hands down my favorite kale variety.  It’s tender, scaly, flat leaves are perfect for eating raw or crisping up into deliciously delicate chips.  Unlike curly varieties of kale, whose ruched edges mean a tough texture and uneven baking tendency, these babies melt in your mouth raw, and toast to to perfection without any unpleasant chewiness or char.

20111114-144708.jpgMaking tuscan kale chips is just about the easiest thing to do in the kitchen there could be, and you seem super fancy when you do it.  They are one of the best entertaining snack foods I’ve ever encountered.  Keep in mind, though — the combination of their dangerous addictiveness, crumbliness, and tendency to leave green bits in between teeth you didn’t even know you had mean they don’t make the best date food.  Just sayin’.

Kale Chips

  • 1 bunch lacinato kale
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
  2. Remove the stems from the kale leaves.
  3. Toss with a drizzle of olive oil (you need less than you think!) and sprinkle of salt.
  4. Arrange flat on a baking sheet and bake for approximately 30 minutes.
  5. CRUNCH CRUNCH CRUCH

Sunshine (Kabocha) on a Cloudy Day: Ginataang Kalabasa at Hipon

The one nice thing I can recollect from my dark, dank and horrible October (besides it becoming November) is this Headhouse purchase-promted dish: warm, creamy, comforting Ginataang Kalabasa.

I came home from the market one week with an irresistible sunshine kabocha.  Kabocha — also known as Japanese pumpkin — is a fantastic squash variety from, you guessed it, Japan (though originally Cambodia). It has a wonderful sweet chestnut flavor that is certainly one of my favorites.  The sunshine varietal doesn’t have a distinct taste profile, but it sure does look pretty, don’t you think?

On one of those cold blustery days it beckoned — “Stew me…..steeeewwww me.”  So I did.

In an effort to bring the kabocha back to it’s roots, I went for a Filipino-style preparation called ginataang, which basically means “stewed in coconut milk.”  The only protein I had on hand were some lovely large shrimp from Whole Foods stashed in the freezer, so the dish became Ginataang Kalabasa at Hiponkalabasa referring to the “pumpkin” and hipon to the “shrimp.”

Aside from the initial effort needed to cleaver the kabocha in two, this is a super easy dish to throw together — under 30 minutes from squash to table.  And like that’s not enough, it’s basically the culinary embodiment of the large, generous and warm Filipino mother you likely never had – well, the one I never had, at least.  On a cold, blustery day, nothing could be more comforting.

Ginataang Kalabasa at Hipon

(Kabocha Squash and Shrimp Simmered in Coconut Milk)

gluten free, can be vegetarian/vegan

Serves 2-3

-1 kabocha squash,* peeled, seeded and cut into 1-1.5 inch cubes
-1 small white/yellow onion, diced
-4 garlic cloves, crushed
-1 cup broth or stock
-2 chili peppers, tops removed
-1/2 pound shrimp, shelled and deveined (can use cubed tofu to make vegan/vegetarian)
-2 cups coconut milk**
-1/2 tsp fish sauce (optional)
-Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Heat a wide pan coated with nonstick spray. Add the onion and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the chicken broth, whole chili peppers (although you can split open and remove the seeds if you’d like less heat) and squash pieces – along with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil and then lower to simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the squash is tender but still holds shape.
  3. Add the shrimp, coconut milk and fish sauce. Simmer for another 3 to 5 minutes, stirring, until shrimp is opaque.
  4. Serve over nice fresh rice 🙂

*Feel free to use any winter squash you have on hand!

**I, of course, use reduced-fat coconut milk.

A Chapter from the Autumn Almanac: Applesauce

Again inspired by a sudden excess of perishables, I learned something new last week:

Applesauce is ridiculously easy to make at home.

It’s so easy that I actually almost added steps just to make it feel more like I was doing something.  Granted, for my first applecookin’ experience I stuck with the bare essentials – but it doesn’t take much to spice it up!  Add garam masala for an eastern twist…or some berries for a tart touch!  I’ve also spent a good deal of time contemplating how to most efficiently incorporate bacon into my applesauce.

Whether you keep it simple or go nuts, I promise: if you buy yourself a bushel of apples, set aside an hour or two and do this, you’ll never go back to store bough applecrap again!

How to Make Yummy Applesauce in an Hour or Less

I used about 1 1/2 to 2 pounds of apples bestowed upon me by the ancient heirloom trees out on my Aunt’s property:

I managed to enlist some assistance from my lovely boyfriend in peeling, coring and quartering the apples (thanks to a bribe of hockey and Chex Mix), which was the only real labor involved:

Just add 3/4 cup water (you could also use apple juice or cider), along with 1 clove and 2 star anise (totally optional, but classic add-ins), cover and heat!  Let the apples simmer for 15-25 minutes until they’re nice and soft.

Using an immersion blender, or via batches in a normal blender, combine the apples with 1-2 tablespoons of cinnamon and 1-2 teaspoons nutmeg until you reach your desired sauciness:

I prefer my applesauce unsweetened (aren’t apples sweethearts enough?!), but if you would like, go ahead and add any kind of sweetener you prefer be it sugar, honey, agave nectar…what have you!

I ate this stuff faster than a constipated grandpa, so I didn’t really have any left to preserve.  I stuck a small container of it in the freezer (it freezes wonderfully!) in case of emergency, but otherwise packaged it into small jars for snacks at work – yum 🙂

If you’d like to preserve, please follow the USDA instructions found here, processing in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes for half pints and pints or 20 minutes for quarts.

Happy autumn!

When Life Gives You Lemons: Make Habanero Pickled Green Tomatoes

It’s amazing what having access to a high-yield vegetable garden has done to my life.  I’m not sure if it’s good or bad – but I’ve developed this squirrellish tendency to hoard produce and devilishly conceive of ways to keep it in my arsenal long past the originally predicted date of decay.  Maybe it’s the sudden abundance of my Aunt’s new vegetable garden, or maybe it’s the coming apocalypse…can’t say for sure.

The fact is that for better or for worse, my current tendency towards gardening and gardens partnered with an irrational/rational fear of impending doom has birthed a hobby: figuring out what to do when you have so much of something that it threatens uselessness and the thought of letting it go to waste induces nausea lest you encounter a future need for past excess.  Now that’s a torment worth prevention.

This week’s culprit: green tomatoes.While I personally like these tart, crisp little buggers on their own, they’re a hard sell fresh.

So on one of those devilish mental tears, I became inspired by the South Philadelphia Tap Room‘s unbelievably sour and spicy selection of pickled delicacies, and decided to attempt my own version of their fiery green tomatoes.And this is what emerged:Do they taste good?  Ask me two months from now.

Do they look good?  Yes.

Try it.  It’s fun!

Habanero Pickled Green Tomatoes

Makes 2 pint jars

  • 1-2 lbs green tomatoes
  • 1/2 white or yellow onion
  • 1 green chili
  • 1 habanero chili
  • 2 garlic cloves*
  • 3/4 cup white vinegar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 tsp dill seed
  • 2 tsp celery seed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 tbs kosher salt
  1. If you’ll be preserving, prepare your jars for battle!*
  2. Core tomatoes, and cut into thick slices (horizontally).
  3. “Eighth” onion.
  4. CAREFULLY seed chilies and quarter.
  5. Prepare brine by bringing vinegar, water and salt just to boil.
  6. Once jars are warm,* pack em: stuff each full with tomato slices, a few chunks of onion, half of each chili, a garlic clove (smashed), 1 tsp dill seed, 1 tsp celery seed, 1 bay leaf, 1/2 tsp peppercorns.
  7. Pour hot brine over tomatoes, removing any bubbles with the end of a spoon or chop stick – leave 1/2 inch headspace.
  8. If fridging, allow to cool, and refrigerate – they’ll keep for up to a month.
  9. If canning (in boiling water canner) – process for 10 minutes.*

*If canning, please follow USDA instructions found here!

Goodbye Summer, Hello Tamil-Spiced Acorn Squash and Sweet Potato Soup

After a weekend with these guys:

pulling up these things:out here:…not to mention my visit to Yellow Springs Farm for some tantalizing aged Nubian goat cheese or the upkeep I was forced to perform in my own garden or the grueling two hours of yoga practice.

I was exhausted.

But, I had emerged with two beautiful acorn squash – c/o the bounty of my Aunt Susan’s beautiful Chester County garden.

This, I knew, would help make Monday’s dinner easy peasy.

Soup!

My slippers made their first appearance since the winter recently, so I’ve been craving roast-y.  But who wants to wait for squash to roast after work on a Monday?  Not me.

So Sunday night I pulled that nifty “throwing shit in the oven for later” trick.

After chopping and scooping, I doused ’em with non-stick spray and shoved them in the oven:While I was waiting for them to do their thing, I decided to put my blender to work and make some raw beet soup and blueberry/banana/collard green/oat smoothie for lunch and breakfast the next day:Yum!  And then, they were ready:As an aside, I recommend that you always use your “throwing shit in the over for later” time wisely.  On this occasion, I added some rooftop eggplants and the seeds from the acorn squash themselves:Got it all packed away in the fridge and DONE.

When Monday rolled around, it was smooth sailing.

Gather:Chop:Brown:Simmer:Blend:Toast:DINNER IS SERVED (with greek yogurt, chive, and those poor acorn squash’s own seeds):This soup was even tastier than it looks.  Add that to gluten-free, nutrition dense, mineral rich and autumnally warm — what’s not to love?  Give this early onset slipper-season soup a go.

Tamil-Spiced Acorn Squash and Sweet Potato Soup

vegan, vegetarian, gluten free

Serves 2-3

  • 2 small acorn squash
  • 1/2 large sweet potato
  • 2 tsp fresh ginger
  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • 1 small hot pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 tart apple (I used Ginger Gold)
  • 2 1/2 cups stock (vegetable, chicken, turkey – pick your poison)
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 2 tsp madras curry powder
  • 1 tsp toasted coriander seeds, crushed
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/2 tsp tumeric
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  1. ROAST:  Cut each acorn squash in half, scoop seeds (reserve), place on foil-lined baking tray, coat with non-stick spray (or olive oil, if you prefer) and roast at 400 degrees for between 30 and 40 minutes.  This can be done a day or two in advance – just store, properly contained, in the fridge.
  2. While you are roasting your acorn squash, throw their seeds in there as well.  It will only take these 5 minutes or so to become crunchy.  Reserve the roasted seeds for soup topping.
  3. CHOP:  Cut sweet potato into chunks.  Place in microwave safe bowl with a small amount of water.  Nuke until softened (2-4 minutes).  Scoop the flesh from the roasted acorn squash into the same bowl.
  4. Chop onion and apple (don’t worry about pieces being small or regular – as they’ll all be blended anyway!) and combine.
  5. Chop the garlic, ginger and pepper and combine.
  6. Combine the spices.
  7. BROWN:  Heat a large pot and coat with non-stick spray (or olive oil – practitioners choice).  Add onion and apple and saute until softened, about 5-8 minutes).
  8. Meanwhile, place your spices in a frying pan over low heat.  Keep them moving around until they become deliciously fragrant, then remove from heat (don’t wash the pan – you’ll use to re-toast your seeds!).
  9. Add the garlic, ginger and pepper to the onion mix.  Saute another 1 to 2 minutes.
  10. Add the toasted spices and combine.
  11. SIMMER:  Add squash, potato, almond milk and stock, bring to boil, reduce to simmer, and leave, uncovered, for 10-20 minutes (or until it reaches a consistency you like).  Remove from heat.
  12. BLEND:  Two options here: I like to use my immersion blender (best kitchen gadget I have ever bought), but you can also puree in batches in a normal blender or food processor.  Keep going until the soup is creamy and smooth.  If it too watery, return to heat and cook down to desired consistency.  If it is too thick, add additional stock.
  13. TOAST:  Add your pre-roasted acorn squash seeds to the pan in which you toasted your spices.  Give a quick spray with non-stick, toss and toast until they begin to pop.
  14. SERVE:  As I’m a “ph-egan” who happens to have chives growing on my roof, I served the soup with greek yogurt, chives and the toasted seeds.  But soy yogurt, no yogurt, cilantro, etc. would all work here.
  15. ENJOY!