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!

When Cleaning the Fridge Turns into the Greatest Vegetarian Chili Ever Made

Last Monday I found myself in one of those occasional “food prep frenzies.”  With a fridge (too) full of beautiful produce from Headhouse Farmers’ Market, a huge pile of eggplants from my garden to dispose of, and a daunting week of work ahead, I made the decision to get cooking.

First up for an early dinner was an old favorite: Eggplant Tahini Burgers.  This time served with a raw Rainbow Chard Salad:

Aside from the poor year-old freezer burnt -> toaster burnt potato bun, they were DELICIOUS, as usual.  Maybe I’ll get into the details of these recipes later, although at this point they’re a major “winger.”

After slicing and dicing everything that my shitty refrigerator could have possibly ruined by freezing and thawing several times over (as it tends to do) to make a week’s lunches worth of raw salads, I went to work on turning what was left into a made-ahead dinner that could go for at least two nights. Those were the criteria I was shooting for, at least.  And while I know it’s still summer, I saw a can of beans sitting next to a pile of beat-up hole-ridden beet greens and some of my roof-top eggplants, and I couldn’t resist the thought of a nice chunky chili.  But with a serious lack of ground meat in the house (not that there ever is any ground meat in the house), I had to improvise: home-made ground tofu – whatttt.

After a serious dive into the deep dark world of internet chili-flavor forums and a frightening look into into the depths of my pantry, THIS is the beauty that emerged:

Attempting to recreate the hocus pocus that went into this is going to be a challenge,  so I ask that you bear with me, and take this recipe with a grain of salt.  But here it is:

The Best Vegetarian Chili Ever

Serves 4 or something

  • 3/4 block firm or extra firm tofu
  • 1 small eggplant, diced
  • 1 bunch white beet greens, finely chopped
  • 1 small tomato, diced (juice retained)
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 3-6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can black beans, drained (save liquid!)
  • 1 can green olives, drained and halved
  • 26-ounce can fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
  • tiny bar unsweetened very dark chocolate
  • tamari or soy sauce
  • clam juice
  • ground espresso beans
  • dark brown sugar
  • tomato paste
  • cumin
  • cayenne
  • ancho chili powder
  • oregano
  • star anise
  • clove
  • lemon juice
  • salt and pepper
Prepare Tofu-Crumbles
  1. Cut tofu into strips like playing card decks and stack each strip in between as many layers of towels as you can.  Place something heavy on top and leave this way for anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour or two (the longer the better).  Pressing the liquid out of the tofu will help it maintain its form and texture as you crumble and cook.
  2. When the tofu is relatively dry to the touch, take each piece and crumble it with your fingers into bits – whatever size you imagine you would like in a chili.  Maybe some big, some small!
  3. Heat a frying pan and then add either non-stick spray or a bit of canola oil.  When hot, add **approximately** (aka go with your gut) 2 tbs ancho chili powder, 1 tbs cumin, 1/2-1 tbs cayenne pepper, and 1/2 the minced garlic you prepared.  Keep moving for a minute or two, until fragrant.
  4. Add the crumbled tofu (adding a bit more non-stick spray or oil if needed), and mix with toasted spices.  Let sit for 5-10 minutes before moving to allow the tofu to brown.  Then begin to stir regularly until your crumbles are looking crumbly.  Note that they won’t and shouldn’t be crispy or dark brown.  Retaining some of the mush factor is pleasant in the finished product.
  5. Set aside.
Make Chili
  1. Heat a large pot, then add either non-stick spray or a bit of canola oil.  When hot, add diced red onion.  Allow to soften for a few minutes.  Push the onion to one side of your pot, clearing room to toast up **approximately** the same amounts of the same spices you used in your tofu crumble.  This time, also add 1 tbs of ground espresso beans.  Bring up to fragrant levels, and then incorporate with onion.
  2. Add remaining garlic, and cook for another minute or two.
  3. Add eggplant, and cook for another 5 minutes.
  4. Add fresh tomato, and cook for another minute.
  5. Add can of roasted tomatoes, can of halved green olives, small piece (like 1 cm x 1 cm) of unsweetened dark chocolate, 1 tbs tamari, 2 tsp clam juice, 1 tsp dark brown sugar, 1/2 tsp tomato paste, 1/4 cup liquid from canned beans, 2 tsp dried oregano, 2 star anise, and 1 clove.
  6. Bring to boil, and then reduce to simmer.  Cover, and let simmer for an hour.
  7. Add approximately 2 cups finely chopped white beet greens, drained black beans, prepared tofu-crumbles, and salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Heat for another 10-15 minutes.
  9. Squeeze the juice of about half a lemon into the chili, stir, spoon, top with a dollop of sour cream,* and SERVE.
*can be served with any number of delicious chili toppings: sour cream shredded mexican blend cheese, feta cheese, fresh cilantro, avocado, chopped fresh corn, jalapeño, etc. etc. etc.
Note: I made this two days ahead, and then ate it over the course of two days, and it only got better.