Saturday, October 31, 2009

Pumpkin at the Potluck

The pumpkin soup I had been planning all year for the potluck was a hit! The hardest part was growing the pumpkins. I started seedlings in February, and got some of them into the ground by March. The Cinderella pumpkin seedlings were transplanted a bit later in April. Both pumpkin patches had lots of compost that I made through the spring and summer of 2008 with horse manure from a friend, food waste from the local food bank and garden refuse. In the early spring, I cleaned out a friend's chicken coop, so the chicken manure was also added to the soil.
Now that I have shared the recipe for the compost and the soil, here's the recipe for the soup. I cooked the squash and made the broth the day before, prepared the tureen on the morning of the potluck and then did all the other stuff shortly before eating. I fully cooked the tureen two days later and it will take us another month to eat it all. That was one big pumpkin!
1 butternut squash
1 small eating-type pumpkin (I used Baby Pam)
1 Cinderella pumpkin
1 orange or red sweet pepper
2 red serrano peppers
1/2 cup raw walnuts
2 leeks
several green onions
several ribs celery
1 clove garlic
1 t coriander
olive oil

Cut the squash and small pumpkin into pieces, remove the seeds for another use, and simmer in a large pan with 1/2 inch of water, covered, for 20 minutes. Let it cool gradually while you are doing everything else.
Soak the walnuts for several hours, and throw the soaking water into the compost pile.
Chop the bottom part of the leek, the white part of the onion, the bottom part of the celery, peppers and garlic, reserving the veggie tops, leaves and skins for broth. Saute the chopped veggies in olive oil until tender and let cool until they are easily handled.
Finely chop the veggie tops and leaves and put in a pan and cover with water, simmer for 5 minutes, cover and let cool for 15 minutes.
Strain the broth and add to a blender with the walnuts. Puree on high until smooth. Pour into a large pot.
Add the sauteed veggies to the blender and puree with additional water until they are smooth. Put the veggies through a food mill and add them to the large pot.
Scoop out the squash and small pumpkin pulp and put through the food mill and add it to the large pot. Add more water or broth until you get the desired consistency.
Toast the coriander seeds until they are fragrant and then grind with a mortar and pestle, and add to the pot. Season with salt to taste. Heat on simmer, stirring, until warm enough to serve.

Tureen recipe.
Cut an opening in the top of the Cinderella pumpkin like for a Jack-o-lantern, scoop out the seeds and strings, put the lid back on and place on a large baking pan and bake at 350 for 30 minutes. This is enough to get rid of the raw taste but not enough to cause the pumpkin to cave in. The flesh of this pumpkin is not scooped out and used for the soup.
While the tureen is still warm, add the hot soup.
The tureen will store very well in the fridge with the lid on for a couple of days, and can then be fully cooked and used for even more soup. You can also toast all the pumpkin and squash seeds the next day as long as they are washed and dried well.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Apple Time

This week has been the time for apples. I have a dear gardening friend who has a few trees, and like myself, not enough time or freezer space to save everything. The dehydrator has been on most of the week, and I have several large containers of the sweet and chewy dried treats.
When I got the first of this year's apples, I made a ton of applesauce. We are tired of it now, and I am tired of cooking it.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

My Syncretic Food culture - Part 3 - Teen rebellion

Once we went to a family reunion far out in the country, held in a large building with white wood siding, as white as the old white limestone foundation that matched the color of the gravel covering the parking lot. There were some older relatives in there, in overhauls, with braided hair much longer than their beards. At the last reunion, they brought squirrel meat, so this time I refused to join in all the fun, and just spent my time in the car, fingerknitting and trying to improve the reception to my favorite top 40 radio station.

Who could forget the year that Taco Bell opened up a store in town? A classmate told me about it, and how she loved tacos. She described them to me, but I didn’t get the picture. In Buckminsterfullerite-fashion, I asked,
“How high are they?”
“They aren’t high, they’re just tacos,” she replied.
“Well, are they flat?”
“They aren’t flat. They’re folded over, but they aren’t high.”
We had to travel quite awhile to get to the Taco Bell, but it was worth it. Finally White Castles had some competition. I fancied myself too cool to “drive through Steak” and quit going to that other burger place when my best friend renamed it McDonny’s. We went there all the time, and lingered for hours because one of the employees looked like Donny Osmond.

I got a job in an institutional kitchen, and started rescuing all sorts of foods that were to be thrown away. Soon we had as many bags of old French toast and containers of pancake batter as we had dabs of bacon fat to re-fry them in.

I wanted to be a hippie, just like my hippie English teacher. He lived downtown in gentrified co-housing with other hippie vegetarians. Unable to move into a hippie commune at that age, I become a vegetarian instead. The early meatless years were filled wheat germ brownies made from Jim’s recipe and home-made stone-ground whole wheat bread. I learned to cook my own soups and fend for myself at breakfast.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Brain food

A week ago I harvested my first Jerusalem artichoke. I thought I would get a few small roots, since the plant had been attacked several times and had blown over during the Santa Ana winds. I was surprised to dig up a very large root, about the size and appearance of a brain.
The next day, the burrowing animals made a dash towards the remaining tubers and created a very large hole necessary to cart off the goods. So I harvested the other plant, and got another really large brain.
I really like the smoky flavor and texture of these chokes, and have let it be known that my temperamental potatoes are in danger of being replaced by a new BFF (best food forever). I think they got the message. After tearing out some old tomato plants, I found some really great potato plants, and they are trying their best to grab my attention.
I am now in the process of preparing soil for an additional choke bed. Thanks to Donna for introducing this new food to the locavores and for giving me the cuttings. Many folks at the community garden are also getting cuttings this year. They appreciate the perennial and drought-tolerant qualities, and it is just so cool to have pretty flowers all summer and then get all this great brain food at the end of the season.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

October exceptions

This month's selections: Rice, cinnamon and something else. Not sure yet. Not sure I care anymore. Now that the dry beans are harvested I am perfectly fine with a wide variety of vegetarian foods for now. Perhaps I will choose milk. I can find local milk, but I miss aged cheeses. I fear that if I pick it as my main protein option, cheese is all I will eat all day long. Any suggestions?