by Esmaa Self
We often think of fall as a good time to prepare meals from the garden, but those with a pantry filled with last season’s bounty will recognize the bitter days of a northern hemisphere February as a great time to dish up homemade soup.
As I write this, much of America is experiencing extreme winter weather. Our local forecast calls for a low of -21° F. So you may well imagine how hunkered down is the farm today. But isn’t this the sort of weather we plan for when we plant, tend, harvest and preserve the bounty from our gardens? Indeed, a pantry filled with homegrown goodness can assuage the sting of an ice storm.
Here are a couple of bone-warming recipes that make good use of a pantry stocked with home-grown foods. If you have no such thing, consider this an invitation to get into the gardening game.
Pumpkin Chunk Soup
2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 ½ cup water
½ cup Greek olive and/or fire roasted red pepper brine*
4 cups vegetable broth (could substitute chicken broth)
5 cups baked, cubed pumpkin (or butternut squash)
½ tsp ground black pepper
½ tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground chili pepper
1 tsp dried thyme leaves
1 TBS turmeric powder
1 TBS garlic powder
1/3 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
Sauté onions in olive oil. In soup pot, mix onion, water, brine, broth; heat but don’t boil. Add pumpkin, spices. Simmer 20 minutes. Garnish with grated cheese. Serve with sourdough olive baguettes or any hearty bread. Yield: 6 servings.
*Brine is the liquid (often seasoned vinegar) surrounding the olives. If you throw away leftover brine you are wasting useful flavor. Try brine in sauces, soups, rice or casseroles. It makes a fine base for tartar sauce, mustards, sambal oelek and more.
The Intersection of Tomato and Vine
Perhaps you enjoyed a nearly overwhelming tomato crop last season, and can boast a pantry still bursting with various home canned tomato yummies. If so, excellent! Grab a jar of homemade soup, a homegrown acorn squash and follow these simple steps to a colorful feast: clean, seed then butter and bake the squash at 350 F for 30 minutes; spoon cooked squash meat into a mound in the center of a soup bowl; add warmed tomato soup, garnish with plain yogurt and serve with Golden Zesty Pinto Cornbread. (recipe follows)
If you do not have homemade soup on hand, use this recipe:
Whole Tomato Soup
8 cups fresh tomatoes, chopped
2 cups onions, diced
5 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups water or chicken stock (if water, add 1 tsp olive oil) 2 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 TBS oregano
1 1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 bay leaf (remove before serving)
Rinse and trim the stem, then purée tomatoes in the water or stock; puree onion, add to pureed tomatoes; bring to a boil, reduce heat; add herbs. Simmer 20 minutes. Serve with acorn squash prepared as detailed above, and a slice of Golden Zesty Pinto Cornbread. Yield 8 servings.
Golden Zesty Pinto Cornbread
Here’s one of many adaptations I’ve made to the standard Aunt Jemima cornbread recipe.
1 cup white corn meal
1 cup unbleached flour
2 TBS sugar
4 tsp baking powder
½ tsp sea salt
1 tsp chili pepper
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp ground pepper
1 cup milk
¼ cup habanero pepper-infused olive oil (or hot sauce)
½ cup frozen corn
½ cup cooked pinto beans
Dash of paprika
Mix dry ingredients in medium bowl. Whisk together egg, milk, oil; add to dry ingredients, stir lightly. Add corn and beans, stir. Pour into oiled, lidded cast iron skillet. Sprinkle with a dash of paprika. Bake in 425° F oven for 20-23 minutes. Yield 8 servings.
A note about meal and flour: Substituting half the commercial cornmeal for homegrown, home-ground cornmeal, especially if made with a blue or green corn, and replacing half the commercial flour with a mixture of whole wheat and home-ground yellow dock seed flours elevates this from a routine to an incredible quick bread.