I have been turning on the AC during the day and touching the thermostat at night. Only in New England! So in other words, during the night I am in the mood for something warm and comfortable but during the day, I really don’t want spice. At least not yet. So what to do? Here are two soups that conjure New England better than any other starter I know of. Pumpkin and squash. With both these vegetables at every roadside stand you pass, allow me to give you the best of both worlds, both in flavor and heat.
Guess i need to do some ” ‘splainin’ “. Apple-nut is a “Yanked” term I use, meaning the ‘marriage’ of apple and butternut. Now I guess I need to explain the term Yanked.
This is my term which I use for a couple of reasons. When I Yank a recipe, I am taking a particularly difficult dish that you see Michelin-star chefs prepare or television “chefs” put together, and I show you how to do the same thing at home or for the average cook. The flavor is still extraordinary but the ingredient list is much smaller and the method of preparation is simpler. So I Yanked it, revised it, added a New England taste to it and put it back in the culinary arena.
1 T. butter
1 T. olive oil
1 onion, peeled and minced
1 t. chili powder, preferably chipotle chili powder
2 lb. butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks (about 6 c.)
1 lb. apples, peeled and cut into chunks
1 c. apple juice or preferably cider (more if necessary)
1 c. chicken broth
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. black pepper
Sour cream or plain yogurt, optional
Heat oil and butter in large pot; add onion and chili powder; cook and stir until onions are tender, about 8 minutes. Add squash, apples(saving some to garnish upon presentation), apple juice, chicken broth, salt and pepper; bring to boil. Cover and cook on low heat until apples and squash are very soft, about 30 minutes. Cool. Puree in a blender(in batches) or a food processor; return to saucepan. Add additional apple juice or broth, if needed. Garnish with sour cream dollop, thin apple chunks, parsley and croutons, if desired.
When you buy curry in the supermarket, know that it is not a single spice, but rather a combination of many. There is no hard and fast rule with regards to how to properly make curry spice. To each his own is the ultimate motto for this Indian-inspired flavoring. The Yankee Chef has his own special blend that I think is generally accepted and enjoyed. Not too much heat or sweet, but a flavor that touches all areas of the palate. Of course you can buy a premade curry powder and it may be simpler, but after only 3 or 4 attempts many years ago, I was able to pin each spice to the correct proportions.
Now for that chilly night, when the thought of curling up with a good book and some woolies can be seen around the corner.
The Yankee Chef’s Curry Powder
As you have noticed, I have not added cinnamon, although is is classically found in most curry powders. Just remember what I said, it is an objectionable spice mix.
1 T. cumin seeds
1 T. mustard seeds
1 T. coriander seeds
1 T. fennel seeds
1 T. turmeric powder
1 T. chilli powder
Put the first four ingredients in a dry skillet over medium heat. Cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until lightly browned and fragrant. This only takes 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat, cool slightly and add to a blender, coffee grinder or food processor along with the chili powder. Grind until powder is formed.
Here is a more traditional curry powder, but remember, one man’s(or woman’s) curry powder may not be anothers.
Traditional Curry Powder
1 T. coriander seeds
1 T. black pepper corns
1/2 t. dried cardamom pods
1 t. fenugreek seeds
1 t. chile powder
1 T. turmeric powder
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1 T. powdered ginger
Put the first three ingredients in a dry skillet over medium heat. Cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until lightly browned and fragrant. This only takes 4-5 minutes. The last mi9nute, add the fenugreek seeds and toast an additional minute. Remove from heat, cool slightly and add to a blender, coffee grinder or food processor along with the last four ingredients. Grind until powder is formed throughout.
Curried Pumpkin Soup
I have often served this delicious soup prepared as directed below. But if it is any easier, just use 2 pumpkins for the soup and serve in a bowl. For those of you who don’t wish to go through the hassle(well worth it though) of preparing the pumpkin, simply use 4(14 oz.) cans of pureed, pure pumpkin.
4 medium sized pumpkins(2-3 lbs. each), as soup tureens for serving or bowls
2 c. chicken broth
1 c. water
1/4 c. maple syrup
1 t. minced jalapeno chili
1 t. cinnamon
2 t. curry powder
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. dried ginger
1 c. heavy cream
2 oz. thinly sliced ham, julienned
1 T. butter or margarine
Crème fraiche or sour cream, optional
Croutons, if desired
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Cut two medium pumpkins in half. Reserve large pumpkin for use as soup tureen. Scoop out seeds and place skin-side down on baking sheet. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until soft. Scoop out pumpkin flesh into food processor and puree until smooth. Pour pureed pumpkin into saucepan and add chicken broth, water, maple syrup, jalapeno and spices. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes.
While the soup is cooking, cut the top off the large pumpkin to create the serving bowl. The hole should be wide enough to fit a ladle. Hollow out seeds. Remove soup from heat and stir in heavy cream. Pour soup into large pumpkin and serve garnished with toasted pumpkin crème fraiche or sour cream and dot with a scant teaspoon of minced jalapeno chilies.
Over high heat with 1 T. butter or margarine, sear julienned ham just until browned over high heat. You want them crisp and slightly blackened. Drain and dab each bowl with a large pinch of ham and sprinkle croutons over the top.
Depending on how rich you want it, or how cold it is outside, you can use yogurt, mascarpone or half-and-half in place of heavy cream. Just remember, the thicker the dairy product you use, the thicker the soup will be,.