Friday, November 29, 2013

Late garden soundtrack (and recipes)


There are times, amongst all of the good and the gratifying, when this little farm puts this fledgling farmer through the ringer - and this would seem to be one such week.  If something could go less than smoothly, if the balance could tip the wrong way, if something that would otherwise be little could crop up at just the wrong moment, if I could make a less than perfect decision, it happened more often than not.

In an effort to not unduly dwell on this recent dance with inauspiciousness (and keep up the carrot digging tempo in the garden despite the chill), I have had a lot of this and this running through my head.  Sometimes you just need something with peppy, poppy, hand-clapping, thigh-slapping beats to propel you forwards, you know?!  

There's also been a fair bit of introspection happening over here these days - okay, well, to be fair, that's almost always happening!  :OP  But this time it seems to be demanding even more bolstering of spirit and self-assuredness (or as much as one can humbly and honestly muster in farming).  Which has called for something a little more like Heart of My Own.  The one that I was when I used to know, indeed...

And, of course, there's the fall food, warming and heartening as it is.  And that's more important to share, I think...and so, recipes!

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North Indian-Spiced Pumpkin [or Squash] Soup with Brown Butter, Mustard Seed and Cashews
From “Food and Drink” Magazine, Autumn 2013
Serves 6

If you don’t have any pie pumpkins left, I propose squash as a perfectly acceptable substitution! 

Soup:
1 Tbsp cumin seed
4 tsp coriander seed
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick, 3 inches
6 cloves
3 pods black cardamom
¼ cup butter
2 large onions, thinly sliced
2 bay leaves
1 tsp ground ginger
5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
3 cups homemade stock
2 cups water
6 cups peeled and chopped pie pumpkin
1 tsp salt
½ cup yogurt

Garnish:
3 Tbsp salted butter
½ cup roasted, unsalted cashews
2 tsp black or brown mustard seed

For the soup, toast cumin, coriander, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 3 minutes.  Add butter to pan.  When it has melted, stir in onions, bay leaves, ginger and garlic.  Cook for 10 minutes or until onions are softened.  Reduce heat to low and cook an additional 10 minutes, stirring frequently, or until golden.

Pour stock and water into pan.  Stir in pumpkin and salt.  Increase heat to medium, bring to a boil, cover and cook for 20 to 25 minutes or until pumpkin is tender.  Remove from heat; stir in yogurt.  Remove cinnamon stick and bay leaves; discard.  Remove cardamom pods and, when cool enough to handle, scrape seeds out and add to pot; discard pods.  Working in batches, puree soup in blender, or with immersion blender in pot.  Keep warm while preparing garnish.  (Soup may be made ahead, covered, and refrigerated for up to 5 days and re-warmed over medium-low heat).

For garnish, melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Add cashews to pan and continue to cook until butter turns a light tan colour.  Remove from heat and stir in mustard seed (butter will continue to darken for a few minutes and develop a nutty aroma).

Ladle soup into warm bowls and garnish each with a spoonful of brown butter, cashews and mustard seeds.

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Greens Gnocchi with Tomato Sauce
Adapted from “Secrets from a Vegetarian Kitchen” by Nadine Abensur
Serves 6

“These gnocchi (Italian potato dumplings) have nothing at all to do with the little pre-packed bullet-like efforts that go under the same name.  They are almost as large as an egg and, unlike the insipid green of the bought variety, these are brightly coloured with spinach.  You could substitute the spinach with arugula [or mustard greens – FF] for a more sophisticated result.  Oh to be an Italian and have these for comfort food!”

1 ½ lbs (3 ¾ cups) potatoes, chopped
Salt and pepper
2 egg yolks
1 ½ cups fresh raw greens (spinach, swiss chard, arugula…), chopped
½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
150g (6 oz) freshly grated parmesan
Tomato sauce of your making or choosing

Cook the potatoes in plenty of salted water until tender.  Drain well, to ensure the potatoes are dry, and mash with the egg yolks, greens and salt and pepper while still warm.  Beat in the flour and 50g/2 oz of Parmesan to make a smooth soft dough.  Shape into small balls, the size of large walnuts.

Bring a large saucepan of water to a steady simmer and drop in a batch of gnocchi.  Simmer gently for 4-5 minutes until they rise to the surface.  Drain thoroughly.  Keep warm while cooking the remainder.

Serve in shallow soup bowls on top of the tomato sauce and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan.
 

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