Spicy Pumpkin and Sweet Potatoe Soup

Its that time of year… pumpkin pickin’ time! Pumpkins populate “punkin’” patches and make spooky faces from door steps and window sills around Halloween, but Sugar Pie pumpkins are the sweet and mellow ones used for cooking—not scary, and 100% tasty. And unlike their jack-o’-lantern brethren, they are thin-skinned for easy peeling. The sugar pumpkin is a small 3 to 8 pound range squash that has a wide range of cooking applications, but in this recipie… that firey jack-o-latern will meet his spicy match.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 medium sugar pumpkin
  • 4 orange-fleshed sweet potatoes
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 quarts chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

In a mortar or spice grinder, grind coriander, cumin, oregano, fennel, red pepper, salt and peppercorns into a coarse powder. Blend in garlic and 1 tablespoon olive oil to form a paste.

Wash pumpkin, and cut into 2-inch wide wedges, scraping away seeds. Peel potatoes and cut each potato lengthwise into 6 wedges. Smear the pumpkin and the potatoes with the spice paste and place in a baking dish.

Roast in preheated oven 30 to 40 minutes, until tender and just beginning to blacken at the thinnest points.

Meanwhile, in a large pot over medium heat, cook the onion in the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil until translucent.

Chop pumpkin and potatoes into smaller chunks and add this with the chicken broth into the pot. Using an immersion blender puree the soup until smooth. Be sure to scrape the roasted spice paste off the baking dish and include it in the puree. It may be necessary to deglaze the dish with a little chicken broth.

Heat this thoroughly and then serve with toasted french bread slices. Make this vegan friendly by using a flavorful vegetable stock.

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Sustainable Mussels w/ Fennel and Chorizo

Speaking of sustainable food from the sea, mussels are a plentiful and renewable resource. At least I think they are renewable.. Mr Mussel meeting Mrs Mussel and lots of little mussels appear…  Here’s a spicy way to prepare these little jewels.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 4 pounds mussels, scrubbed, debearded and patted dry (discard any that won’t close)
  • 3/4 cup white wine like Duck Walk Windmill White
  • 4 ounces dried Spanish chorizo, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 shallot, peeled
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon sweet smoked paprika – hungarian
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • Coarse kosher salt
  • Toasted crusty bread

 

Grind the fennel seeds ( I use a spice mill) and place in a food processor. Add the oil, shallot, garlic, paprika and coriander. Process until the mixture is ground and paste-like.

Transfer the spice mixture to a heavy large pot. Cook over medium-low heat until the garlic and shallots no long smell raw, stirring frequently, about 4 minutes. Add the mussels and cook without stirring until the shells on the bottom begin to open, about 3 minutes. Add the wine. Cover the pan, increase the heat to medium-high and cook until the mussels open, about 4 minutes.

Add the chorizo and butter, reduce the heat to medium and cook until the butter is incorporated. Season the sauce with salt if desired. Toss the mussels in the sauce. Divide the mussels and sauce among 4 shallow bowls, discarding any that did not open. Serve with the toasted bread.