Spicy Peanut Soup

Spicy Peanut Soup
I love natural peanut butter, but I hate stirring a new jar. My trick of storing it upside down to make the task easier hasn’t been working now that I’ve switched brands, and the jar is twice as big. After a mess of oil on the kitchen counter and on me, that was it. I dumped everything into the blender, and I had perfectly whipped peanut butter. I even timed it before my smoothie, so I saved a washing.

With my extra smooth peanut butter, I skipped the sandwich and made vegan spicy peanut soup with chickpeas and chunks of butternut squash. It had the thick consistency of stew, and each spoonful was hearty and mouth-tingling hot. I brought the leftovers for a week of lunches at the office, and it lasted longer than I expected. It was such a satisfying soup that I filled my bowl less than usual.
Spicy Peanut Soup
Spicy Peanut Soup
Adapted from Flour, Too by Joanne Chang

Serves 6 -8

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium white onion, roughly chopped
6 garlic cloves, peeled, smashed and minced
1 butternut squash (about 2-3 pounds), peeled, seeded and diced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons crushed chile de arbol
1-2 teaspoons Sriracha sauce
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4 cups vegetable stock
1-15 ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 scallions, thinly sliced for garnish
1/2 cup chopped, salted, roasted peanuts for garnish

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook for 1 minute until fragrant. Add the squash, cumin, chile de arbol, Sriracha, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes. Add the stock and chickpeas and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and stir in the peanut butter until combined. If the soup seems too thick, add a little water. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the lime juice.

Divide the soup into bowls and top with cilantro, scallions and peanuts before serving.

Pumpkin Wild Rice Salad

Pumpkin Wild Rice Salad
Last weekend I got very excited about seeing fall veggies at the farmers market. I love cinnamon, anything spiced and crisp days, so it’s nearly impossible for me to contain myself when gearing up for fall. I left the market with a tiny but weighty pie pumpkin in my bag. Even though I had no immediate plans for it, I figured I had time to let that pumpkin decorate my kitchen counter before I turned it into a meal.

That was until my toddler, who shares my enthusiasm for autumn, tossed the little pumpkin. With a big thud on the floor, the stem was gone on impact. I needed to use it ASAP, so I decided to embrace early fall by making a wild rice pumpkin salad with apples, spinach, blue cheese and pecans tossed in a maple vinaigrette. Both salty and sweet, this salad is just the beginning of all the seasonal flavors ahead.
Pumpkin Wild Rice Salad
Pumpkin Wild Rice Salad

Serves 4

1/2 cup wild rice
2/3 cup water
1 small pie pumpkin (about 2-3 pounds)
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
Juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1 garlic clove, minced
1 crisp apple, cored and diced
1 generous handful baby spinach
2 tablespoons minced chives
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/4 cup roughly chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine the rice and water in a small saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 30-35 minutes until the rice is tender and cooked through.

Cut the top off the pumpkin and slice in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and cut into 2-inch-wide wedges. Toss the wedges in 1 teaspoon olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Arrange on a sheet pan, skin side down. Roast for 30-35 minutes until tender when pierced with a knife. Cool for 15 minutes before cutting the flesh of each wedge into cubes and removing the skin.

To make the vinaigrette, whisk together 2 tablespoons olive oil, lemon juice, maple syrup, garlic and the remaining salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, combine the rice, pumpkin, apples, spinach, chives, blue cheese and pecans and toss in the vinaigrette. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Concord Grape Chia Jam

Concord Grape Chia Jam
About 5 years ago a friend taught me how to can. It wasn’t long before I had an entire kitchen cabinet filled with Ball jars and other canning essentials. My interest in home preserving has kind of waned since my initial excitement, so now I put those jars to use storing dry ingredients in the pantry and leftovers in the fridge. They also are perfect for transporting lunch to the office.

Last weekend I overbought grapes at the market. Jam crossed my mind, but I wasn’t crazy about spending an afternoon boiling and sealing jars for a small yield. Instead I used chia seeds to make a quick jam that gelled in no time. I loved the texture and how sweet this concord grape chia jam turned out, but the best part was that it only needed a little agave and no sugar.
Concord Grape Chia Jam
Concord Grape Chia Jam
Adapted from The Kitchn

4 cups concord grapes
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon agave or honey
1/4 cup chia seeds

Slip the grapes out of their skins and separate the flesh from the skins. Puree the grape skins in a food processor for 2-3 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh sieve to remove any leftover grape skin.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, cook the grape flesh until it releases some juice and starts to break down, about 5-7 minutes. Strain the flesh through a fine mesh sieve using a wooden spoon to push it through while removing the seeds.

Return the strained grape skins and flesh to the large saucepan over medium heat for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice, agave and chia seeds. Cool to room temperature before transferring to a jar or other airtight storage container. The jam will be thicken more once it is fully chilled.

Store in the refrigerator for 2 weeks or freeze up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator.

Tomato Corn Cake

Tomato Corn Cake
I love this in-between time at the end of summer and the beginning of autumn. The days are a mix of all-too familiar heat and hints of cooler crisp air that’s on the way. I left the farmers market yesterday with September staples like tomatoes and corn along a bright orange sugar pumpkin. The selection was amazing and a bit overwhelming, but I am trying to enjoy it while it lasts.

That little pumpkin will sit on my kitchen counter for a couple weeks before I figure out what to do with it, but the rest of my market purchases needed to be put to use right away. I decided to bake an upside-down tomato corn cake as part of my long goodbye to summer. I ate a big wedge of this slightly fancier version of cornbread with a baby greens salad and called it a meal.
Tomato Corn Cake
Tomato Corn Cake
Adapted from The Kitchn

Serves 8

1-1/2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
1-1/4 cups yellow cornmeal
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup fresh corn kernels (from 2 ears)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Arrange the tomatoes, cut side down, in a 10-inch cast iron skillet with the bottom lined in parchment.

In a large bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pepper. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk and butter. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients followed by the corn kernels. Spread the batter into the skillet smoothing the top into an even layer.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until the corn cake is golden brown and the edges have pulled away from the sides. Cool for 10 minutes in the skillet. Run a knife around the cake and invert it onto a large plate. Remove the parchment. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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