Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Stuffed Pumpkins and Tomato Soup

Fall is coming and the pumpkins are here. Even though it was 85 degrees and entirely green today in North Carolina, I still felt the autumnal anticipatory twinge. Thankfully, Ian (the 10 year old in the family I work for, the Scotts) was in agreement and was enthusiastic about hollowing out pumpkins with me. Today, for the Scott's dinner, I made stuffed pumpkins, creamless creamy tomato soup, and an arugula salad with apricots, pears, almonds and goat cheese. I had never made stuffed pumpkins before and would not recommend it unless you have time to spare (or you’re getting paid for cooking, like me), but it was fun and entirely satisfying to the fall craving.  I don’t know whether it tasted good, but it sure did look pretty. The tomato soup recipe will leave you pleading forgiveness for ever opening a can of tomato soup. Make it; you certainly will not regret it. 

Creamless Creamy Tomato Soup
(From More Best Recipes, by the editors of Cook’s Illustrated, pg. 43)

¼ c. extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped medium
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed
Pinch red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
2 (28 oz) cans whole tomatoes
1 T. brown sugar
3 large slices high-quality white sandwich bread, crusts removed, torn into 1-inch pieces (I either make my own bread or use something like a French loaf from the store)
2 c. low-sodium chicken broth
2 T. brandy (optional… unfortunately for those who can’t have brandy in their apartment due to seminary covenants, but when I’ve made it with the brandy for the Scotts, it adds a great element)
Salt and ground black pepper
¼ c chopped fresh chives (I’ve never bothered with this, but I’m sure it would look really pretty)

1. Heat 2 T. of the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onion, garlic, red pepper flakes (if using), and bay leaf. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent, 3-5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes with their juice. Using a potato masher (or a slotted spoon; that’s what I do) , mash until no pieces bigger than 2 inches remain. Stir in the sugar and bread; bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the bread is completely saturated and starts to break down, about 5 minutes, Remove and discard the bay leaf (Whoops, definitely forgot to do this today. So, friend. Please remember and you’ll save valuable time trying to spoon little bay leaf bits out of your delicious and easy soup)
2. Transfer half of the soup to a blender (or use one of those awesome immersion blenders that’s on my Christmas list, right, Mom? J ). Add 1 T more oil and process until the soup is smooth and creamy, 203 min. Transfer to a large bowl and repeat with the remaining soup and the remaining 1 T. oil. Rinse out Dutch oven and return to the ot. Stir in the chicken broth and the brandy. Return the soup to a boil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle the soup into individual bowls and garnish with chopped chives.

Stuffed Pumpkins
(Taken from The Eat-Clean Diet Cookbook, by Tosca Reno, page 151. )

1 4-5 lb sugar pumpkin or 6 small sugar pumpkins (I opted for the latter, because they were cute)
2 t. sea salt
1 t. dry mustard
1 T. olive oil
1.5 lbs lean ground venison or bison (which, of course, means I substituted ground beef)
7 green onions, trimmed and chopped
4 cloves garlic passed through a garlic press
1.5 c. cooked wild rice
4 egg whites + 1 yolk (I just used 3 eggs, because I guess I just don’t believe in being that healthy)
1 t. dried sage
½ t. black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cut the top from each pumpkin and remove seeds and strings. Prick the inside flesh with a fork. In a small bowl, mix the sea salt and dry mustard. Rub the interior of the pumpkin with this mixture and set aside.
3. In a large skillet, heat olive oil. Add ground meat, onion and garlic. Sauté over medium high until meat is browned. Remove from heat and drain excess oil. Add cooked wild rice, eggs, sage and pepper. Mix well with clean hands. Stuff each pumpkin with the meat/rice mixture.
4. Place the pumpkins in a shallow baking dish or lasagna pan. Add water until half of the baking dish is full.
5. Bake for 1 to 1.5 hours or until pumpkin is tender. If using individual pumpkins, cooking time may be less and vice versa.

Decadent Strawberry Blueberry Sorbet

Amanda and I are sisters-in-law, married to brothers Jon and Matt.  We both love cooking, and found ourselves talking about recipes a lot when we recently got together in New Jersey.  We've both been wanting to start cooking/crafting blogs so we decided to do one together.  And here it is!  We're still in the process of setting everything up, but I made some great sorbet the other day so I figured I'd just go ahead and post that recipe and we'll get everything else sorted out soon.  Enjoy!

I've been making sorbets all summer with different types of fruit from our local farmer's market.  I love sorbet, so it was fun to make my own mixes of flavors with fresh fruit.  They were all very good, but something about the combination of fruits I tried this time was a step above the rest.  Unlike most sorbet I've had, this one is rich and decadent.  It's wonderful with some fresh blueberries on top.

You do need an ice cream maker for this.  I have an older version of this one and I love it!  I just keep the cylinder in the freezer so it's ready whenever I want to use it.

Decadent Strawberry Blueberry Sorbet
(modified from this Food Network recipe)
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • 3/4 cup - 1 cup sugar (depending on how sweet the berries are and how sweet you like your sorbet.  I tend toward adding less sugar)
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries (frozen berries would probably work fine too)
  • 1 3/4 cup fresh strawberries, stemmed and sliced (frozen berries would probably work fine too)
  • 1 cup cranberry/raspberry juice (or some other cranberry juice blend)
  • extra fresh blueberries or strawberries, or chocolate chips (optional, for serving)
 In a medium pot bring water, sugar, and blueberries to a boil.  Cook and stir for 1-2 minutes until the sugar is dissolved and the blueberries are soft.  Remove from heat and drain berries, reserving the liquid; set aside to cool.

Puree the sliced strawberries in a food processor or blender until smooth.  Press pureed strawberries through a fine-mesh strainer; discard seeds.

Puree the blueberries and 1/3 cup of the reserved cooking liquid until smooth (*do not discard remaining liquid*).  Press blueberry mixture through the fine-mesh strainer; discard skins.

In a large bowl combine the pureed mixtures, remaining cooking liquid, and cranberry juice.  Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or more, until mixture is completely chilled.

Freeze mixture in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions - I turn the handle on mine 3 or 4 times every minute for about 15-20 minutes, until it gets harder to stir and looks frozen throughout.

Can be served with fresh berries or chocolate chips for a decadent dessert!