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Every bit as good as you remember.

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Katrina and I made this soup together in the summer of 1994 in Waterville, ME. She had rented an apartment downtown off the Concourse and I drove up from my summer job, waiting tables, in Boothbay Harbor. In the thick, wet August heat we sat in the kitchen, fan humming, drinking chilled, cheap, white wine and flipping through her copy of Mooosewood, looking for ways to avoid turning on the stove.

If you grew up eating healthy food in the 70’s and early 80’s you grew up with Moosewood. Your Mom had paperback copies of the Moosewood Cookbook and Enchanted Broccoli Forest on the shelf. The pages were stained for every recipe she had made from spinach-crust quiche to Confetti Spaghetti. This is where we first encountered whole wheat, honey and wheat germ. It was healthy whole food before we decided that real food couldn’t possibly be healthy.

We tested this soup the other night without consulting Mollie but I think we’re close. For texture, we seeded the cucumbers, then shredded them with the box grater rather than the food processor. Thin, fresh, full-fat Amish yogurt was a perfect base. Mint and dill added brightness and a squeeze of lemon brought the tartness we were missing. We thinned the soup with water without watering it down.

Testing the recipe at 10pm on a hot muggy night in DC I was back on college. Katrina, who I had not spoken to in fifteen years, had contacted me on Facebook just that day. The soup was every bit as good as I remember, and the wine was just a little bit better.

Creamy Cucumber Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 shallot
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 large cucumbers, grated
  • 2 cups Amish yogurt, plain
  • 1 tbs mint, finely diced
  • 2 tbs dill, chopped
  • 1 cup cold water
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Onions and diced cucumbers for garnish

Directions:

  • Using a microplane, grate the shallot and garlic into a large bowl.
  • Stir in the cucumbers and yogurt.
  • Stir through fresh herbs.
  • Add water to dilute to desired consistency.
  • Season to taste with lemon juice, salt and pepper. You may not need to use all of the juice. Add a tablespoon or two at a time.
  • Garnish with diced onions, cucumbers.
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Be indulgent.

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Rich, farm-fresh butter. Whole, local milk. Fresh eggs and pumpkin. Real maple syrup.

While working on these pumpkin pancakes last week, I read through many recipes. I read through hundreds of comments, many of which tried to make these pancakes waistline-friendly with whole wheat flour and yogurt.

Folks, these are pancakes. They are a weekend indulgence. This is why you eat oatmeal, Kashi and that painfully-dry-half-of-an-English-muffin during the week. It’s Sunday morning: use real ingredients, full fat, and enjoy these incredibly rich, light, pumpkin-y treats.

Separating the eggs, whisking the whites to stiff peaks, and folding them into the batter counters the heavy, wet pumpkin giving you impossibly rich, airy cakes. For a true indulgence, whisk cardamom into cream and top off a tall stack, dripping in real maple syrup and butter.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups all-purpose white flour
  • 3 tbs sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp gingerbread spice*
  • 1.5 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup Kabocha or Hubbard squash, cooked & mashed
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla
*Gingerbread spice is a mix of anise, nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon. If you can’t find it at your grocer, substitute with a teaspoon of all or some of the above.
Directions:
  • Mix dry ingredients and whisk lightly to combine.
  • Mix wet ingredients, except egg whites, and whisk gently to combine.
  • Gently whisk dry and wet ingredients together. It will be thick.
  • Whisk egg whites to stiff, but not dry, peaks.
  • Stir 1/4 egg whites into batter. This will lighten the batter before you fold in the rest of the egg whites. By lightening the batter, you will retain more volume when you fold in the remaining egg whites.
  • Fold remaining egg whites into batter.
  • Cook one small pancake over medium heat to check seasoning. Add additional salt and gingerbread spice if needed.
  • Serve with farm fresh butter and real maple syrup.

Mad about pumpkin.

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Insanity begins innocently. In the kitchen, it is particularly insidious. Last weekend, for instance, Marvin Ogburn, owner of Long Meadow Farm, gave me a Hubbard squash. It’s smooth, grey-blue skin is alluring, and at roughly the size of a two year old, curled up for a nap, it demanded attention.

I got my huge Hubbard home and headed for the kitchen to roast it. Forty whacks with a cleaver got through the thick shell and I carved it into four parts. Seeds scooped out, I rubbed the exposed insides with olive oil, seasoned it with salt and pepper, and baked it for two hours at 400.

This is where the insanity begins.

Once roasted, the entire squash produced just over 16 cups of beautiful, burnt-orange pumpkin. Now, a man – or woman – can only bake so many pies. I had already made soup earlier that week. What to do with lots and lots of extra pumpkin?

What comes to mind first? Not pumpkin bread, cookies, or ravioli. No, quesadillas seemed to be the perfect solution. Rich, earthy, sweet pumpkin was balanced with sharp red onion, warmed with cumin, and given heat and smoke from chili powder and Spanish paprika. Spicy, rich, fatty Andouille and sharp, Amish cheddar cheese completed the experiment.

Four cups down, 12 to go. Stay turned for pumpkin pancakes…

Ingredients:
• 1-2 links Andouille sausage, diced
• 1 tbs olive oil
• 1 medium red onion, diced
• 3 cups roasted, mashed Hubbard
or Kabocha squash
• 1/2 tsp cumin
• 1/8 tsp chili powder
• 1/8 tsp Spanish paprika
• 1/4 cup vegetable stock
• 4 cups shredded cheddar cheese
• Flour tortillas
• Cooked tomato salsa
• Cilantro or parsley, chopped

Directions:
• Brown sausage in a large sauté pan over med-high. Remove to paper towels. Reduce heat to medium-low.
• Add 1 tbs olive oil to pan and sauté onion until soft, 3-5 min.
• Add pumpkin. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add cumin, chili powder and paprika to taste. You may want more than the suggested amounts.
• Warm through, letting flavors develop. Some pumpkin will caramelize on the pan. Deglaze with stock. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
• Layer tortilla, cheese, pumpkin, sausage, more cheese and top with a tortilla.
• Heat 1 tbs oil in pan. Brown quesadilla on both sides.
• Serve with salsa and cilantro.