Stella’s Pumpkin Soup

Eric grew so many pumpkins! I had no choice but to make a pumkin soup.  It turned out amazingly–here it is!

3 medium cooking pumpkins*
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, halved
4 Tbsp olive oil, halved
~ 1/2 cup fresh sage leaves
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 heaping tsp powdered cinnamon
1 heaping tsp powdered nutmeg
1 tsp allspice
2-3 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup heavy cream, for garnish

1. Preheat your oven to 350°. Meanwhile, lightly grease a roasting tin or cookie sheet (or sheets, if needed) and set aside. Cut each pumpkin in half and scoop out the stringy center and seeds (keep these for later roasting or planting; see below). An ice cream scoop works well.

2. Place the pumpkin halves open-side down on the cookie sheet/s and bake for about 30 minutes, then remove from oven. Sprinkle sage leaves around pumpkin, and drizzle with half of the olive oil. Return to oven and bake for a further 10 minutes, or until pumpkins are tender and sage is crunchy but not burnt. Remove from oven and turn oven off.

3. Allow pumpkin haves to cool enough so that you can comfortably touch them. Using a spoon and knife, remove all the cooked flesh from the skin, discarding the latter. Chop pumpkin into workable chunks and set aside. Remove sage and set aside separately.

4. In a large stock pot, melt remaining butter along with remaining olive oil. Add garlic and shallots, stirring occasionally until translucent and fragrant. Add half the sage, all of the pumpkin, all of the spices, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook over medium high heat for approximately five minutes, stirring frequently.

5. Pour in the vegetable stock, using just enough to barely cover the pumpkin the pot. This may be about 2-3 cups, depending on the size of your pumpkins. Bring just to a boil, then immediately reduce heat to simmer, cover, and cook for a further 30 minutes.

6. Pour soup into a blender or large food processor and purée to desired texture. I prefer my pumpkin soup very smooth. Alternatively, retain a few larger chunks of pumpkin, purée the rest, and then put the chunks back in. This makes a visually interesting presentation, as well. Note: You may need to do this step in two or more batches, pouring the puréed soup into a separate bowl after each session, until all is puréed. Then pour the soup back into the stock pot, over low heat.

7. Ladle the soup into serving bowls, drizzle with a light spiral of cream, and garnish with grated parmesan and the saved sage leaves (not shown here due to the pumpkin farmer having thrown them all into the stock pot!).

Serve with croutons or homemade bread.

The number of portions will be determined by the size of your pumpkins. I was able to make three large bowls of soup with three small-to-medium homegrown pumpkins.

Eric’s Roast Pumpkin Seeds
pumpkin seeds (try to save up at least a cup before roasting)
~1 tsp Old Bay per cup of seeds
1/2 tsp olive oil

1. Rinse seeds in a bowl or colander. Set aside to dry (Eric uses a cutting board; you could also use paper towels). Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 300°.

2. Grease a large baking tray with olive oil; try to smooth it out lightly but evenly. Spread the seeds out across the tray, in a single layer. Sprinkle Old Bay over all of the seeds as evenly as possible.

3. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, stirring a couple of times for even spice distribution and roasting. Allow to cool before serving.

Roasted pumpkin seeds will keep for up to a month in an airtight container in the pantry.

*You need a quality pumpkin, not the ones you get for $3.99 jack-o-lanterns, with their stringy, neon orange flesh. We grew our own, and they were excellent, and have the added benefits of producing more seeds than we know what to do with (just kidding, we roasted and ate them!). If you grow your own from organic seed, you can start your own heirloom pumpkin crop! (Many corporate seeds are engineered to produce fruits with infertile second generation seeds… so you have to keep buying more. Assholes.)


Spicy Sausage and Rice

Yes, more rice!

I made a huge batch recently, and I am slowly using it all up, making delicious, impulsive dinners like this one. In fact, this dish turned out so good (and was so, so easy), that I just had to share it.

Since I don’t routinely stock chicken giblets (unlike my maternal grandmother!), I had to improvise on this dirty rice-inspired, Cajun-spiced stir-fry. You can use whatever sausage you like and have on hand; since I was in the mood for a spicy dinner, I used Meyer’s Elgin Sausage Jalapeño Summer Sausage. Don’t scoff – it was 86° here in Austin today.

So, here it is. Try it!

Spicy Sausage and Rice
olive oil
1 Tbsp bacon fat
2-3 cooked sausage links, sliced and chopped into quarters
1/2 yellow onion, roughly chopped
splash of red wine (optional)
~3 cups cooked white rice
2 Tbsp soy sauce

Stella’s Cajun Spice Mix
1 tsp table salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp celery salt
1 tsp dried thyme, crushed between your fingertips
1 Tbsp Gebhardt Chili Powder
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp turmeric

1. In a large skillet, warm the about 1 Tbsp olive oil and the bacon fat, until the latter has melted. Stir together with your spatula, and add onions and chopped sausage. Cook for about three minutes, until onions are fragrant and translucent. De-glaze with a splash of red wine.

2. Add the rice and soy sauce. Stir thoroughly. Drizzle in a little more olive oil (about a tablespoon) and the spice mix. Turn the rice over carefully in the skillet, until all ingredients are nicely mixed and the spices evenly coat the rice.

3. Cook for a further three to five minutes, stirring frequently. Spoon out into bowls and serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Stella’s Sesame Fried Rice

This makes a great side dish for meat or vegetables, or a nice main dish for two people, thanks to the eggs! For an even heartier meal, consider adding some diced chicken or pork.

2 cups white rice, uncooked
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp peanut oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 carrots, diced
3/4 cup frozen peas
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp celery salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. In a large stock pot, bring 4 cups water to a boil. Add rice, stir, and reduce heat to simmer. Cover, and let cook for approximately 15 minutes, or until water is absorbed.

2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat olive, sesame, and peanut oil. Add onions, garlic, and carrots. Saute for about five minutes, or until the carrots are softened, then add peas and stir thoroughly.

3. Using your spatula, move the vegetables to one side of the pan. Pour the eggs into the empty side of the skillet. When the eggs are almost firm, stir them into the vegetables, mixing well. Add turmeric, celery salt, and pepper.

4. Add the cooked rice to the pan and stir thoroughly, cooking for a further two or three minutes. Spoon out and serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Debbie’s Delicious Cheese Spread

This is another family recipe, albeit a straightforward one, that I’ve been enjoying for more than 20 years. It’s an addictive, calorie-rich cheese spread that’s pretty easy, refrigerates well, and is equally delicious on a slice of homemade bread or a plain saltine cracker. In fact, I think it’s best on saltines, because the spread is so flavorful on its own, it doesn’t need any competing flavors or textures. The saltine gives each bite just the right amount of crunch. I bet you can’t eat just one. Like I said, I’ve been eating this for more than 20 years, and I’m not tired of it yet! Enjoy!

4 cups mild cheddar cheese, grated
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 cup chopped scallions (bulbs and stems)
1 ½ cups sliced almonds
10 bacon rashers, cooked until crispy and crumbled
1 cup mayonnaise, halved*

1. Place all ingredients in a large mixing bowl, except for half the mayonnaise, which should remain in the fridge. With a large wooden spoon, stir gently until all ingredients are thoroughly and evenly mixed. Cover and place in refrigerator for an hour or so (or up to overnight, if preparing ahead).

2. Remove bowl from fridge and stir in remaining mayonnaise. The cheese will have absorbed a good portion of the mayonnaise while it was cooling. Adding mayo right before serving ensures spread-ability (and richness!). If your spread is still too coarse, you might even add additional mayo.

3. Transfer to your serving bowl. Provide a butter knife or teaspoon for spreading, and serve with crackers, bread, or crostini.

This spread will keep up to three days if covered and refrigerated, buto not allow it to sit out too long at room temperature.

*Use real mayonnaise!

Pesto-Tossed New Potatoes

4 cups new potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
dash of salt
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup freshly prepared pesto of your choice – we like this one

1. In a large pot, bring about four cups of water, with a dash of salt, to a boil. Once roiling, add potatoes and stir. Cook for approximately ten minutes, or until potatoes can easily be punctured with a fork but are not yet too mushy or easily halved. Drain potatoes.

2. In a large skillet over medium high heat, warm olive oil. Add potatoes and stir frequently as they begin to brown around the edges. Tossing them gently with a wooden spoon works well. Meanwhile, prepare pesto if you haven’t already.

3. Once the potatoes are getting a little crispy (about 5-7 minutes), reduce heat to low. Continue stirring carefully for a couple of minutes as the pan cools down, then add pesto in big heaps. Stir well with spoon, so that all potatoes are covered in pesto.

4. Using a slotted spoon, remove potatoes from pan, a few at a time, allowing any excess oil to drain through spoon. Serve immediately or save for a later use in a breakfast fry-up.