Stella’s Aloo Palak

This is a pretty basic Indian recipe that I tweaked from various versions online, and it was surprisingly easy and filling! I’d never before thought about making a spinach purée, and now I’m thinking of ways to work it into other, non-Indian dishes. As any of you Indian food lovers know, “aloo” means potatoes, and the “palak” here simply means spinach – spinach potatoes! This recipe is characteristically North Indian, and makes a versatile, healthy side dish.

1 lb. fresh spinach
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 tsp ground ginger
1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
2 green chiles, chopped (I used homegrown jalapeños)
1/2 lb. potatoes, roughly chopped
1 tsp turmeric
4 Tbsp butter, halved
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 Tbsp fresh cream (optional)
salt, to taste

1. Boil the potatoes in a stock pot with a dash of salt and the turmeric until they are just cooked, approximately ten minutes.

2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt half the butter over medium heat. Add spinach along with the garlic, ginger, jalapeños, and onions, and cook for about ten minutes until spinach is just wilted.

3. Remove the spinach mixture into a food processor and blend into a purée. Set aside.

4. In the original skillet, melt remaining butter and mix in the coriander seed. Add spinach purée and simmer for about three minutes. Next add the cooked potatoes and cumin. Sprinkle with a little water, and stir. Aloow to cook for a few more minutes, so the flavors will be absorbed.

5. Add cream (if using), stir thoroughly, and serve immediately.

Makes four side servings.

Pictured here with Rum-Spiced Carrots


Rum-Spiced Carrots

This one is so easy, but I promise it will transform those boring old carrots in your crisper into a delectable side dish!

1 lb. carrots, sliced to desired shape
water, for boiling
2 Tbsp butter
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp dark spiced rum
dash of salt, to taste

1. Place carrots in a large stock pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, and cook for approximately ten minutes, until barely tender. Drain.

2. Reduce heat to low. Add butter and cinnamon; stir, and cook for a further couple of minutes. Finally, add the rum, stir again and let simmer for about ten minutes. This gives you a little leeway in finishing up whatever your main course.

3. When fully cooked, carrots should be soft but not falling apart; the liquid should’ve cooked off, and they should smell rich and sweet. Using a slotted spoon, serve immediately.

These also keep well, and can be reheated for several days’ worth of easy leftovers! Enjoy!

Shown above with Stella’s Aloo Palak.

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.)

Eric’s Pumpkin Roll

As previously mentioned, Eric has successfully grown some pumpkins in our allotment garden. We’ve been obsessively researching pumpkin recipes for a few weeks in anticipation (I really want to make a curried pumpkin soup!).

Our homegrown pumpkins are wonderful for cooking, because they are or a variety meant for cooking. Most of the pumpkins you see at the store are grown for decoration. Their pulp is therefore stringy and flavorless. I’m sure you’ve encountered this nastiness if you’ve ever carved a jack-o-lantern. However, our tiny handful of seeds have matured into an overflowing plot of medium-sized pumpkins containing soft, flavorful flesh.

We’re using the whole pumpkin, too.  In addition to making delectable treats such as this pumpkin roll, we’re composting the shells and stems, and Eric’s also making his own home-baked pumpkin seed snacks, with a generous dusting of Old Bay!

Though this pumpkin roll is properly more of a dessert, owing to its cream cheese icing and overall sweetness, we ate it for breakfast. It’s especially tasty with coffee.

Eric’s Pumpkin Roll

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 medium-sized pumpkin (~1 cup of flesh)
2 Tbsp cinnamon (powdered)
1 Tbsp nutmeg (powdered)
3 eggs
1 tsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp confectioners’ sugar

Cream Cheese Icing

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup confectioners’ sugar

plus extra butter and flour for greasing

1. Preheat oven to 375°. Grease and flour a standard size cookie sheet.

2.  In a blender, purée the pumpkin to a smooth consistency.  This may require scraping down the sides of the blender a couple of times.  Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, nutmeg, and half the cinnamon. Stir in the puréed pumpkin, eggs, and lemon juice.

4. Pour mixture onto the cookie sheet, making sure to spread evenly, and bake for 15 minutes.

5. On a clean counter top (or cutting board), sprinkle the confectioner’s sugar.  Pour the pumpkin mixture onto the surface.  Carefully roll up the pumpkin mix, and let it sit for at least 20 minutes, cooling.

6. Meanwhile, you can prepare the icing.  In a medium bowl, blend cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and sugar.  I recommend using an electric hand mixer.

7. Once the pumpkin is cool, unroll it on the counter.   Sprinkle the remaining cinnamon over the entire surface.  Then carefully spoon the icing onto it, and spread it out evenly.

8. Re-roll the mixture and secure it in plastic wrap. Refrigerate the roll for at least a couple of hours, to solidify.

9. To serve, remove the plastic wrap and cut carefully into slices, then serve immediately.

The pumpkin roll should be replaced in plastic wrap after serving, and will keep for up to two weeks in the refrigerator.  It also freezes well; wrap securely in foil and use within a couple of months for best results.