Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Thai Curry and Coconut Seminole Pumpkin Soup

I was super successful with the Seminole pumpkins I grew this year.  I got 8 large pumpkins (one was stolen by the raccoons) from one very prolific plant that took over half my side yard.  I also got lots of wonderful blossoms for eating as well.  

These are Chinese "da tsung" - meaning "big onion".  Though it looks like a leek in the photo above, it is more of a gigantic, blanched-while-growing scallion.  My father diligently tends these onions all summer, hilling soil up around the onion as it grows in order to blanch the bottom portion of the onion.  

I harvested these gorgeous pumpkins just as the fall issue of Heirloom Gardener came out.  First, I'd like to mention that my article about food preservation is in this issue, and second, I found an AMAZING recipe for Thai Curry and Coconut Pumpkin Soup inside.  The recipe in the magazine is adapted from another recipe.  The recipe below, I have adapted again, using bits and pieces from my standby squash soup and the ingredients suggested in Heirloom Gardener.  I also decided to top this soup with a few jumbo shrimp. No photo of the soup.  It was devoured too quickly! 

Thai Curry and Coconut Pumpkin Soup

1 large pie pumpkin or butternut squash
2 leeks (I've used a special Chinese onion, see caption above), white portions only, chopped and rinsed
2 inch length of ginger, peeled and minced (This is a lot - but I love ginger.  Scale down if you like)
2 teaspoons of Thai red curry paste
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 can unsweetened coconut milk
3 kaffir lime leaves
1/2 lime

Cut pumpkin in half.  Scoop out seeds.  Place cut side down in baking pan along with about 1/2 inch of water.  Bake in 350 degree oven for about 1 hour or until squash is tender.  Allow to cool and then scoop out flesh with a spoon.  

In pot, saute leeks and ginger in a little oil or butter until tender. Add red curry paste and continue to stir and cook for another minute or two.  Add stock, coconut milk and cooked pumpkin.  Puree in batches in a blender or carefully puree in pot using an immersion blender.  Add kaffir lime leaves.  Simmer soup for about 15 minutes.  Before serving, remove kaffir lime leaves and stir in juice from half a lime.  

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

How to make turmeric powder

Happy turmeric plants at Muirkirk Farm

Turmeric is an aromatic spice that has an important role in both Indian cooking and culture.  It plays a part in giving the cuisine its distinctive flavor.  The color that bleeds so easily also naturally imparts a bold bright yellow to the food it's cooked with.  Here are the simple steps to make your own turmeric powder.

Harvested turmeric roots above.  Some will be replanted, some will be used fresh, the rest of the batch will be dried and powdered.  

Boil roots for about 40 minutes until soft.  I peeled the roots, but I realize now this is NOT a necessary step.  Simply scrub dirt off roots.  Turmeric WILL dye your fingers, cutting board, towel, etc, so accept that or wear gloves.

Cut into pieces and allow to dry fully.  I used a food dehydrator.  

Grind dried pieces to a fine powder.  

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Asian Crops at Muirkirk Farm

Muirkirk Farm is a research farm affiliated with University of District of Columbia.  I've made a connection with the good people who run this through the Master Gardener program out of UDC's Cooperative Extension office.  I'm thrilled to be someone they feel they can call upon for consultation because geez - look at the work they've done this season!  It's amazing.  Flats of Asian greens...

Dried red noodle beans above.  Turmeric below.  

And this is just their fall initiative.  Can't wait to see what's in store for spring and summer next year!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

My segment on WUSA

I was so thrilled to have the opportunity to be on WUSA, news at noon with JC Hayward, anchor extraordinaire.  In this segment (click to watch), I talk about food preservation.  It's not perfect and 3 minutes goes by very quickly.  I only got to talk about 20% of what I wanted to, but ah well...I'm not complaining!  The TV set is so cool - you can see in the photo above, the view from the kitchen looking out.  Look through the ladder and you see the weather guy, doing his segment against the green screen.  I was very pleased with how my segment looked below.  I was in pajamas about 9pm the night before thinking - should I go to Whole Foods and pick up some additional props?  Thank goodness for a sudden spurt of energy because the set would have looked pretty sparse without the fresh vegs, flowers, etc.  The morning of the segment, I cut a couple of pumpkins, which helped with the autumnal feel.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Sweet Apple Cider Butter Recipe

Nothing marks autumn more perfectly than a trip to the orchard. Anyone who has been apple-picking on a sunny October afternoon, driving a wheelbarrow through the rows, and especially with kids in tow, knows how fun it is to search for the biggest, tastiest apples in the trees.  When we went recently, the apples were so ripe and abundant they were raining down.  We'd pull one and two others would fall.  As always, before we know it, we're driving home with a trunk full of apples.  A couple pies put a little dent into it, a bunch were saved for fresh eating, a bunch were juiced, and the rest were made into an amazing apple butter.  I think people either love or hate the stuff, but as an apple butter aficionado, I can say there's no comparison to homemade, especially when the apples were on the tree just a few hours prior to being infused with spices and spread on a cracker.  The recipe below is an adapted double batch of Sweet Apple Cider Butter from the Ball book, and I used the honey alternative to sugar.  I also saved some pot-watching time by cooking down the apple butter in a slow cooker.  

Honeycrisp Apples

An apple peeler is a necessary gadget if you're working with a lot of apples

Making applesauce.  Spices are then added, and the whole thing is cooked down for hours.  

Sweet Apple Cider Butter - makes about 8 pint jars

12 pounds apples, peeled, cored, and quartered
4 cups apple cider
2 cups honey
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon allspice

In a large stainless steel pot over medium-high heat, combine apples and cider and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring occasionally until apples are soft, about 30 minutes.  

Process the apples just until a uniform texture is achieved (in batches in a blender or using a food processor or by using an immersion blender).  Do not liquefy.  

Scoop pureed apples into slow cooker.  Add honey, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice.  Cook on high for about 4 hours, stirring occasionally so the apple butter does not burn (alternatively, cook on low for about 8-10 hours).  

Prepare canner, jars, and lids.  Ladle hot butter into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Remove air bubbles, adjust headspace if necessary and wipe rim.  Center lid on jar and screw on ring.  Process in boiling water canner for 10 minutes.  Remove canner lid.  Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool, and store.  

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