Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Finding warmth in Fall

I love Fall. Wait, let me clarify, I love the season Fall, not the school semester. But before I let my resentment get the best of me (I will dominate you Physics!), let me explain why single 20 serving loves fall so...

There's nothing like walking out in the morning as the skies are blooming with pinks and purples within the gray haze of the night's frost. There's nothing comparable to sound of crispy leaves crackling under each foot step. There's nothing close to the feel of the biting wind, hinting the coming of winter. There's nothing more peaceful than sitting in solitude to take in that one single moment.

Those are only some of the reasons why I love the fall, but in terms of food, fall is nothing short of wonderful. I love indulging in hearty foods that fill me up with their warmth. Fall is no time for cold salads and cucumbers with hummus - the fall is about robust foods that stick to your bones and make you want to curl up in a comforter on the couch in front of the television and just sleep.

For single 20 serving, it's a bit of a challenge to cook warm foods in a dormitory setting. Therefore, I've come to rely in the power of early prep, freezing, and microwaving. I also have a thermos on hand. So, how do I incorporate these elements into making a dish worthwhile of reflecting the glorious nature of fall?

I make Pumpkin Spice Soup.

The recipe is something I did on a whim. I'm a lover of Pumpkin pie, but I dislike its chilly state. Thus, I incorporated the feel of Pumpkin pie into a hearty soup that is good on any breezy fall afternoon. Microwave and pack in a thermos and I've got the perfect on-the-go lunch. I know there are people who look at me funny when they see my thermos (how elementary school!), but when their faces drop as they watch me pour out this golden liquid, all I can do is smile.

The preparation of the soup is very simple and minimal. I have made this recipe vegetarian, but I'll put options for meat-enizing this dish as well.

Pumpkin Spice Soup

1/2 onion (or 1/2 c. frozen chopped onion)
1 tsp olive oil
1- 15 oz. can pureed pumpkin (do NOT get Pumpkin pie filling)
1- 15 oz. can vegetable broth (or chicken broth, low sodium)
1-1.5 tsp salt (kosher, if you use iodized salt, go towards the lesser amount)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1.5 tbsp honey
1/3 tsp. red chili flake

Equipment: Knife, cutting board, saucepan with top, spatula or wood spoon, can opener, measuring spoons (if you prefer accurate measurements, eye-balling/guess-timating is also fine), stove

Dice the onion so that you have very little chunks.

Set the saucepan on the stove and pour in olive oil. Put the onions into the saucepan and let them cook at medium heat for 4-5 min , mixing them occasionally, until they are browned.

Pour the pureed pumpkin into the saucepan and onions. Then add the vegetable broth and mix until full incorporated.

Add all the seasonings and mix until fully distributed. Cover the saucepan and let sit for 15 min. on medium low heat so that flavors fuse together.

You can serve this to yourself immediately (with a freshly toasted bagel or those spicy black beans from the previous post). Paninis (a sandwich with cheese and other fillings that is grilled and flattened) are also great - my favorite being a turkey caprese (a combination of buffalo mozzarella, tomato, and basil). Chunks of grilled chicken or crab cakes are also great sides to the soup.

This is obviously not 1 portion (it makes like 5 portions for me), but it is a great freezer item. Let the soup cool until it is at room temperature (thankfully this can be done in your dorm while you're watching Stephen Colbert being ridiculous or "studying"), and put a portion of soup into plastic sandwich bags. Freeze the bags of soup, and take them out whenever you're in the mood for Pumpkin Spice soup. To defrost, place them in the fridge the night before (or live dangerously and defrost them in the microwave- I don't think I recommend this, but I'm just posting it cause some people really will do this. I think the plastic tends to melt and plastic + food = not so good). Once defrosted, pour the soup into a microwaveable bowl (check the bottom of the bowl to see if it's microwave safe. Ceramic usually is fine, but some types of ceramic are not made for the rays of the microwave). Cover the bowl of soup (ALWAYS, unless you like cleaning up splatters in the microwave) with a paper towel and heat for 1 min. Remove and mix the soup. Put in the microwave another 1 min. And voila!

Warmth in Fall

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