Monday, November 13, 2006

Sourdough Experiment Part V – Holiday Prelims

Thanksgiving is maybe my second favorite food holiday.

It misses first place because, first of all, New Year’s Eve was just made for crazy foodies willing to experiment with flavors and presentations. Guests are usually more receptive to fun ideas on New Year's Eve as well. It also misses first place because at Thanksgiving, someone always seems to bring some supposedly sentimental favorite from the past that everyone really wishes would finally be forgotten, but never seems to be (canned green beans cooked in cream of mushroom soup again?!? Yikes! Or that jiggly pink stuff that still has the can imprints on it from when it was slid right from the can onto the serving plate). That always drags down the overall effect.

For a few years, we had a sort of Prime Rib for Christmas dinner thing going on. Which made a strong run at beating out Thanksgiving for second place. But that seems to have fallen by the way side as the roast turkey fans are the overwhelming majority. I think if Norman Rockwell had just painted a rib roast instead of a turkey, we would have had a chance there. And besides, Christmas has so many strong traditions that everyone seems to expect, its just plain harder to try new things.

On the other hand, for Thanksgiving, it’s really just a matter of deciding to break out of the tried and true and slide one or two new things in every year. Some will fail, of course. But some will become instant hits, talked about for years.

Plus, Fall has such wonderful fruits, vegetables, and the weather is usually conducive to some serious cooking and eating. I love the variety of earthy, savory vegetables, like brussels sprouts with chestnuts. Maybe braised with bacon and maple syrup. Or sweet potatoes mashed up with something super spicy in them. Roasted cauliflower. Maybe with some apples as well. All sorts of squashes. Parsnips (yum!). Fennel. Beets. Pears. Nuts. The list goes on and on.

So we tried out a few things that might make the list for this year.

A new attempt at sourdough bread. This time a sort of honey rye whole wheat mix. Which I am thinking will go well with roasted turkey. Not as sour as a pure rye sourdough. But very good!

And two soups. One a roasted pumpkin with cayenne and molasses – hot! The other a roasted sweet potato (actually a yam, I guess), with ginger and lime.

This was the best rising sourdough bread I have been able to make yet. It was about 50% rye, 40% whole wheat, and 10% white flour. With some honey and some olive oil – maybe a quarter cup of each – tossed in. I think the olive oil helped make a much softer crumb. And the honey took a bit of the edge off the sour flavor. It was still there, but not in an overpowering way. It turns out that not everyone wants a strong sour flavor with every meal. Go figure!

The soups are fun ways to turn squashes into something packed with flavor.

I tossed the pumpkin in olive oil and cayenne pepper, and roasted it till well browned. I added the roasted pumpkin to a mirepoix mixture, added some chicken broth, and a good dose of dark molasses. The molasses combined with the pumpkin, bringing out some if its natural sweetness. With just a touch of sage. And the cayenne of course dropped a layer of fire on top.

The sweet potatoes were also roasted, but plain. I then combined them also with a mirepoix mixture, some chicken broth, as well as a few teaspoons of powdered ginger and some lime juice and zest. Everyone liked this soup best. Maybe because the pumpkin soup was truly hot hot hot (wimps all!). In the next version, I think I would be a bit more circumspect with the cayenne pepper, just to make sure the ginger and lime flavor of the sweet potato soup came through as well.

Placed in the same bowl, the two soups provided an interesting flavor contrast. Similar in foundation, because the sweet potato and the pumpkin have sort of similar textures. But diverse in spice and heat. I put a streak of sage infused olive oil down the middle of the bowls mainly for color, but that also added an element of flavor the meshed nicely. With the fresh bread on the side – a real treat!

Recipes will be added shortly.

Print Recipe

Roasted Pumpkin Soup with Cayenne and Molasses
Recipe by surfindaave
Serves 4 as appetizer

1 small pie pumpkin, about 3 pounds, cut into sections, seeds and membranes removed, peeled and flesh cut into 1 inch pieces
olive oil
1-2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp cumin
1 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
5-6 cups chicken stock
5-6 sage leaves, minced
2-3 tbsp dark molasses, or to taste

Pre-heat oven to 450ºF.

Toss the pumpkin pieces with the olive oil, cayenne pepper and cumin. Spread on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes, or until well browned in places and tender. Remove from oven and reserve.

In a large soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, celery and carrot, and sauté until softened.

Add chicken stock, molasses and sage, stirring to combine. Simmer soup for 30 minutes.

Puree soup in batches in a food processor until smooth. Add additional chicken stock to thin to desired consistency. Serve with a sprinkle of sage leaves if desired. Enjoy!

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11:14 AM  

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