Pumpkin Chickpea Stew

Pumpkin Chickpea Stew

Something Different
I don’t know about you, but for me, the hardest thing to around Thanksgiving is to figure out what to eat. I know that sounds strange…but let me explain. This time of year I spend a lot of time looking at seasonal and Thanksgiving-related recipes and talking about new possibilities. As you might expect the seasonal recipes are dishes that could easily be appropriate for the Thanksgiving table. So, it can be difficult to try recipes for Thanksgiving without getting Turkey Day burnout. Obviously, I am not cooking a turkey every night but the side dishes are a different story.

Of all the holidays we celebrate during the year, Thanksgiving, for the majority of my immediate family, is the favorite. (I’m still a Christmas hold out.) So, while I am trying out new recipes, I have to make sure I don’t wreck the anticipation for the big day. If you’re eating sweet potatoes and stuffing for the days leading up to the meal you could see why excitement for the main event could wane. This is why, while I’m looking for new stuff, I am also on the lookout for different things to do with the same ingredients. Pumpkins are a perfect example.

Pumpkins can be used for more than just pies. They can be filled with cheese and other buttery goodness and roasted. They can be tossed into fresh pasta or spicy curries. Pumpkins are the taste of fall but, during the month of November, I look outside the traditional flavors and look towards other cuisines where pumpkins are year-round—which, for me, means North Africa.

It is no secret that I love Moroccan food and, thankfully, Morocco loves their pumpkins and squashes. If you find yourself with a leftover Cinderella pumpkin from Halloween or if you just can’t bring yourself to make a pie yet, give this recipe a try for a little something different.

Pumpkin and Chickpea Stew
Adapted from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden
Yields 6 servings Read more…

Chicken and Buttermilk-Chive Dumplings

Chicken and Buttermilk-Chive DumplingsFalling Ill
Fall is here! You know how I know? I’ve already had two kids stay home from school sick. There is something about the transition from hot to cool that plays havoc with the immune system. Since our weather has been a bit non-committal with one week being chilly and the next week climbing back up to 90, it’s no wonder the two of them went down without much fight. And don’t get me started about flu season…

With the possibility of more colds to come, I bought a bunch of chickens and got to making stock. Perhaps it’s a myth, or an old wife’s tale, or even just plain witchcraft but something about chicken soup helps people recover from colds quicker. Really. I think they even did a study on it. Check Google.

While I love a good chicken noodle or, even better, a matzo ball soup, I almost always head in the direction of comfort food when I am not feeling well. My “older son” is the same way. (He’s a twin. He’s only older by a minute but to him, it’s an important minute.) Which is why I found myself making him some chicken and dumplings Saturday night to get some of the magical chicken qualities in him and to make him feel better. I like to tell myself it was just for him but I know better.

Anytime is a good time for chicken and dumplings and I haven’t made anything like this since last fall. I love chicken and dumplings but this is the same son who can finish an entire large pizza by himself and still want dessert so I made a big pot. It was marvelous but there were no leftovers. Sigh.

The good news is he was back in school the following Monday. Whether that was because of the soup or sheer boredom from being at home remains a mystery. I choose to believe it was the chicken stock. The recipe is below if you would like to try your own experiment….

Chicken and Buttermilk-Chive Dumplings
Adapted from Tyler Florence and the Food Network
Yields 6 to 8 servings Read more…

Oktoberfest Sausage Stew

Oktoberfest Sausage StewOcto-beer-Fest
Oktoberfest is wrapping up over in Munich, but for those of us here on the other side of the pond the party is just beginning. Given the number of 19th-century German immigrants who came to our country, you would think that we would have a better idea as to the proper time to partake in Oktoberfest but Americans, it seems, have decided that October is the time.

For the next month, you will easily be able to find any number of Oktoberfest celebrations and Beer Gardens that will quench any thirst for a good quality ale—as well as tasty fare to go along with it. For the beer aficionados out there, October can be a little like Christmas. For others who drink a beer once every two years or so, like myself, Oktoberfest isn’t that big of a deal. If we’re talking about cooking with beer, that’s a different story. If that’s the case, I’m all in…

Here’s the thing. I don’t like the way beer tastes when you drink it by the pint or from a bottle BUT I do like the way it smells. (I know. It’s weird.) This is why I like to use beer when I cook. It adds the flavor of the beer without making the recipe taste like beer. The best example of this is a recipe for Beef Short Ribs Braised in Dark Beer with Bacon and Red Onion that is a fall staple in my family. Of course, in my opinion, you can’t make decent fish and chips without using beer in your batter. Same goes for chili and let’s not forget that the only proper way to eat a Bratwurst is to boil it in beer first.

So for my Oktoberfest, I am going to search out all of the beer recipes I can find to test them out starting with this recipe for Oktoberfest Sausage Stew…it sounds like the perfect meal for a cool-weather dinner.

Oktoberfest Sausage Stew 
Adapted from Food and Wine Magazine
Yields 6 Servings

This recipe is based on a traditional Hungarian sausage, tomato and bell pepper stew called lecsó (LEH-tcho). The beer adds a rich, dark flavor. Read more…

Southwestern Chicken Stew

Southwestern Chicken StewSoup Switch
My whole life I have been a rule follower. I was that kid in the class who never put a toe out of line for fear of the punishments. I have never really been the kind of person to significantly test the boundaries of anything, though I have always wanted to be that person. A rebel. A maverick. I am pretty sure this is why I cook from recipes instead of off the cuff.

To be fair, I will change a recipe to suit my tastes but only after I have made it at least a couple of times. Rarely do I mess with things from the get-go. Last weekend though, my inner culinary rebel surfaced and I took a left turn…

What started out as an adaptation of a chicken stew with peppers from the Basque region turned into more of a southwest stew/chili/gumbo type thing. There was something about the combination of ingredients that had me reaching for the black beans and cumin. Served over rice, the flavors were reminiscent of the southwest with the hearty whole meal feel of the bayou.

Maybe it was innovation or maybe it was just muscle memory that made me assume that tomatoes and peppers should also have beans and a squeeze of lime but it turned out tasty. I made enough to store some in the freezer for a future mid-week dinner on the run.

Tonight the future is here…as is a tasty dinner!

Southwestern Chicken Stew
Yields 6 servings Read more…

Autumn Pumpkin Recipes

Autumn Pumpkin RecipesSquashes, Pumpkins, and Gourds Oh My!
One of the things I love most about the Fall, and October in general, is all of the displays with various pumpkins and gourds. They are so pretty and interesting. True, not all of them are edible like gorgeous Goose Neck Gourds but the better majority are.

Granted most of the larger pumpkins and squashes purchased around this time end up on your front doorstep with fangs carved out of them. Not much you can do with them after they have been out there for a while. At least nothing edible…

My question is what do you do with the ones that have been inside and are still good? If we’re talking about a cute little Sugar Pie pumpkin the answer is obvious. Bring on the pies and breads baby!

But there is more to pumpkins than pie…

Acorn and Delicata squash are fantastic to eat and easy to prepare. A giant Cinderella pumpkin is perfect for stuffing with cheese, cream, and other decadent goodness. Pretty green Kabocha squash is used in all sorts of cuisines from Mexican to Moroccan. Of course, Spaghetti squash can be a nice change from your usual pasta. Butternut squash is by far the most well known and eaten of all of the squashes and is great as a soup, in a casserole or on its own.

To help you figure out what to do with your squashes, pumpkins, and gourds, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite dishes for you to try. Read more…