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Any dish that ends “…with ginger and chili” I am predisposed to like. It’s kind of my current favorite flavor profile. I generally like heat over sweet, and there is something medicinal, healing, about the combination. When I can remember to, I like to start my mornings steeping ginger and chili in hot water, sometimes with a little bit of fresh squeezed lemon, and if I’m feeling a stuffy nose coming on, a tiny bit of honey.

So when I stumbled upon a recipe for a spicy butternut squash soup I perused the ingredient list and liked what I saw: coconut milk, fresh ginger, fresh chili, cilantro, turmeric. This was a recipe for October, for crisp weather and fending off colds. It is warmth in a bowl.

I’m in Vermont for a few days watching over a two-month-old kitten named Sam—short for Sammy Davis Jr., naturally. While born feral and therefore fearful of humans, she surprised me this morning when I woke to discover her resting peacefully on my chest. Up, down, with my breath. I picked long red chili peppers with my stepmother from her garden before she headed out of town, putting the better part of one to good use in this recipe. Now I just need to find something to do with all the Swiss chard, white eggplant, and green tomatoes we picked. In the meantime…

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Butternut Squash Soup with Ginger and Chili
adapted from Brooklyn Vegetarian

2 tablespoons coconut oil (olive oil works well too)
1 medium onion, diced
Knob of fresh ginger, approx. 1 inch, peeled and minced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
Fresh red chili pepper, minced, to taste (I used a piece 2 inches long)
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 medium to large butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed
4 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup coconut milk
Salt and pepper, to taste
Parsley or cilantro, to garnish
Scallions, to garnish

In a large saucepan heat the oil on medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for about 5 minutes, or until it turns translucent. Add the ginger, garlic, and chili and sauté for about 1 minute, then add the cumin and turmeric. Stir, then add the carrot and celery and sauté for several minutes until they begin to soften. If the pan gets too dry you can add a spoonful or two of water, so the onions don’t stick. Add the squash, broth, and coconut milk, season with salt and pepper, and slowly bring to just before the boil. Turn the heat down and simmer until the squash is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Allow the soup to cool some before transferring to a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth, in batches if necessary. You can reheat the soup in its pan before serving if you’d like. Garnish the soup with sliced scallions and parsley or cilantro.

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I know what you’re thinking. That doesn’t look like celery soup. Did y’all see the Koons show at the Whitney? Go see it before the Whitney closes forever and moves downtown. Yes, even if, like me, you think you are above it or have some (lots of) preconceived notion of his art. You will gain a broader appreciation for him and the fabrication of some of these objects. I think. Shout out to David Gordon for dragging my butt there on an early Saturday morning. Also, did you listen to this? Hilton Als interviewing Khandi Alexander, Thelma Golden, and Toni Morrison for Studio 360. Oh my, what are you waiting for?

Ok, soup. It’s early fall. Which is actually the best time to be at a farmer’s market in New York. The stalls are spilling over with eggplants, tomatoes, early brussels sprouts (we’re not capitalizing Brussels anymore right?), all sorts of greens, apple varieties, peppers, and squash. More on squash in a bit. There’s still corn, raspberries, celery, blueberries at one stall I saw. If you live in the five boroughs of NYC you have no excuse—the Union Square greenmarket is open Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.  While you’re at it, bring your food scraps from your freezer, the compost station is at the northeast end of the market. When you’re done composting and purchasing pretzels and apples and tatsoi and fairy eggplant, stroll down Broadway to the Strand bookstore and spend time in there perusing. Seriously. I recommend. I did this Saturday and it was life affirming to be in a brick-and-mortar bookstore browsing, touching, dreaming, reading first pages. I mainly hung around cookbooks and new fiction with my bud @superdaniela.

Celery seems to be having a bit of an “it” moment in food don’t you think? Featured as the main ingredient in salty spicy salads; in celery tonics; in the last episode of Breaking Bad (ok, made that up), and of course, soups everywhere. In the spirit of things celery and fall, here is a quick and dirty celery soup. Ok, not that quick, not that dirty, but pretty darn basic. Some easy substitutions could make this vegetarian and vegan lickety split (i.e., substituting vegetable broth, using coconut cream instead of half and half…) This soup is velvety, rich, and smooth. The original recipe uses whole cream instead of half and half and more butter; I reduced both, but feel free to tinker/increase, as your palate desires.

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Celery Soup

Serves 4
adapted from BonApp

1 head celery, chopped
1 large potato, preferably waxy, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
6 tbsp butter or vegan fat like Earth Balance
Salt
3 cups low-sodium broth (chicken, vegetable)
1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
Red chili flakes
Dash of balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup half and half
Olive oil, for drizzling
Sea salt, to serve

Combine the celery, potato, onion, and butter in large saucepan over medium heat, season with salt. Cook, stirring, until the onion is tender, about 8–10 minutes. When the onions seem about cooked, add the broth, bring to a simmer, and cook for another 8–10 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked through. Let the soup cool down a little before transferring to your blender.

Add the dill, chili flakes, and dash of balsamic vinegar and blend the soup until smooth. Depending on how ocd you are you can strain the soup at this point, or just transfer it back to the saucepan. Add the half and half and stir until smooth. Taste for seasoning. Gradually bring the heat up a little if you’re serving right away. Serve in soup bowls with tops of celery, drizzle of olive oil, and sea salt.

**Bonus recipe**
Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Ginger and Chili
I made this the other night and shazam, I am going to make this all fall.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Wrap two sweet potatoes in tin foil (poke with a fork first) and roast for 45 minutes to one hour until totally cooked through and soft. Do the same with a bulb of garlic—wrap in tin foil and toss in the oven—for maybe 30 minutes. Remove the soft meaty flesh of the potatoes and transfer to a bowl. Remove one or two of the garlic cloves from the skin and mash into the potatoes. Combine with 2 tablespoons of coconut oil, lots of freshly squeezed lemon juice, finely chopped fresh ginger, red chili flakes, and sea salt. Mix well. Devour.

Below is a picture of me and my buddy Dan (sorry Dan forgot to get your permission first, if you hate this photo I’ll take it down!). We met our freshman year at Cornell so we’ve known each other a long time now. B/c we old. He just moved back here and that’s us in the JivamukTea Cafe taking a selfie for our friend Laura in Oakland. Hi Laura!

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One of the cool periodicals at last week’s Art Book Fair at MoMA PS1

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Three of the delicious pies at Four and Twenty Blackbirds in Gowanus, Brooklyn

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I run by here in the mornings, this guy is often fishing, Prospect Park Lake

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Wow, August has been such a fulfilling and busy month. Somehow my last post was four weeks ago from Vermont! I stayed in that lovely state for nearly two weeks, came home for less than week, then was in Seattle for eight days. And now I’m in Philadelphia, celebrating my sister Emily’s 30th birthday, along with our older sister Hope. Traveling is good for my soul, less great for blogging.

I wasn’t about to show up in Philly empty handed so a birthday treat was in order. Cupcakes? Nah. A regular ole flour-based cake? Seemed uninspired. Blueberries are still in season and I’ve been interested in exploring more vegan and raw desserts so I turned to Emily von Euw’s blog, which has become one of my favorites to explore lately, and sure enough, got inspired.

Like a lot of raw and vegan desserts, this cake takes its base from a combination of nuts, coconut oil, and sweetener (in this case, maple syrup). And like a cheesecake, this cake ends up tasting creamy and rich, with strong overtones of the cashew flavor. It is freaking good. Find some local blueberries and keep that oven off. This was super easy to make and garners lots of “oohs” and “ahhs” and “wow, it’s vegan and raw?” And gluten free, as long as your oats are. So almost everyone can eat this cake!

Oh and are you following me on Instagram? I hope you will! @laduelala

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Blueberry Cheesecake
adapted from Emily von Euw

Crust
1 1/4 cup rolled oats
1 1/4 dates
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
drizzle of maple syrup

Filling
2 1/4 cup raw, unsalted cashews, soaked overnight (or at least a few hours) and drained
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Juice from 1 small lemon or 1/2 large lemon
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 coconut oil
Scant 1 cup water (less if water is transferred from your cashew’s soaking liquid)
2 1/4 cups blueberries

To make the crust: you’re essentially making oat flour out of your oats. Process in a blender until you achieve a pretty fine texture. If using a food processor or a blender with blades like a Ninja blender, then add the dates and maple syrup and process until it becomes one sticky mass. If using a regular blender, you will want to transfer the oat flour to a bowl and add the dates and maple syrup, mashing with your hands until it becomes a sticky dough. Then press the dough into the bottom of an 8-inch cake pan to form a crust (a springform pan would probably work great, but I don’t have one). I placed a large piece of saran wrap as a liner in my cake pan, underneath the oat crust. Chill in the refrigerator while you do the next steps.

To make the filling: blend everything together except the blueberries until it forms a thick and creamy mixture. Mine was a little watery so I added approximately two tablespoons of oats and re-blended, which helped. But go easy on that cup of water, start with a little less perhaps so you can judge the consistency. Poor half of this mixture onto the chilled crust in the cake pan. Then place one cup of the blueberries on top of this layer. Blend the remaining cup of blueberries with the remaining filling and process until smooth. Poor this on top of the blueberry layer. Chill in the refrigerator until it sets (a few hours at least), or you can place in the freezer, which is what I did, since I had to transport it to Philly. We made it.

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Here are some Seattle photos from last week.

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Olympic Sculpture Park right after sunrise.

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The International Fountain, in the shadow of the Space Needle. Kids love this place!
IMG_6054The Samarya Center, a yoga studio recommended by my teacher back home in New York, had the sweetest class there with founder Molly Lannon Kenny.

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Loved this store in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle called Totokaelo, a mashup of clothing, pottery, art journals, textiles, lighting design, and shoes. Found my friend Paul’s journal Convolution there, above, in orange.

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Sarah and I.

IMG_6095Molly Moon’s ice cream. Had maybe the best salted caramel I’d ever tried. Their waffle cones are made to order.

 

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