Planting a Protein Garden

Life Cycle of Bean Plant

For the past five years, I have expanded my vegetable garden by as much as my spade could turn over. I’m now bringing in a decent amount of fresh produce in the summer, with more ripening in early fall, giving me enough to put some food away for the first several colder months.  There’s nothing quite as satisfying and nourishing as feeding your family what you’ve grown just steps from your kitchen table. But, I thought last year, I’m only making a dent in one food group. I wanted to be able to grow a full meal.

I adopted a small flock of hens. Within no time at all, we had a lovely mutually beneficial relationship going: I fed them, and they fed us. Perfect farmhouse symbiosis: organic feed and kitchen scraps for them; incredibly rich, yellow yoked eggs for us.  But huevoes rancheros, one of my favorite breakfasts, also calls for beans.  So, I planted black turtle beans.

Copying a gardening technique practiced by Native Americans, I planted a “three sisters” garden. Beans went around the base of the developing corn stalks, which wound their way up as the stalks grew. The cornstalks offered a convenient trellis for the beans, while the beans provided nitrogen for the corn. Encircling the duo, I planted squash, whose course, prickly vines helped deter animals from snacking on the corn and beans.

Beans, best known for their notable amount of fiber (one cup provides between 9 to 13 grams), are also a great source of plant protein, complex carbohydrates, folate and iron, as well as at least eight different phytonutrients which contribute to their dark color (in the case of black beans), and indicate the presence of valuable antioxidants.

By the end of the summer, my bean plants were mature, the pods were full-grown and starting to dry, and I crawled in to harvest the beautiful, garden-grown black beans.  I had grown my own protein.

As thoroughly satisfying as that was, I was disappointed to see that my numerous rows of black bean plants amounted to merely a pint-sized jar of dried beans - hardly enough to feed a mostly vegetarian family of four until next year at this time.

I’ll have to grow many more this sum mer, but for now we’re digging into a hot bowl of home-grown sweet potato and black bean soup.

“Green Dream” Creamy Cabbage Soup

Celebrating green?  Whether to mark the first signs of spring, appreciating the Irish, feeling eco-friendly and/or wanting to eat well, here’s an easy blender soup to feed your green.

It’s all about cabbage, an excellent source of vitamin C and K, fiber, folate, potassium and manganese.  Various types of cabbage have been studied for their cancer prevention properties, cholesterol-lowering support, anti-inflammatory action and all around health benefits.

Similar to the traditional Irish colcannon (with its pairing of potatoes and green cabbage), but with a bright surprise thrown in, this soup is a cheerful presentation on any dinner table. It is substantial enough to serve as a full meal, but can also be served in smaller portions as a starter.

Green Dream Cabbage Soup

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 white or yellow potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 green cabbage, chopped
  • 5 cups vegetable stock (or homemade)
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil and/or thyme
  • 4 ounces of cream cheese (1/2 a typically-sized package)
  • 1/2 - 1 cup milk (depending on desired consistency)
  • 1 bag frozen green peas
  • nutmeg, freshly ground
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • handful of baby spinach, thinly sliced (as optional garnish)
  • 1 carrot, grated (as optional garnish)
  • croutons (as optional garnish)
Method:
  1. Warm butter in a Dutch oven or other soup pot.  Sauté onions until thoroughly soft (10-15 minutes).
  2. Add garlic, potatoes, cabbage and spices and stir to coat. Pour in stock, bring to boil, cover and reduce to simmer. Stir once or twice as vegetables cook until soft.
  3. Turn off heat, add cream cheese and gently mix in, blending in the cheese using a wooden spoon against the side of the soup pot.  Stir in 1/2 cup of milk, and nutmeg.
  4. Using either an immersion blender in the soup pot, or in batches in a counter-top blender, purée the soup to a smooth bright green mixture.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Add additional milk if too thick.
  5. Serve with brightly colored garnishes such as spinach ribbons and grated carrots, and/or something crunchy such as croutons or roasted seeds.

To make it vegan: a creamy consistency can be created simply by cooking potatoes in stock, and puréeing them without adding any cream cheese or milk.  Sautéed leeks can add to the creamy texture.  You can substitute some of the onions with leeks. This soup can also be made vegan by substituting the dairy products with non-dairy versions.

To make it paleo/primal: Use coconut oil for sautéing, and skip the dairy products.  You can use a meat or vegetable stock, and add coconut milk for added creaminess if you like.

Making Maple-Ginger Soda

While this winter has been disappointing for cross-country skiers, plow guys and all manner of winter wonderland lovers, the arrival of sugaring season is still a welcome treat. Amid projections of possible scant syrup yields (also due to the mild winter), we’ve hung buckets, and set the first pot of sap on the stove to simmer… anticipating syrup.

Thanks to a fabulous hand-operated appliance, it is very easy to make your own seltzer.  Drinking sparkling tap water is fun, economical and refreshing all year round, but nothing is quite as tasty as homemade sap soda during sugaring season.

The Simple How-To:

1. Tap a maple tree sometime in late winter/early spring when the daytime temperatures reach above freezing and the nighttime temps scoot back down below.

  

 

2. Collect a pot full of sap.

3. Place on (wood)stove with several slices of fresh ginger, and allow to gently simmer until the sap has become infused with ginger flavor.

4. Allow to cool and pour into SodaStream bottles.  Using a Sodastream soda maker pump up with carbon dioxide to make soda.

5. Add a slice of lemon, if you like, and raise a glass to the first signs of spring: Maple Sap Soda!

Or, make your own maple sap with a little reverse evaporation.  The commonly used ratio of sap to syrup is 40:1, meaning that 40 units of maple sap needs to be boiled down to create 1 unit of maple syrup. If you don’t have access to a sugar maple tree to tap, go ahead and rehydrate some maple syrup with 30-40 parts water to 1 part syrup, blend in a large pot, place on stove with several slices of fresh ginger.  Allow to simmer until the sap becomes infused with ginger flavor, and/or until your home is infused with a warm, gingery maple aroma.day

12 Ways to Be Cool in 2012.

Did you feel the heat on Christmas Day?  The South Pole recorded its highest temperature ever: 9.9˚F on December 25, 2011!  That was at the end of a year in which we in Vermont experienced not one, but two 100-year floods in 3 just months, and people around the world experienced either exceptionally wet (with flooding), unusually dry (with drought), and/or unthinkably hot (sometimes with dangerous fires) weather. In fact, 2011 boasted 2,941 extreme weather records in the US alone.  And, then there is the tremendous spike in atmospheric carbon dioxide (worth a click on the link to see what it looks like) which likely provides the explanation for it all.

In 2011, we managed to make weather more of an extreme sport than a recreational activity, which boils down to one simple, urgent thing: 2012 needs to be all about chilling out!   We’ve got to make being cool the theme of the year. Here are 12 ideas (in no particular order, and by no means a complete list) to help you be cool in the new year:

1. Turn off the lights.  When you leave the room, turn off the lights.  My father trained me in the 70s; it’s time for a little refresher. If you think your electric bills are looking a little high, you’ll enjoy lower bills as a result. You can add timers or motion sensors to light fixtures if that helps remember to turn them off.  For the ultimate in convenience, get solar outdoor lights - the sun will charge them, and the darkness will turn them on.

2. Get better lights. In addition to outdoor solar lights, upgrade your indoor bulbs, in fact it’s required. With the end of the incandescent light bulb, organizations like the NRDC have produced online guides to help you decide which lighting options are best for your home and business: LEDs, compact fluorescents… perhaps candles.

3. Unstuff yourself: If you’re feeling stuffed, unstuff yourself this year. Stuff requires cleaning, storage, sometimes lighting, heating or cooling, transportation, etc. all of which requires more energy. If you’re not already familiar with The Story of Stuff: How Our Obsession with Stuff Is Trashing the Planet, Our Communities, and Our Health-and a Vision for Change, check it out here, then destuff your life and save both money and the planet.

4. Lighten your foodprint. Skipping meat (at least once a week, as the Meatless Monday campaign suggests), and buying local, seasonal produce and products will help reduce the amount of energy your diet requires. Want to read more about it?  There’s a fresh crop of books on the joys and benefits of eating locally, including the piece de resistance: Diet for a Hot Planet: The Climate Crisis at the End of Your Fork and What You Can Do about It.

5. Buy local: Transportation and (temperature-controlled) storage of food and other stuff requires lots of energy.  Buy what you need locally, and you help reduce those costs and you get to support your local economy at the same time. Here’s a fantastic example, worthy of replication every where: The Farmstand Coop.

6. Home Sweet Home: Beyond buying local food and other supplies, consider local vacations, local banking, local education, local heating fuel, etc. Investing in your home is investing in the planet.

7. Getting from A to B: How can you move yourself not in a single-occupied vehicle? Walk, bike, roller skate, cross country ski, bus, train, carpool?  For those times when you have to drive, plan trips to merge errands and outings as much as possible.

8. Dare to share. From cars (such as zip car), to lawn mowers, vacation rentals…  If you don’t really need to own it yourself, share with a family member, friend or neighbor.  In 2009, car-sharing alone was credited with reducing U.S. carbon emissions by more than 482,000 tons.

9. Befriend a sweater, hat and socks: Take inspiration from animals who grow an extra layer of winter fur, add a layer and lower the thermostat. Use a programmable thermostat if that helps to remember to lower your heat settings at night and when going out. Other ways to keep it warm and cozy: pour another cup of tea, sip hot, brothy soups, practice your dance moves, and host frequent house warming parties.

10. New to you. If you need a new sweater, you don’t have to buy a brand new one.  Shop local second-hand stores or host a clothing exchange, where friends come over (house warming party!) and you get to try on each other’s already-been-loved items to brighten up your wardrobe.

11. Grow your food: Growing your own vegetables, fruits and herbs is a great way to bring fresh and nutritious food literally to your door. Having a garden doesn’t have to require a lot of space, even a small plot, or a collection of containers on a back deck, fire escape or window sill can contribute to your health and that of the planet.

12. Practice the 4 Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot: See where you can use less, come up with new ways to use what you already have, recycle (or upcycle) what might otherwise become trash, and compost all things biological.

If you’re not totally convinced being cool is the hottest thing out there, check out what thousands of people have been doing to solve the climate crisis.  Check out the incredibly inspirational work, with photos and videos from around the world at 350.org.

Potato-Kale Soup: Food From Here

This all local, organic, vegetarian soup was created in honor of Bo Muller-Moore, Team Kale and the Eat More Kale campaign.  It was sold out on The Farmstand Coop the first week, and so I (as Mama D’s Kitchen) ran it for a second one.  Many thanks to all who supported Bo with soup purchases.

This simple-to-make and warming-to-eat cool season soup is reminiscent of both the well-known Portuguese “caldo verde” (green soup) sans sausage and the cold-weather staple, creamy potato-leek soup.  It consists of a smooth, creamy and thoroughly satisfying base with a smattering of visual and nutritional excitement from the bright green kale.  The ingredients are easy to find at year-round farmers markets as well as most supermarkets.

Potato-Kale Soup

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 leeks, thoroughly washed and white and light green portions chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 celeriac (also called celery root), peeled and cubed
  • 3-4 potatoes (such as Yukon gold), peeled and cubed
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 bunch fresh kale (or 1 frozen package, in a pinch)
  • 1/2-1 cup milk or cream (optional)
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • grated parmesan (optional)
Method:
  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of butter in large soup pot. Sauté onions and leeks until translucent and with the appearance of starting to melt (this will add to the soup’s creaminess).
  2. Add garlic, potatoes and celeriac. Toss to coat and add vegetable stock.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and allow to simmer until vegetables are soft.
  3. Heat remaining tablespoon of butter in a skillet and give chopped kale a quick sauté.  Watch it carefully and take it off heat as soon as the kale reaches a beautiful bright green color.
  4. Once soup vegetables are soft, purée either in the pot with an immersion blender, or in batches in an upright blender or food processor, until smooth.  I find the immersion blender more convenient, but a traditional upright blender or food processor produces a smoother soup.
  5. Adjust consistency with stock, milk or cream and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Stir in kale and serve topped with grated parmesan, if using.

To make it vegan: This soup can easily be made without dairy by sautéing in olive oil and eliminating the final addition of milk or cream.  The sautéed leeks, cooked potatoes and celeriac once puréed create a lusciously creamy soup. If you wanted to thin the soup, you can use more stock or an unsweetened dairy-free milk substitute.

To make it Paleo/Primal: Sauté the vegetables in coconut oil, and prepare the soup with your stock of choice. The puréed vegetables will make the soup creamy, so you do not need to add any milk or cream, however adding coconut milk would likely produce a very tasty tropical version of this soup.

To make it non-veg: Substitute chicken or turkey broth for the vegetable broth and sauté thinly sliced sausage with the kale before adding to the potato-leek soup base.

Eat More Kale

Once upon a time there was a humble artist named Bo who made t-shirts.  He called his one-at-a-time silk screening shop “Eat More Kale”.  He was loved by t-shirt wearers, small-scale farmers and kale eaters worldwide, but particularly in Vermont, where he lived.  [I have seeded and weeded in my "eat more kale" t-shirt, and Bo very kindly sent me more than fifty "eat more kale" stickers when I was working with students at a nearby high school to create a new kale chip recipe.]

One day he received a cease-and-desist letter from a large fast food company called Chick-Fil-A (full story here).  Apparently Chick-Fil-A thought fast food eaters would be confused by the Vermont t-shirt maker’s name and their own slogan “eat mor chikin”. No one had ever heard of anyone walking into a Chick-Fil-A asking for a kale burger or kale fries, as the restaurant did not offer any kale dishes (this, ironically was the one thing the two businesses had in common: neither actually sold kale). Still, they felt threatened by the small (though thanks to their bullying action, then quickly growing) appreciation of the vegetable promoting slogan and were pushing legal action to close the t-shirt man down.

 

The people of Vermont, including the governor, and many others worldwide wouldn’t stand for it, and came together in favor of Bo. Governor Shumlin launched “Team Kale” to support Bo’s fight and create a legal defense fund. “Get out of the way, Chick-Fil-A” he declared as he announced the effort to protect all small business.

This was at a time when persevering protesters kept the pressure on Wall Street in favor of Main Street, and Congress (having been gobbled up by Big Food) had just redefined pizza as a vegetable, and was seen as yet another example of big business hubris. In defense of “the little guy” and the right to healthy eating, the people poured their support in Bo’s direction.

They did things such as (and I hope you will too):

  • Sign Bo’s petition to support small business here:
  • Join Bo on Facebook
  • Follow @teamkale on twitter
  • Buy a “Team Kale” t-shirt and/or sticker to support Bo’s legal defense fund by clicking here.
  • And support both Bo’s efforts and your personal health with a homemade, local, organic and vegetarian Potato-Kale Soup from Mama D’s Kitchen, available the week of Dec 12 at The Farmstand Coop (order by midnight Wed for pick-up on Thursday).  All proceeds will go to “Team Kale”.
  • UPDATE: Since the soup special sold out quickly, Potato-Kale Soup will be sold for another week.  Order at The Farmstand Coop by midnight on Wed, Dec 21st for pick-up on the 22nd. And, thank you!
  • To support Bo in spirit and your health for real, feast on kale (and all glorious greens)!  Here’s the link for potato-kale soup.

Let’s give this story a fairy tale ending, and let Bo and kale live happily ever after.

Filling up on Pumpkin

“For pottage and puddings and custards and pies
Our pumpkins and parsnips are common supplies,
We have pumpkins at morning and pumpkins at noon,
If it were not for pumpkins we should be undoon.”

Lyrics to popular song in the 1600s

Pumpkins. We buy them whole in October to perform surgery on, and then expect to see them again in November in a pie.  We’ve come to think of pumpkin pie as one of the traditional Thanksgiving dishes. Probably not. Together with squashes, they are native to New England, and were a common food source for Native Americans.  Early European settlers adopted pumpkin eating, but it was unlikely that they had the butter and wheat flour we use today for the crust until many years later.

According to historians from Plimouth Plantation, the earliest written pumpkin pie recipes are dated several generations after the First Thanksgiving, and then they treat pumpkin more like apples (which are not native and had, by then, been brought over from Europe), slicing it and sometimes frying the slices before layering them in a crust.

This recipe may more closely resemble an early pumpkin pie than what we are accustomed to today (which, if you tend to have it with canned pumpkin, I urge you to read the latest on BPA in cans, and use a real pumpkin instead).  The filling does contain butter and bread cubes, but these can easily be omitted for historical purity.  A simple filling made with spiced milk and eggs is likely that of the original pumpkin pie.

Today pumpkins are recognized as a particularly good source of vitamin A and beta-carotene, as well as vitamin C.  Since they are naturally sweet, they help satisfy our sweet tooth, preventing a sugar craving. Some research suggests that eating pumpkin works well to balance insulin and is therefore effective for pre-diabetes and diabetes.

Pumpkin seeds have many health benefits, including being a good source of protein, zinc, iron and vitamins, most notably vitamin E. Pumpkin seeds also contain tryptophan, magnesium, manganese, and phosphorus.


Bread Pudding in a Pumpkin Shell

An Original Pumpkin Pie

  • 1 pie pumpkin or other nice-looking winter squash (roughly 4-5 pounds)
  • 2 cups milk (or coconut milk*)
  • 1/4 cup butter (or coconut oil*), melted.
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 2 cups stale bread, cubed
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup raisins and/or dried cranberries or sultanas
  • 1/2 walnuts and/or pecans
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon each of ground alspice, ginger, cloves and/or cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon maple liquor (optional, however, the next time you’re in Vermont, you will not be disappointed if you treat yourself to a bottle of “Cabin Fever” Maple Liquor)
  • whole nutmeg, for grinding

Topping

  • 1 cup pumpkin seeds (although it makes a great deal of sense to use the seeds from your pumpkin, I have to admit that I like the taste of the greenish-colored “pepitas” better)
  • butter or oil, just enough to coat pan
  • 1 teaspoon maple sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Method:
  1. Preheat oven to 350º degrees.
  2. Wash pumpkin. Cut off the top of the pumpkin and clean out the inside.  Brush the top and inside with a little melted butter.
  3. Replace cover on pumpkin and heat in oven for 20 minutes.
  4. While pumpkin is in oven, scald milk for the bread pudding filling. Remove from heat and add butter and maple syrup.  Pour mixture over stale bread cubes and let sit for 5-10 minutes.  Then add eggs, raisins, nuts, spices, vanilla and splash of liquor.
  5. Take pumpkin out of oven, remove the top and fill with the bread mixture and grate some fresh nutmeg over the top.  This time without the top, place pumpkin in a baking dish and bake for 1- 1 1/2 hours or until the pumpkin is soft (cooking time will vary depending on the size of the pumpkin) and the pudding is cooked. Any leftover filling can be cooked in ramekins, which will not need the full cooking time.
  6. To make the topping: melt butter in a small skillet, add the pumpkin seeds.  Give them a shake and/or stir several times and watch them closely since they burn easily.  Once browned and starting to pop, remove from heat and sprinkle with cinnamon and maple (or regular) sugar.
  7. Remove pumpkin from oven and allow to cool slightly.
  8. Serve as boat-like slices with a wedge of pumpkin as the base, filled with bread pudding and how about a nice dollop of vanilla yogurt, creme fraiche, freshly whipped cream or ice cream on top. Sprinkle all over with cinnamon pumpkin seeds.

Thanks to Wilson Farm in Lexington, Massachusetts (my childhood farmstand) and our early American foremothers for the inspiration for this recipe.

* Note to Primal/Paleo eaters: This type of pie can be easily adapted to a hunter-gatherer diet.  Like the early New England settlers, omit the bread cubes and butter, and make the custard with coconut oil, coconut milk and plenty of eggs and spices. The links above connect to these products in BPA-free packaging.

Meatless Monday: Market Day Soup


In the mid 90s, as a graduate student in Ecological Urban and Regional Planning, I was asked to supervise a group of undergraduates in a research project on the viability of farmers markets.  I loved visiting LA’s outdoor food markets, which felt more like a fun outing than doing errands, so I was happy to accept.  I did not fully realize, until several years later, the extend to which the many benefits (environmental, economic, nutritional, community-building, etc.) of these markets would grab me and not let me go.

Today, direct farm-to-consumer sales are growing at a rate of 10% per year, twice that of the regular food sector. Farmers markets are consistently increasing in number with a 17% increase in just the past year.  More are staying open year round, and despite a down economy, they have supported a growth in the number of small and organic farms. Community supported agriculture (CSA) farmshare options are also expanding.  I subscribe to Stonyloam Farm for my summertime vegetables, herbs and flowers, Pete’s Greens for my fall and winter vegetables, and Family Cow Farmstand for a weekly gallon of raw organic milk.  Roughly a year ago another direct-sales option was dreamed up in our little town: the online Farmstand Coop. By cleverly combining the convenience of a 24/7 online meeting place with the small scale supply and demand on a very local level, a year round market for vegetables, baked goods, meats, eggs and more was created. I have been a customer for a year, and starting last week, I am now also a producer, selling homemade soups made from local and organic ingredients served in reusable glass jars. I feel a small step closer to the people I have come to so greatly admire: farmers.

My first Market Day Soup:

Potato-Leek with Kale Ribbons

  • 3 tablespoons butter (or olive oil or coconut oil)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 4 leeks, well washed and chopped
  • 4-5 potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 celeriac (celery root), peeled and cubed
  • 6 cups of water or vegetable stock (or homemade)
  • 1/2 -1 cup milk or cream (optional)
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • kale, stems discarded, cut in thin strips
  • handful of parsley
Method:
  1. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large Dutch Oven or other soup pot.  Sauté onions, garlic and leeks over low heat until translucent and starting to caramelize, but not yet turning brown. This should take about 20 minutes, and is worth the wait.
  2. Add potatoes and celeriac cubes, stir to coat. Add stock, bring to boil, then reduce to a simmer and allow vegetables to cook, about 15 minutes.
  3. While vegetables are cooking, heat remaining tablespoon of butter in a skillet and saute the kale strips just long enough that they become bright green and crispy.
  4. Using an immersion blender directly in your soup pot or in batches in a traditional blender, purée your soup to a velvety smooth consistency.  The soup will be nicely creamy without the addition of milk or cream, or you can add one or both of these to adjust consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Serve warm topped with kale ribbons and parsley for color and crunch.

It’s FOOD DAY!!

Dear fellow eaters, welcome to Food Day!  A day to celebrate real food, and bring much needed attention to the connections between the Standard American Diet (truly SAD) and our increasingly high rates of diet-related disease, the poor quality of school lunches, the poor health of many of our farm workers, and the economic and environmental impacts of our industrial food system, while at the same time supporting the growing opportunities for small family farms, farmers markets, sustainable agriculture, local food security and improved personal and public health by eating a real food diet.

“The typical American diet is promoting major health problems, causing serious environmental pollution, and unintentionally creating poor working conditions for those who harvest, process, and prepare our food,” said Michael F. Jacobson, Center for Science in the Public Interest’s (CSPI) executive director. “It’s time to urge Americans to change their own diets for the better and to mobilize for desperately needed changes in food and farm policy.”

So, what will you be eating today?

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As fun-filled, exciting, as well as tasty the numerous Food Day events around the country are sure to be today, this is a message which requires daily practice. We eat everyday, so let’s make it real everyday.

Happy Food Day, Today and Every Day!

Butternut Squash Soup with a Touch of Thai

Eating local takes on a whole other level of satisfaction when you have the good fortune to eat what you’ve just harvested from your garden.  My butternut squash plants had a good summer and are now treating me to what is sure to be a tasty fall and winter.  Low in calories and high in fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, butternut squash is a nutrient-dense vegetable commonly available in fall and winter. You can capture its particularly high concentration of vitamin A in soups, roasted, mashed or baked into sweet breads and desserts.

As committed as I am to eating food from here, I also love many flavors from afar. Though that may sound incompatible, it is often just an ingredient or two, or a specific herb, spice or seasoning, that gives an otherwise locally sourced dish an international flavor. Kaffir lime leaves, for example, decidedly not native to northern Vermont, but recently spotted at the local food coop, lend a distinctively delicious Thai flavor to this soup.

Butternut Squash Soup with a Touch of Thai

  • 1 average-sized butternut squash (or 2 small), peeled, seeded and cubed
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced or grated
  • 3 medium-sized potatoes, peeled (for a smoother soup) or unpeeled (for greater nutrition), cubed
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil or butter
  • 8 cups water or vegetable broth
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 cup coconut milk, cream or milk
  • possible toppings: cilantro, thai basil, croutons, roasted pepitas or butternut squash seeds, shredded coconut, peanuts, sriracha hot sauce and/or a swirl of cream.

Method:

  1. Melt coconut oil in a soup pot and sauté onions until translucent, then add garlic.
  2. Stir in potato and squash cubes and stir to coat.
  3. Pour in water or stock, add kaffir lime leaves and bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cover until vegetables are soft, about 15-20 minutes.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. With an immersion blender in the soup pot or in batches in a traditional blender, puree the soup to a velvety smooth consistency. Stir in milk.
  6. Serve in bowls and garnish with toppings of your choice.