Ginger Pumpkin Chowder

8 Nov

gingerpumpkinchowder001If there is one thing that we all have no shortage of in the months between Halloween and Christmas, it’s probably a variety of leftover winter squashes.  Got an extra cup or two of cooked pumpkin left over from that pie?  Some acorn or butternut squash that didn’t fit in the pan? Tired of cloying sweets and heavy, creamy soups?  Feeling anxious about the upcoming months of rolling away from holiday tables, or trying to cook to accommodate a vegan or vegetarian at the table?  Here is a warming, satisfying meat and dairy-free soup that tastes like the harvest season, in a bowl.

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Tips: The easiest way to cook a small squash of any variety is to jab some holes in it with a knife or fork, then microwave it for 3-4 minutes on a plate.  Turn it over, then microwave it for another 3-4 minutes.  Afterward, let it cool off, then split it open, discard the seeds, and scoop the flesh out with a spoon.  It comes out butter-soft and cooked in its own steam and juices. No fuss required.  Just be careful your plate doesn’t overflow with juices and wind up all over your microwave!  If you don’t jab it with holes first, pressure can build inside and split or explode the fruit.

Similarly, cauliflower or broccoli can be rinsed off, then microwaved wet in a bowl for a couple of minutes to cook it to tender perfection without turning it into limp mush.

Also, there are few things more tedious than mincing a lot of fresh cloves of garlic by hand, not to mention the garlic-scent that lingers on your fingers or burns your skin, but I don’t blame you if you regard the preservative-laden jars of minced garlic at the grocery store with some suspicion.  If you’re lucky enough to be able to buy fresh minced garlic at the grocery, or have a food processor that can mince cloves quickly, or just want to get the task out of the way once in a while, an easy way to keep minced garlic good for months is to pack it in a glass or tupperware container with a lid, then cover the garlic with a liberal layer of olive oil.  It will infuse the oil with garlic, and the oil will prevent the garlic from spoiling beneath it.  This can be done with many fresh herbs, in fact.

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Ingredients
4 cups chopped fresh mushrooms (I recommend king oyster mushrooms if you can get them–otherwise regular white button mushrooms will do just fine)

1 large red onion, chopped
2-3 tablespoons grated fresh ginger (the younger the better–if you can find it when the skin is still pink and white, it saves you peeling it!)
2-3 tablespoons minced garlic
about 1/4 cup fresh basil, loosely packed
about 1 tsp fresh rosemary, minced (remove the woody stems)
2* cups vegetable broth (chicken or beef can be used if you’re not concerned with keeping it vegetarian-friendly)

about 2 cups cooked winter squash (Korean pumpkin, acorn squash, butternut squash, or unseasoned pumpkin), with seeds scooped out
1 large head cooked cauliflower
salt & black pepper to taste

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If you have an oven, roast your mushrooms, brushed lightly with olive oil, until they are golden brown.  To pan-roast mushrooms if you don’t have an oven available, like me, cook in an oiled pan in small batches–mushrooms should cover the bottom of the pan without layering or piling up, and be flipped once they are golden-brown on one side.  Remove from the pan as soon as both sides are cooked golden, re-oil the pan if necessary, and cook the next batch.  It takes a little longer, but it’s worth it not to have limp, lifeless mushrooms.  Set the roasted mushrooms aside.

Caramelize the onion in a drizzle of cooking oil or butter in a large pot.  Cook slowly over low heat, stirring periodically, until the onion is tender and sweet.  Add the ginger and garlic, stirring regularly.  Chop the basil, then add it with the rosemary.  Turn up the heat and add 2 cups of broth. If you want a thinner soup rather than a thick, hearty chowder, more broth can always be added later.

Puree or mash the cooked cauliflower, then mash the squash and add both to the pot. Stir well.  The roasted mushrooms are added last, to little more than reheat.  Taste-test, then add salt and black pepper if necessary.  If your broth contains a lot of sodium, you may not need to add any salt.

Serves 4.

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One Response to “Ginger Pumpkin Chowder”

  1. Quinn November 8, 2013 at 12:11 pm #

    That looks soooo good. I may have to make a trip to the grocery to pick up some missing supplies so I can make a batch for myself.

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