Autumn Quince, Kale and Grain Salad

 

It seems like only yesterday when we were all gaga for cheese plates – especially ones heaped with glistening mounds of Marcona almonds alongside thin, tender wedges of a Spanish cheese called Manchego.  If you can remember those days of not-too-long ago, you may also remember that Manchego and Marcona almost always came accompanied by a curious little wedge of fruit paste.  That paste, aka Membrillo, represents one of the few modern 15 minutes of fame enjoyed by a fruit almost forgotten and certainly neglected by modern American cookery – the quince.

Of course, you might have met the quince via Edward Lear.  He mentions the fruit in the “Owl and the Pussycat,” though he uses it just before the word runcible – a word he seems to have created – that fact, as far as I was concerned, threw suspicion on all the other unfamiliar words in the verse:

 

They dined on mince, and slices of quince,

Which they ate with a runcible spoon;

And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,

They danced by the light of the moon,

The moon,

The moon,

They danced by the light of the moon.

 

It’s really a little sad that more of us don’t know the quince.  It is a fruit of noble pedigree; almost certainly present in the Fertile Crescent (which we called the “cradle of civilization” when I was a lad), it was well known to the Ancient Greeks.  The fruit was sacred to the goddess Aphrodite and may have been the prize that Paris awarded her in the fateful beauty contest that started the Trojan War.  Nice legacy, eh?

Quince is available at most grocery stores during the fall.

But in colonial America and up until the 1920’s the quince tree was a regular resident of gardens and orchards of all degrees.   Unlike its cousins apple and pear, it’s not a fruit well suited to casual munching – though rumor has it that there are a few varieties that can be eaten straight from the tree, most quinces are chalky and tart – not a pleasant combination.

But after some quick Google research, the quince’s reputation isn’t all Greek to me –  it looms large in Persian cuisine and was mentioned by the Roman chef, Apicius.  When cooked, this hard and tart orb transforms into a tender, magical and luxurious bite laced with flavor associations like honey, pear, vanilla, and guava. Because of its extraordinary pectin content, it produces a rich, nearly unctuous syrup when cooked in liquid.

But in both Iranian and Roman cooking the quince is used as a part of savory dishes.  Apicius’ has a recipe for Quince Stew with Leeks that features a good plug of Garum – the Roman incarnation of fish sauce.

Mahasti’s not using fish sauce for this recipe, though, of course, you’re welcome to do what you want.  This dish calls for sautéing the quince with onion and kale before tossing it with shredded beets and whole grain.  The result is a nutty, toothsome and deliciously unique riff on Autumn flavors that’s right at home on the Thanksgiving table.  It has the added advantage of being something that no one else will bring but that everyone will love.
Yum

Tomato Head’s Quince, Kale and Whole Grain Salad

1/2 cup spelt or other whole grain such as Farro, Wheat, or Kamut

3 cups kale, cut the stems into ¼ inch pieces and the leaves into ½ inch strips, keeping the stems and leaves separate

2 medium quince, quartered, cored & sliced about 3 cups

2 small beets, shredded, about 2 cups

1/8 cup vegetable oil

½ cup onion, diced

3 Tbl Balsamic

2.5 tbl olive oil

1/2 tsp honey

1/2 tsp kosher salt

Soak grain berries overnight.  Bring 1.5 cups water to boil in a small pot.  When the water comes to boil, drain the grains and put them in boiling water and cook on a gentle boil for 10 minutes.  Drain the grains and set aside

Meanwhile, peel and shred the beets then toss them with 1 TbL Olive oil, 1 TBL Balsamic Vinegar and ½ tsp salt

In a large skillet sauté the onion in vegetable oil for 1 minute until just starting to get soft

Add the quince and kale stems and sauté 7-8 minutes min on medium low heat until the quince are soft.  Transfer the quince to a large bowl and set aside.

Return the same skillet to the stove.  On low heat add the balsamic vinegar and allow to vinegar reduce for about 1 minute.  Add the olive oil, honey and the grains.  Stir briefly, then add the kale leaves, turn the heat off, and sauté the kale, just until it starts to change color.

Pour the kale mixture in with the quince.  Then add the shredded beets, season with salt and toss.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 6-8 as a side dish.

Prep time 30 – 45 minutes

Cook time 15 minutes

Purchase Mahasti’s Recommended Utensils

Chef’s Knife

Stainless Mixing Bowl

Cutting Board

Glass Measuring Cup

Measuring Cups

Measuring Spoons

Box Grater

Vegetable Peeler

12″ Iron Skillet

12″ Stainless Skillet

Pumpkin Poblano Soup

¼ cup vegetable oil

½ a medium onion,

3-inch piece of ginger, chopped, about 3 TBL

1 small poblano pepper, roasted, seeded, peeled, diced

2 cups packed roasted Pumpkin

½ habanero roasted (optional if you like it really spicy)

1.5 tsp salt

1.5 cup water

½ cup heavy cream

Rinse poblano pepper and habanero, if using, and place them in a cast iron skillet or cookie sheet.  Place the peppers in a 400- degree oven and roast until the skin of the poblano has charred; remove the peppers from the oven.  Cover the roasted peppers and allow to rest for 15-20 minutes, to cool and for the skin to loosen.  With gloved hands slip the skin off the poblano pepper, remove the stem, and scrape out the seeds, then dice the pepper.

Heat oil over medium heat in a medium pot.  Add onion and sauté briefly until translucent.  Add remaining ingredients, except heavy cream.  Give the soup a stir, then bring the mixture to boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes.  Using an immersion blender*, puree soup until smooth, then pour in heavy cream and blend just until cream is incorporated.  Serve immediately, topped with roasted pumpkin seeds, or cool and refrigerate up to 3 days.  Reheat to serve.

Serve with bread.

Serves 4-8 people as a full meal or appetizer.

*if you don’t have an immersion blender, allow soup to cool completely, then place it in your blender in batches, until all blended.  Reheat when ready to serve.

Purchase The Needed Utensils

Chef’s Knife, 8-Inch Chef’s Victorinox Fibrox Pro

Measuring Cups, Pyrex 3-Piece Glass Measuring Cup Set

Meauring Spoons, 13 Piece Measuring Cups And Spoons Set

Pyrex Baking Dish (for roasting pumpkin)

Small Skillet or Cookie Sheet, Bellemain Heavy Duty Sheet Pan

Wooden Spoon, Comllen Premium Organic Kitchen Cooking Utensils

Med. Sauce Pan, Cuisinart Chef’s Classic Stainless 6-Quart Stockpot

Immersion Blender, KitchenAid 2-Speed Hand Blender

 

 

Pumpkin Pancakes

Let’s face it:  The Great Pumpkin has arrived and left a trail of spice dust from latte to Little Debbie.

The First Ingredients

And I’m mostly okay with that.  I like the way it tastes, and I love riding the wave of nostalgia that each sip or bite brings.  It’s a warm current of memory that I look forward to feeling.  My only complaint is the same one that I’ve aired in years past to all who would pretend to listen – too often the pumpkin spice comes without the pumpkin.  And that makes me feel sad and incomplete; it’s like eating a handful of sprinkles without cake.

It’s the nostalgia, you see; because without the flesh of the big orange squash, pumpkin spice leaves my sense memories incomplete.  Certainly, aroma can cast an alluring spell, but there’s a voluptuousness about pumpkin flesh that adds a decadently plump and toothsome pleasure to every morsel it imbues, and it’s that combination that takes me back to the warm and happy days of bonfires, caramel apples, ill-fitting masks, and the promise of holidays yet come.

In fact, I can’t even think about pumpkin without recalling my first experience of it in the wonderous form of pie.  Perhaps you, too,

The Real Pumpkin Arrives

remember: imagine the feel of pumpkin pie as you close your lips about it – it’s firm but yielding and expresses a soft, nearly corpulent luxury when it meets the tongue.

Gosh, I’m feeling nostalgic already.

But aside from theses daydreams and romantic recollections, there are also some mighty fine practical reasons to keep the pumpkin with the spice.

While adding pumpkin to a recipe doesn’t automatically impart the indulgent texture of a good pie, adding it to some recipes is a no brainer if you’re looking for rich texture and additional appeal without negative consequence.  Pumpkin, like applesauce, adds considerable moisture without adding additional fat.  It also contributes fiber and good dose of beta carotene, thiamin, and Vitamin A.

Stiff Batter

There’s almost no downside – especially if you’re making pancakes.    A good recipe will help you balance the density and moisture of the squash with sufficient leavening to create a plump, rich, but light bite that will soak up syrup and butter like a champ.  In this recipe it’s the combination of buttermilk with baking soda, as well as a dash of baking powder that makes these beauties happily fluffy and light.

And if you haven’t had pumpkin pancakes yet, well, you’re in for a treat.  Of course, there are all the appropriate spices and a little vanilla to make the flavor really nice, but Pumpkin seems particularly well suited for maple syrup.   It, too, is wonderfully redolent reminder of the season.  Put them together and you have a pumpkin spice moment that will satisfy the appetite of several senses all at once.

 

Flour Head Bakery’s Pumpkin Pancakes

1 ½ cup all-purpose flour

On the Stove

2 TB sugar

1 ½ tsp baking powder

¾ tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

¼ tsp ground clove

¼ tsp ground allspice

2 eggs

1 ½ cups Buttermilk

¾ cup pumpkin puree

3 TBL melted butter

1 tsp vanilla extract

Place flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices in a large bowl and whisk to combine.

In another bowl whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, pumpkin, melted butter, and vanilla.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix together with a spatula or wooden spoon, until the mixture is mostly mixed together into a thick batter. (a few lumps of dry ingredients are fine)

Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low, and lightly butter the skillet. Scoop the batter by the spoonful into the skillet, allowing room to flip the pancakes. Flip the pancakes when they have a few holes on the edges, and cook on the other side. Flip pancakes over a few times to make sure they cook through and are a deep golden brown on both sides.

Serve the pancakes with butter and maple syrup as you cook them, or keep warm in a 200 -degree oven.

 

Tomato Head’s Creamed Corn

Ingredients

Prepping the corn

3 tablespoons oil

1/2 cup onion, diced

1 tsp jalapeño pepper finely chopped (optional)

2 sprigs fresh rosemary

3 ears of corn, kernels removed (3 to 4 cups)

1.5 cup heavy cream

On the burner

¾ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add onion, jalapeño and rosemary and sauté until onion is translucent.  Add corn kernels and stir until corn and onions are mixed together well.  Add cream and bring mixture to a boil.  Stir and reduce heat to simmer.  Simmer, stirring occasionally for fifteen minutes.  Remove rosemary sprigs.  Serve immediately.  Can be refrigerated and reheated over low heat.

Serves 6-8

Ready to eat

Guacamole

Juliet famously pined, “What’s in a name? that which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet.”  Of course she was considering handsome young Romeo whose family name represented an ancient feud and was, one might say, the Hatfield to her McCoy.  But names matter, at least in some matters they do, and sometimes for odd reasons.

Consider the Avocado.  Its real, rather, its original name, ahuacate, is an Aztec word for a certain part of the male reproductive equipment that resembles the, ahem, sack-like shape of the avocado.  Get the picture?

20170506_075758

the ingredients are ready

The folks who wanted to market the oily fruit to Americans certainly got a picture – one can only imagine their faces when someone explained the name.  I suspect they had nightmares of rival campaigns trying to denigrate and rebrand their product as Aztec testicles. Fortunately for the avocado farmers, the renaming worked; and that’s also fortunate for us – just imagine a world without avocado.

Guacamole, like popcorn, chocolate, and chewing gum, dates back to the Aztec Empire, too.  In fact, the basic recipe hasn’t changed very much: avocado, tomato, onion, some hot pepper and cilantro.  And many folks will argue that the basic recipe is all you need.  But we know that history and available ingredients change recipes all the time – not to mention the human drive to mix things up.

20170506_080743

chips and dip anyone?

And this is exactly what Mahasti’s recipe does.  While it stays true to the basics, the addition of both mango and blueberry give the dip a surprising depth of flavor and pops of delicate sweetness.  Mango’s texture is a perfect substitute for tomatoes in this variation while the blueberries add an additional kind of fun bite to the eating of it.

The fruit has a tasty interaction with the jalapeno, too – the heat of the pepper actually accentuates the sweetness of the fruit while the blueberries in particular act as an internal balm to the jalapeno’s warmth.  There’s gotta be some food science to explain it, all, but, all I know is that this mix is uniquely delicious.

20170506_075243 (1)

the rumble in progress

This recipe also has the distinction of being the winning Guacamole in the soon to be legendary contest: Guac Rumble 2017 between Mahasti and WBIR’s Daniel Sechtin.  Certainly Daniel’s traditional version was delicious – especially with his deft use of serrano peppers and garlic; but Mahasti’s version swayed the judges by sheer force of flavor, and, of course, because it’s awfully attractive, too.

Tomato Head’s “Better than Daniel’s” Guacamole

½ Mango

2 TBL Jalapeno, chopped

3 TBL Cilantro, chopped

3 TBL Red Onion, chopped

3 Ripe Avocado

½ cup Fresh Blooberries

1 TBL Lime Juice

½ tsp Salt

Cut ½ mango off, remove the flesh with a spoon and chop into small pieces and place in a medium bowl.

Chop Jalapeno, cilantro and red onions, and add them to the bowl.  Cut avocado in half and remove pits.  Score the avocados into sections, and scoop out into the bowl.  Add blueberries, lime juice and salt.  Mix well smashing the avocados with the side of the spoon a little if too chunky.

Serve Guacamole with chips as an appetizer, or alongside tacos, or enchiladas.

Roasted Pumpkin and Poblano Pepper Soup

 

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Fall Goodness

It’s about that time, you know, when the Great Pumpkin descends and showers candy and other goodies upon cute little ghouls, goblins, superheroes, a handful of witches and miniaturized versions of the walking dead.  And there are larger folks, sometimes also dressed in strange attire roaming about, too, herding the little bands of the costumed from treat to treat.  A few of these Halloween shepherds are happy to snag whatever funky candy that the kids won’t eat, and yet, sad but true, some of us aged ghouls are a little too sweet already.

It’s not that I wouldn’t like to make a diet of Skittles and chocolate bars, but most colorfully wrapped candy leaves much to be desired for my appetite.  Of course, if you’ve got a fat cupcake or hefty wedge of peanut butter pie, that works, but, truth be told, the older I get, the more I crave the warm and savory when little spirits are indulging in a sugar rush.

So, when Mahasti was planning her visit to WBIR this morning, I was thrilled that we would be learning about a savory seasonal something that’s super suitable for sharing with big hobgoblins who might knock on your door looking for a less sugary Halloween treat: Pumpkin Soup.

For those of you who have reached your Pumpkin Spice threshold for the year, please don’t give up on us yet – this pumpkin spice will re-fire your engines and heat your endorphins into full steam.  Tomato Head’s Roasted Pumpkin and Poblano Pepper Soup features a heart and head warming blend of spices with a calming and comforting dollop of heavy cream to create a treat that will revive and refresh even the most dead-on-her-feet zombie.

Mahasti’s recipe includes both Poblano and habanero pepper along with a touch of ginger.  Poblanos, of course, are only mildly spicy but have a rich and warming, almost earthy flavor that’s a fantastic match to pumpkin’s also slightly earthy but buttery and mildly sweet flavor.  Habanero lends some heat but, better yet, it contributes a bright personality that, with the ginger, gives an extra tingle to each mouthful of this potage.

It’s a creamy comfort that gets a fun crunch from the addition of toasted pumpkin seeds, which, IMHO, is one of the great under-sung heroes in the pantheon of snacks.

What’s particularly nice about most creamy pumpkin soup is that it’s great warm, at room temperature and cool, too – so despite the warm Halloween that we’re expecting, this soup can easily match your mood and the forecast, too.  And because it’s pureed to a silky smooth texture, it’s easy to serve a dollop in a cup for a quick snack or an on the go goody for shepherds of the fast moving and ambitious trick or treaters – after all, Halloween comes but once a year and when the Great Pumpkin finally arrives – best grab it while the getting’s good.

You can see how easy this recipe is to put together by checking out Mahasti’s appearance on WBIR’s Weekend Today at this link:  http://www.wbir.com/life/food/soups/tomato-head-pumpkin-and-poblano-soup/344125793

 

Tomato Head’s Roasted Pumpkin and Poblano Pepper Soup

 

¼ cup oil

1 cup onion, diced

1 inch piece of ginger, peeled, chopped

¼ Habanero pepper

1 medium size Poblano pepper, roasted, seeded and peeled

2 cups Roasted Pumpkin

1/3 cup toasted pumpkin seeds

1 tsp salt

2.5 cups water

1 cup heavy cream

In a medium pot, over medium heat, sauté the onion in oil until translucent. Add ginger, habanero, peeled poblano, roasted pumpkin, pumpkin seeds, salt, and water. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and cook for 10- 15 minutes until ginger is soft. Puree the soup with an immersion blender **. Add the heavy cream and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Serve topped with toasted pumpkin seeds.

4-6 people

** Do not blend hot soup in a traditional blender; allow soup to cool and then puree the mixture. Return the mixture to the pot and bring to a boil, then add heavy cream and simmer for 5 – 10 minutes longer.

 

Pumpkin Spice Champurrado

Despite my inclination to poke a little fun at the growing pumpkin spice craze, it’s actually one of the coolest food and beverage trends to come along in a great while.  In fact, anything we do to give pumpkin a lift is really a kind of All-American celebration, because the great orange squash is one of those great All-American foodstuffs that predates Amerigo Vespucci (America’s namesake) by about 5000 years.

When I was knee-high to a gourd, we read about Native agriculture in the form of the 3-Sisters, corns, beans, and squash, which were cultivated together because of their symbiotic relationship: corn gives the beans a natural pole to grow on; squash has wide foliage that help product corn’s shallow root system; and beans add nitrogen to the soil which helps everybody grow.

Squash, and pumpkin in particular, have deep roots in this continent – in fact, it may have surfaced right here, close to home, in the land that provides us with a lot of culinary inspiration: Mexico.

Archeologists opine that the Oaxaca Highlands (which, roughly speaking, is on the Pacific side of Mexico opposite Veracruz) were among the first places where pumpkin was cultivated – some 7500 years ago.  The squash was grown for food, of course, but also for medicine, for storage (you can make nifty bowls from pumpkin hulls!), perhaps even for use of its fibrous strands for making mats.  Of course we still prefer eating pumpkin to any other use – though Jack-O-Lanterns are awfully nifty, too.

Recently, as you all know, folk have also taken a lot of interest in drinking pumpkin – or at least the flavor of pumpkin or just the spices that often go with it (we vociferated about that in a previous blog post).  Despite the quibbles we’ve already expressed about the craze, we remain committed to the idea of giving pumpkin its due.  And since we owe this wonderful cucurbit to our friends to the south, this week Mahasti showed us all how to celebrate both pumpkin itself and its ancient home all at the same time.

Mexico, of course, is the font of innumerable good things to eat and drink, but when autumn hits the air, we’re pretty sure that champurrado is the best thing from our neighbor since corn tortillas.

Champurrado is a thick, rich drink, originally made with chocolate – it’s like hot chocolate, but thicker, richer and much more fortifying.  It’s almost breakfast itself because it starts with masa harina – dried corn meal – that’s cooked with a little water and combined with chocolate.

Mahasti’s current version, though, doesn’t use chocolate – instead, she uses fresh roasted pumpkin (and plenty of pumpkin spice, too!) blended with milk.

The flavor and texture of this drink are luxurious, and, fair warning, may make your favorite latte seem a little wimpy in comparison.  And it’s very easy to make at home – plus, if you’ve never roasted a pumpkin in your own kitchen, this is the perfect chance to get some practice in for pie making season and add a great fall drink to your repertoire, too.  You may even throw in a little food history and heritage to your smaller helpers.

We have the recipe here below, but you can watch it happen the way Mahasti does it (with a couple fun tips, too) on WBIR by following this link:

http://www.wbir.com/life/food/recipes/pumpkin-spice-champurrado/336348500

Tomato Head’s Pumpkin Spice Champurrado

1 Tbl Masa Harina

1.25 cup cold water

pinch of salt

1 cup milk

½ cup fresh pumpkin, cooked and peeled

1.5 Tbl sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp Clove

1/8 tsp nutmeg

3/4 tsp ginger

Cut pumpkin in half, remove seeds and place cut side down in a baking dish with 1 inch of water. Bake oven in a 400 degree oven for approximately 20 minutes or until you can insert a fork into the pumpkin easily. Remove from oven, flip the pumpkins over. When the pumpkins are cool, scoop out the flesh and discard the skin. Store extra pumpkin your refrigerator for another use.

In a medium sauce pan whisk together the Masa Harina with cold water and pinch of salt. Heat the mixture over medium heat stirring occasionally for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in a blender, blend the fresh pumpkin with the milk. Add the milk mixture and the remaining ingredients to the pot, whisking constantly until milk heats up and mixture thickens and foams a little.

Serve Hot.

Banana Bread

As a child, I never liked the mushy texture of bananas unless, of course, my grandmother transformed them into a magical loaf of sweet bread that was as good to eat hot from the oven as it was toasted and bathed in butter the next day. Banana bread has all the qualities I require in a breakfast repast, a mid-morning snack, a treat for lunch and… honestly, banana bread knows no particular mealtime allegiance; it’s good all the live-long day.

Like muffins, biscuits, pancakes and scones, banana bread is a quick bread – one that gets a swift rise from a leavening agent like baking powder or baking soda that, unlike yeast, doesn’t require time to rise. In terms of baking, this means instant gratification. That the bread is quick is only an incidental pleasure where this treat is concerned. It’s also a great tool for the smart manager since it shows its finest qualities when made with fruit that’s over-ripe. So when little Ella, Stanly, Pat and Bing are mortified by the sudden appearance of big, black spots on the once cheerfully yellow fruit, the time for our favorite kind of recycling effort has come.

When the countenance of the banana changes, there’s something sweet going on beneath that darkening peel; all the fruit’s starch is mutating from complex carbohydrates into simple sugars. And not only is the fruit getting sweeter, it’s getting softer –thus, all the nasty mushiness, too gross to eat as it is, will go a long way to making a moist loaf of irresistibly and deliciously sweet character. Talk about sweet water from a foul well – this is it on a plate.

Banana bread makes a fine kitchen staple – it’s a reasonably healthy snack (even with a little butter), but it also makes a neat base for dessert – think a scoop of ice cream with a drizzle of honey or some warm pineapple preserves or cherry jam and a dollop of whipped cream. That assumes, of course, that you and yours don’t succumb to the very powerful temptation to eat it all just after it emerges warm and fragrant from the oven.

There are lots of variations on this particular quick bread, but if you tune in to WBIR’s Weekend Today, Mahasti will show you how to make her favorite version. Here’s the recipe in case you wanna have everything ready to bake along:

FLOUR HEAD BAKERY’S BANANA BREAD

1 ½ cups All Purpose Flour
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 tsp Cinnamon
1/8 tsp Clove
1/2 tsp Salt
1 cup plus 2 Tbl Sugar
2 eggs
½ cup Canola Oil
1 ½ cup Mashed Banana (about 3 bananas)
2 TBl Sour Cream
1 tsp Vanilla
1 cup Walnut pieces

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan.

In a medium bowl, sift Flour, Baking Soda, Cinnamon and Salt – add the nuts, stir with a wooden spoon and set aside.

In another medium bowl whisk the eggs with the sugar, and canola oil. Add the mashed bananas, sour cream and vanilla and whisk well. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients all at once and stir with a wooden spoon just until thoroughly combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, place the pan in the preheated oven and bake for 1 to 1 hour and 10 minutes (a toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean). Check the banana bread at 40 minutes, if it is getting too dark, tent it with some foil and continue baking.

Cool the banana bread for 30 minutes in the pan on a wire rack, and then remove it from the pan and allow to cool to room temperature.

Serve at room temperature or toasted with soft butter.

Tomato Head’s Jamaican Pepper Pot

In anticipation of the inevitable dip in temperature, Mahasti is sharing a delicious way to warm up that comes with a bit of heartwarming history: Jamaican Pepper Pot Soup.

The name Pepper Pot probably entered the minds of most Americans more through Pop Art rather than a steaming bowl of the soup itself. Andy Warhol’s iconic depiction of the soup can called Small Torn Campbell Soup Can (Pepper Pot) sold for over $11 million dollars in 2006.

Like many dishes, this soup belongs to multiple regions each with its own variation on the recipe. Guyanese Pepper Pot, a traditional Christmas food, is distinguished by the addition of Cassareep – a thick sauce made from ground cassava root and spices. Around the West Indies the thickness, spiciness and the primary protein of the dish vary considerably. Jamacian Pepper Pot is traditionally made with Calloo, a unique Caribbean vegetable that tastes like a hybrid of spinach and broccoli, though spinach is a frequent substitute.

And closer to home Philadelphia, the Birthplace of Freedom, is also the birthplace of an American variety of Pepperpot.

According to legend, George Washington, while encamped at Valley Forge under the siege of a harsh winter, painful deprivation, and frequent desertions, was finally able to fortify his troops with a spicy version of this stew that was unique for its use of tripe – the muscle wall that lines a cow’s stomach. In the story the dish was an inspired and soldier-saving brain wave from the Baker General of the Continental Army, Christopher Ludwick. Of course, it’s far more likely that the dish came to Valley Forge by the same sad route that brought both rum and slaves to the colonies.

Pepper Pot is still available in some Philadelphia restaurants (and is also the name of the city’s Public Relation Awards), including the City Tavern Restaurant, though tripe has been replaced by beef shoulder.

Mahasti’s version, eschewing both tripe and beef shoulder, is vegetarian but hearty with lots of potato, sweet potato and spinach. It’s also spicy – in both senses of the word. The recipe includes a ½ teaspoon of allspice, which contributes a warming flavor and aroma that’s reminiscent of cinnamon, clove and nutmeg. Interestingly allspice has a number of aliases, including Jamaica Pepper.

The recipe also calls for habanero pepper, which is no shy violet, living, as it does, near the top quarter of the Scoville heat index. Depending on your taste, you can add or subtract as much of the pepper as you want – just make sure that you remove the seeds and take care to handle the pepper with caution. More than a few cooks have made the mistake of touching their eyes after handling the habanero without gloves or a thorough hand washing. The pain is unmistakable and dangerous; avoid it.

But don’t avoid the soup! It’s nourishing, filling and delicious. If you tune in to WBIR’s Weekend Today on Saturday (12/5) and Mahasti will help you put it all together.

Tomato Head’s Jamaican Pepper Pot Soup

2 Tbs Vegetable Oil

1 small onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

Leaves from 3 Thyme sprigs

4 cups water

8 oz fresh spinach

1 small Yukon gold potato, rinsed, and diced

½ – 1 habanero pepper, seeds removed, chopped

1.5 tsp salt

½ tsp allspice

1 tsp Balsamic Vinegar

1 medium sweet potato, rinsed and shredded

Heat oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté until onion is translucent. Add thyme leaves, water, spinach, potato, and habanero – bring mixture to a boil, and then reduce heat to simmer until potatoes are soft. Add Salt, Allspice, and Vinegar.  Puree the soup with an immersion blender until smooth – or allow soup to cool and puree in a traditional blender (do not blend hot soup in a traditional blender – it will splatter all over you) Add the shredded sweet potatoes to the pot and simmer until sweet potatoes are soft.

Serves 6-8

© 2016 The Tomato Head Site by: Robin Easter Design