Getting Creative With Winter Veggies

During the winter (thanks to our No Buying Veggies Challenge), the variety of available food is way down. We are out of onions and sweet potatoes, and our greens are buried under several feet of snow. We still have a bunch of fresh pumpkins and butternut, potatoes, and leeks, plus frozen green beans, okra, and sundried tomatoes. That's just about it, except for various herbs and some dried peppers to spice things up. 

So ... what to do? You can only eat roasted vegetables so many times before you get a little tired of them, not matter how tasty they are. Luckily for us. Kirk came up with some creative dishes this week to breathe some new life into our winter staples.

Spicy Pumpkin Bisque

1 small pumpkin (the baking kind) 
1 head of garlic, broken into cloves 
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 cup heavy cream
2 Tbs. Peanut butter
1 small leek
Salt, pepper, cayenne, and ground chipotle to taste

1. Cut the pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds, and set seeds aside. Place garlic cloves (unpeeled) in a baking dish and drizzle with olive oil. Place pumpkin halves face down over garlic and roast in 400 degree oven for 45-60 minutes, or until skin bubbles up. (For a more detailed explanation of how to roast pumpkin, see this post.) 

2. Rinse the pumpkin seeds and spread onto a baking sheet. Sprinkle generously with salt and cayenne pepper and roast in a 350 degree oven until just lightly toasted. This only takes about 10-15 minutes, and you need to keep an eye on them so they don't burn, which can happen quickly (especially if you get distracted).

3. When the pumpkin and garlic are cool, peel the skins and discard.

4. Place pumpkin and garlic into a soup pot with heavy cream and peanut butter. Puree with an immersion blender until very smooth. Thin with a bit of water or chicken stock if necessary.

5. Heat soup over low to medium heat until hot, stirring as it heats. The cream will scald if you try to heat it too quickly, so be patient. Relieve your boredom by taking time to season with salt, pepper, and chipotle pepper. You can make it as spicy as you like — I happen to like a lot of the smoky chipotle flavor in this, but my children disagree. You can make it mild, too!

6. Serve soup in cups or bowls and garnish with thinly sliced leeks and toasted pumpkin seeds. 

That was our appetizer the other night, and it was a hit with everyone. Pumpkin doesn't always have to be sweet, and this soup was a great way to switch up our expectations of what pumpkin tastes like.

Next up was our main course or crab cakes with sriracha tartar sauce and oven-fried okra:

Sriracha Tartar Sauce

This couldn't be easier! Make a regular tartar sauce with 1/2 cup of mayonnaise and 1/4 cup dill pickle relish, and a healthy dash of black pepper. (You could use sweet relish, but I think you'll be disappointed. Be a grown up and go with the dill for a more complex flavor.) 

Once you've mixed up a regular tartar sauce to your satisfaction, add a teaspoon (or more, if you love the heat) of sriracha to the mix and stir it up. Our homemade sriracha is really, really spicy, so a little dab is fine. Just do it to taste and make it as hot as you want. This is really excellent on crab cakes!

Oven-Fried Okra

This is also pretty simple to make. We used whole, frozen okra, but I supposed fresh would work just as well if you have it available. The only other ingredients are pantry staples: salt, pepper, cayenne, and cornmeal.

1. Thaw the pods, remove the tops, and squeeze out excess moisture by hand.

2. Season the pods with salt, pepper, and a bit of cayenne.

3. Dredge the pods in cornmeal and place in a single layer onto an oiled cookie sheet. 

4. Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes, then flip over and bake for another 10 minutes or until golden brown.

That's it! All the spice helped warm up our winter foods and kept things interesting. That's no small task in this incredibly cold, snowy, and loooong winter we're having this year. 


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