Warm, seasonal and tasty Pumpkin Soup
The prevalence of New World fruit and vegetables Old World cuisine in is a continual source of wonder to me.
Stop and think for a moment what Italian cooking would be like without tomatoes, Szechuan, Indian or Thai cooking without the various forms of chili peppers, and of course some much of the cooking of Northern Europe would feel empty without the ubiquitous potato. We should add to that list the pumpkin. A member of the squash family, it finds many places in the cuisine of North Africa. From the many slow cooked stews served with couscous to the wonderfully sweet and satisfying pumpkin soup. [For more pumpkin ideas check our our kugel, pie and challah]
As you try to add a bit of Jewish flair to your Thanksgiving celebration, let me urge you to chuck those poor, tired (and perhaps even huddled) matzo balls and whip a bit of this seasonal soup that was a staple of the Sephardic kitchens of Morocco, Libya and Tunisia. This soups appears in several forms in both Joan Nathan and Claudia Roden’s cookbooks and even makes an apprearance in Gourmet’s last collection of recipes published just before the magazine was shuttered.
In this recipe I added butternut squash to the mix, but feel free to experiment with what is in season and tastes good. Some recipes call for chunks of meat- if you go that route, use something tough and fatty that will braise in the soup. Beef chuck, or veal shoulder are both great choices. Stay away from turkey though- except for the legs, it really doesn’t braise well and you should really save that for the entrée.
What you can't see is almost a stick of butter
Babke, is Polish for grandmother. Which is odd because these tasty yeast cakes bear no resemblance to little old peasant women. Rather, it resembles brioche, the bread with the butter baked in and a dough so rich you cannot really make it by hand. Babka are part of the shared culinary legacy of both Jewish and Catholic communities in Eastern Europe. Among the Poles, a babka was prepared for Easter using fruit or rum. The Jewish version however leans towards chocolate. This preference is immortalized by Elaine in Seinfeld season 5 with the line “(the cinnamon babka is) a lesser babka” (this is after they see the last chocolate one get snapped up).
While all of this is terribly interesting, it does not explain why I had to ransack several Jewish and non-Jewish cookbooks to find a recipe for this dessert. One thing I can tell you is that in many cookbooks the first entry in the B’s is bacon (including the ’31 edition of the Settlement Cookbook, written mostly by Jewish housewives). After a fair bit of digging I was able to find a few recipes to work from. The one that provided the most help oddly was the new Gourmet Today published just on the eve of that fabled magazine’s demise.
Recipe after the jump
I am writing my first post since contracting the worst food-borne illness of my life. It ranks up there in the top 5 sickest I have ever been. I believe the culprit was a restaurant hamburger that I have been paying for, for over a week, but I think I may have turned the corner. As soon as I am able to reasonably think about food again I will update with my Yom Kippur brisket. In the meantime, this experience has renewed my concern with our country’s food system, particularly the handling of ground beef. Coincidentally, the New York Times published a frightening article about e. coli and ground beef , that is worth a read. Due to the fact that even horrific abdominal pain and a total inability to eat won’t stop me from consuming my beloved burgers in the future I took a hint from Gordon and ordered a meat grinder. I’ll stick to homemade from now on.
In the meantime I am mourning the loss a favorite kitchen companion, Gourmet Magazine.
As was widely reported yesterday Conde Nast has made the decision to cease publication of Gourmet Magazine after almost 70 years with its November issue. Every month my issue has taken its perch on my kitchen counter under the flower vase for browsing while I cook, and when the next one arrived I would clip the recipes that interested me for my recipe binder. Its a subscription and a ritual that won’t easily be replaced.