Friday, November 18, 2011

Secret Weapon #2 Pumpkin Soup


    As promised, a Pumpkin Soup post in time for Thanksgiving!!!

    This Soup. This Soup. Ooooooooooh MAMA, this SOUP. It's about bloody time I posted about it :) It is, in fact, one of my most favorite dishes to make, and one of the most requested dishes in my repertoire :) This Pumpkin Soup, like the Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake I posted about awhile back, has the distinction of being one of my culinary SECRET WEAPONS. This soup is money in the bank :) I've served it to the pickiest of picky eaters and they practically lick the bowl clean :)

   However, because I am the product of the cooks I grew up with, I cannot and will not take all the credit. I first had this soup a very long time ago when I was just a wee LynnieBee. We had gone to Albany for Thanksgiving at my Uncle Bob and Aunt Emily's house. I was probably 9 or 10. My Aunt Emily served this Pumpkin Soup as the first course of the Thanksgiving Dinner, and everyone pretty much lost their minds. Smooth, Rich, Golden, Creamy, it's like drinking distilled Autmn :) My Mom got the recipe from my Aunt that day, and it has been part of our Thanksgiving (and occasionally Christmas) Feast ever since.

   A few years ago, I got tired of waiting for the Holidays to come around, and started making this soup for other occasions: birthdays, dinner get-togethers, or really any time in the dark months of the year when I had the ingredients on hand and was in the mood for it or someone asked for it :) To me, this is an Autumn/Winter/Holiday soup through and through, but if the urge strikes you in June, grab some canned pumpkin and rock it out, no judging ;)

  This one won't let you down. Ever. I promise :)

Pumpkin Soup
(originally from Aunt Emily, inherited by Carolyn, and put forth by me, Lynn:)
 - 7 tbsp butter (Yes, there is approximately one stick of butter in this soup. Yes, I am okay with that. Keep in mind, that is the amount of butter in the entire batch.When you look at it on a per serving basis, it's no more butter than you might spread on your toast in the morning. If it really bugs you, you can switch out about half of the butter for EVOO, but there will be a drastic difference in flavor)
 - 6 scallions/green onions, coarsely chopped
-  1 onion, sliced (you'll be straining out the solids, so don't fuss over chopping it finely, a quick rough chop is all you need)
 - 3 cups pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling!) or 2 1/2 lbs pumpkin
 - 6 cups chicken stock (broth is fine too)
 - 1/2 tsp. salt
 - 3 tbsp. flour
 - 1 cup light cream or half&half
 - thickly sliced crusty bread or croutons for topping 

- Melt four (4) tablespoons butter in a large saucepan. Saute scallions and onion until soft and golden.
- Add pumpkin, chicken stock (or broth) and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Let simmer for about 10 minutes or until pumpkin is soft.
- Strain solids from soup with a slotted spoon or or run soup (carefully!) through a mesh strainer and return to pot.
Mix flour with two (2) tablespoons butter (I usually mash them together with a fork) and gradually whisk into soup.

- Bring soup back to a boil, whisking occasionally, until soup thickens.

- Correct the seasoning and then add the light cream or half&half and the remaining tablespoon of butter. (oh, and if you feel bad leaving that one lone tablespoon of butter in the wrapper, toss it in there, no one will complain ;)

- Serve garnished with cubed fresh crusty bread or croutons (my personal favorite kind of bread for this is Rosemary Olive Oil, but any kind of good fresh crusty bread is fine)
 NOTES: 1.These photos were taken at our October Book Club Meeting (hence the gorgeous tablescape and other deliciousness present on the table.Thank you Merlyn for the loan of the lovely Pumpkin Tureen!!!) A member was supposed to be bringing homemade bread, but she had a last minute emergency and was unable to make it, so the soup appears here unadorned. Believe me, as wonderful as the croutons are, the soup does not need them, it's equally delicious plain :)

                 2. If you want to give the soup a bit of a kick, add a few dashes of hot sauce or a little curry powder.

                 3. As I said above, if the amount of butter in this recipe is off-putting, you can swap out the first four (4) tbsp of butter for an equivalent amount of extra virgin olive oil, and omit the cream from the end of the recipe, but please know the taste will be affected. It won't taste bad, just different.

                 4. This soup can be made ahead of time. If you make it the night before, just stop before you add the cream and last tbsp. of butter. When ready for service, reheat and stir in cream and the last tbsp of butter.

                5. This recipe is for a single batch, when serving it for holiday gathering, we double this recipe.

Taste this and fall madly in love, it's that simple :)
Happy Thanksgiving, Foodie Friends, I Love Ya :)

Lynn :)

Thursday, November 17, 2011



     It tickles me pink that I have been writing this blog long enough (2 and 1/2 years, WOW), and I have earned enough readers that I actually have *greatest hits* among my blog posts! In this week of thankfulness, for your reading pleasure, I offer you a list of my Top Ten Most Popular Posts!!! I can't tell you how happy I am that people actually read this little blog. Like, people that I've never met in person read it, and more than just a few! Sometimes I feel like a total amateur, that nobody really cares about what I have to say, and I'm just sort of writing to no one. Apparently, that is not the case :) Thank You, Thank You, Thank you All for reading this little thing, it means the world to me! Here are the Top Ten Recipes (so far) from The Kitchen is My Canvas, based on number of pageviews. I went through and edited and/or updated a few of them slightly, and I added a few more photos. If you happened to miss any of these the first time around, take a look :) According to you all, they're my best ones so far :)

#10. Warm Nectarine Compote

What a wonderful day this was :) Gorgoeus Weather, Good Friends, and an impromptu recipe for a luscious fruit dessert sauce :)

#9. Hummus Double-Take

For our Greek-themed Pot Luck Dinner last January :) One of the best dinner parties we've ever had and one of the few bright spots in a winter otherwise plagued by constant illness....

#8 Irish Coffee

I went into this one skeptical, not of Irish Coffee in and of itself, but of whether or not I would like it, seeing as how coffee and whiskey aren't really my favorite things....Well, shut my mouth, 'cause I LOVED it! Irish Coffee wrote the BOOK on *smooth with a kick*, and with winter coming on, it's good to have a cozy nightcap in your repertoire :)

#7. Sea Salt Brownies

Chocolate and Sea Salt, welcome to my Obsession :)

#6. Broken Oven Strawberry Pie

From Zero to Strawberry Deliciousness is basically no time flat, and no oven required :)

#5. Yogurt Cheese

My very first foray into cheesemaking, and probably one of the most useful (and ecomonical and healthful) kitchen skills I've ever learned :)

#4.Victory Pancakes

The best batch of pancakes I've made so far, and I finally figured out a sanity saving pancake flipping strategy!

#3. Syracuse Greek Fest at Saint Sophia's

One of the best Cultural Festivals in the 'Cuse :)

#2. Dragon Salad

This one tops my *Good and Good For You* List,and has SUMMER written all over it :)


#1. CrockPot Lasagna :)

All you could ever ask for in a comfort food, and it basically cooks itself :) HELL YEAH :)

Thanks for hanging in with me all this time, can't wait to keep on cooking with you guys! Stay Hungry!


Monday, November 7, 2011

Spotlight On: Columbus, Ohio

Nothing beats a pleasant surprise :)

     The first weekend in November my family and I went to visit my brother, Dan, in Columbus, Ohio, where he is a graduate student studying Urban Planning at Ohio State University.

    People, I do not know what I was expecting, but it most certainly wasn't a gorgeous, clean city with a vibrant arts community, a huge and amazing university with a kickass sports team, beautiful rivers, peaceful suburbs, interesting and diverse neighborhoods, just about every other cool thing you can think of. We had a wonderful weekend exploring, attending the Ohio vs. Indiana football game (Buckeyes won 34-20!!!!! O-HI-O!!!!), relaxing in the hotel, and EATING. No foolin', the food scene in Columbus is A.MAZE.ING. I can't say enough good things about it :)

    The foodie adventure started on Friday night when we hit up a Middle Eastern Restaurant called Lavash Cafe .
This my friends, was first rate short order Middle Eastern cooking. Yes, you read that correctly. You wouldn't think that a counter service- based restaurant could be this good, but it WAS. Their menu was extensive and everything was fresh. excellently seasoned and DELICIOUS. An added bonus was that the owner was a constant, pleasant presence in the dining room, stopping by each table several times to answer menu questions, deliver food to customers that weren't able to walk up to the counter, make jokes, check on the diner's experience, and just generally be entertaining and friendly. This gentleman clearly took pride in his food and his business, and his good mood was certainly infectious. We started with hummus and Kibbeh, which, for those unfamiliar, is ground meat with onions and pine nuts in a deep fried wheat shell served with yogurt sauce *YUM*, for entrees, there were gyro platters, Shawarma, and Mojadara (rice and lentils over a tomato, cucumer and herb salad), all served with saffron/almond rice, salad and pita bread. This place was a total win :) Props to the Lavash Cafe crew for running such a tight ship :)

  But the evening didn't end there :) After some shopping and a little downtime at my brother's apartment, we headed over to what might have been one of my favorite spots, the Grandview Ave. neighborhood for some ARTISANAL ICE CREAM  *swooooooooon!!!* We had the pleasure of going to Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams, (sorry, I couldn't the photo of this one to load) which, if you are unfamiliar, is a homegrown business that started in Jeni's home kitchen, and now has 11 locations across the state of Ohio. Jeni's only uses local milk from grass fed cows, and boy oh boy oh boy can you taste the difference that that makes :) In Jeni's own words, they only create ice cream flavors that, " we fall madly in love with, that we want to bathe in, and that make us see million year-old stars". I am so glad that there are other people in the world that feel the same way about ice cream that I do :) The Jeni's team is endlessly creative when it comes to ice cream flavors. Among the flavors we sampled that night were Goat Cheese with Figs and Cognac, Salty Caramel, Smoked Tea and Plum Pudding, Vanilla Cedarwood, and one called "The Milkiest Chocolate in the World" which most certainly lived up to it's name. I do not have the words to tell you how absolutely delicious this ice cream was, but I can tell you that Jeni's will DELIVER ICE CREAM VIA UPS ANYWHERE IN THE COUNTRY!!! I know this because my brother sent my mother some Jeni's ice cream for Mother's Day this year :) I wholeheartedly recommend this ice cream :) Jeni has also recently published a cookbook, and one day soon it will be MINE!!!

The next standout on our culinary tour was post-football game dinner on Saturday night at City BBQ

    Another Ohio standout, and one of the only BBQ joints I've ever found that might actually be in the same category of Syracuse's beloved Dinosaur BBQ. Again, this is counter service in it's highest form. You know the food's gonna be dang good if there's a (fast moving) line out the door. After ordering at the counter, and waiting a surprisingly short amount of time, we plunked down at a bare wooden table which was dressed only with a napkin container and a motley assortment of bbq sauces, we dug into our feast. Friends, this was my first encounter with a Carolina Pulled Pork Sandwich, and HIGH HOLY HELL am I a woman converted :) Allow me to explain. By and large, I strongly dislike coleslaw. I find it too squishy and too sweet to really be palatable in most cases. However, this coleslaw was cool and creamy and tangy, not the least bit sweet or mushy, and the interplay of the tangy, cool coleslaw against the rich, unctuous pulled pork was HEAVENLY :) I now have a standard order whenever I go out for BBQ :) Several of my table mates also got the Carolina Pork Sandwich, but the Brisket and the Pulled-Pork sans coleslaw were also excellent. I must also give props to the fresh-cut French Fries, which were the exact right kind of crispy, the mac and cheese, the spot-on cornbread, and THE DEEP FRIED PICKLES ( deep friend pickles were one of those foods that weirded me out at first, but one bite and I'll never look back, YUM-O!!!) A fun quirk about City BBQ? The walls are decorated with antique/quirky/interesting bbq and hot sauce bottles, and if you bring one in to add to their collection, you get free food, can't hate that :) I also want to give a nod to the fact that both their lemonade and iced tea were scratch made and freshly brewed with real lemons and real tea leaves and natural sugar and you could absolutely taste the difference :) We wanted to try the Peach Cobbler, but we were stuffed absolutely silly and dessert was not an option, so we'll save that one for the next trip :)

Before heading back to Syracuse on Sunday, we had brunch at another local institution in the Grandview neighborhood, Paul's Fifth Avenue  .

      This was another establishment that was packed to the gills (although being the day after an at-home game victory for Ohio State, I really shouldn't have been surprised). At first, I was a little put off, because there was absolutely NO ROOM for diners waiting for a table, so your choices were to hover over the already seated diners, or smush two or three deep against the wall. However, this is a design flaw and in no way the fault of the staff. They sat us as soon as they could and got to us as soon as they could. Having been in food service off and on for most of my adult life so far, I'm more than willing to cut them a little slack. Our server was in a refreshingly good mood, which is always welcome after a harried morning :) Paul's has been around for over 40 years, and if the rest of their meals are as good as their breakfasts are, I can understand why :) No one got anything especially elaborate, eggs over easy/sunny side up/scrambled, toast, a Greek Omelet, a Wisconsin Omelet, sausage patties and home fries,but everything was cooked to perfection, served hot, excellent portion sizes, and DELISH :) If I had one complaint about Paul's it would be that they really should expand their building, they absolutely have the client base to justify an expansion, but service and food-wise, everything was excellent :)

I loved Columbus, capital *L* Loved :) I had a wonderful time with my family and I was genuinely sorry to leave. I'm definitely going back as soon as possible :)