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National Pumpkin Day: Let’s Celebrate with Pumpkin, Poblano, and Manchego Soup

Pumpkin, Poblano, Manchego Soup

October 26th is National Pumpkin Day so let’s live it up with this spicy and satisfying soup!

Aside from being just plain delicious, the aroma of roasting squash and then chiles will make your kitchen smell like Fall with a capital F. You can certainly use canned pumpkin here, but there’s something to be said for diy-ing it—the slightly caramelized edges, the satisfaction of scooping out the velvety goodness from the golden pumpkin shells—it’s all part of this soup’s charm. That said, we all have jobs and responsibilities and using canned pumpkin is certainly a valid life choice. I am not judging. Promise.

But after all of the roasting and/or chopping, this soup comes together fairly quickly. Ideal garnishes include fried tortilla strips and chopped cilantro (or maybe even roasted pumpkin seeds or shredded cabbage) and if you want to substitute the pumpkin, an acorn or a butternut squash will do the trick nicely while still keeping the autumn theme intact.

Pumpkin, Poblano, Manchego Soup

Pumpkin, Poblano, Manchego Soup

Pumpkin, Poblano, Manchego Soup

Pumpkin, Poblano, Manchego Soup

Pumpkin, Poblano, Manchego Soup

Pumpkin, Poblano, Manchego Soup

Pumpkin, Poblano, and Manchego Soup
About 4 main course servings – 6 first course servings
1 small baking pumpkin (about the size of a softball), halved, seeds scooped out (or 1 15 oz can of pumpkin puree)
2 tbsp olive oil + more for drizzling
1/2 a medium white or red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 poblano (pasilla) peppers
2 tbsp AP flour
4 cups low-sodium vegetable (or chicken) broth
4 oz grated Manchego cheese
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Garnish ideas: chopped cilantro, tortilla strips, toasted pumpkin seeds, shredded purple cabbage

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Cover a baking sheet with foil and spray the surface with a little non-stick spray for some extra insurance. I like to also drizzle about a tablespoon of olive oil over the pumpkin halves, and then sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Rub the oil and seasoning in a little and then turn the pumpkins over cut-side down and roast for about 30 minutes or until a fork easily pierces the flesh. Let cool and then scoop out the flesh.

When you’re ready to make the soup, roast the peppers under the broiler until blackened on all sides. Place in a bowl covered with foil to steam for about 10 minutes. Then, peel all the blacked skin off, de-stem, and de-seed. Roughly chop.

Heat the 2 tablespoons of oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft and just starting to color, about 4-5 minutes. Add the chopped pepper and cook for another minute or two. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and let cook for another two minutes, stirring every so often.

Next, stir in the broth and the pumpkin puree and let it come up to a boil. Simmer for about five minutes. Now, you’ll either want to blend the soup in batches or remove from heat and use an immersion blender right in the pot. When you’ve got a nice and silky texture, return the soup to the pot if you used a blender and bring it back up to a very slow simmer. Turn off the heat to avoid curdling and slowly add in the grated Manchego, stirring while it melts.

Now, you might have done everything right and then cheese might still curdle a little. That’s the way it is sometimes, it’s happened to all of us. But a nice trick is to just pour the soup back into the blender and blend it again—voila! Smooth and creamy soup.

Taste and add salt and pepper to your liking. Garnish with your garnishes of choice. Happy National Pumpkin Day.

The Perfect Fall Dessert: French Pear Cake

French Pear Cake

This cake is unlike any other I’ve made. Well, except for the apple cake that it’s based on.

But, here, in this rebooted version, pears replace the apples and pecans replace the walnuts. The pears are peeled and thinly sliced and then mixed into a very light batter. During a second trip into the oven, the brown sugar and pecan topping firms up and turns golden brown, with an almost custardy cake beneath. It’s really pretty amazing.

There may seem to be a number of steps, but don’t fear, it all comes together very easily and the only special gadgets you need are a cake pan and a couple of spatulas. So give this fall dessert a try!

French Pear Cake

French Pear Cake

French Pear Cake

French Pear Cake

French Pear Cake
About 8 servings; Adapted from the Apple Lady Apple Cake in the Paris Cookbook by Patricia Wells

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/3 cup 1% or 2% milk
3 large pears, cored, peeled, and sliced into thin wedges — I used 2 Anjou and 1 Starkrimson

1/3 packed . . . → Read More: The Perfect Fall Dessert: French Pear Cake

Oven-Roasted Salmon with Green Romesco Sauce

Salmon with Green Romesco

Romesco, a Spanish pepper and nut-based sauce, is typically made with red bell peppers, producing a bright red and flavorful summery sauce. This version mixes it up a bit with mildly spiced poblano peppers and it’s easily one of my most favorite things to do with poblanos. It’s also suitably fall-ish, in my opinion.

Besides, no matter the season, what’s not to like about roasted peppers, vinegar, garlic, olive oil, and nuts? This romesco recipe is adapted from the cookbook, Grilling for Life by Bobby Flay. But really, I’ll let you in on a little secret–you don’t have to grill anything if you don’t want to. You can of course, but your oven will do all the work quite easily.

Speaking of the oven, the salmon gets a sear in a hot pan, then finishes cooking in that very appliance. When we had this meal, some warm and tender lentils were tossed with a little of the romesco sauce for a great side.

And if you do find yourself with any leftover sauce, it’s especially tasty with pasta with some crumbled goat cheese on top.

Salmon with Green Romesco

Salmon with Green Romesco

Salmon with <span style= . . . → Read More: Oven-Roasted Salmon with Green Romesco Sauce

Three Days in Montana: Roadtripping, Eating, and Drinking in Big Sky Country

Three Days in Montana

I think if I had to live somewhere other than Oregon, I could maybe live in Montana. Maybe. And while I would miss the ocean and the desert of my adopted home state, I would cherish the big blue skies and the quirky mountain towns of the Treasure State.

During a roadtrip to our eventual destination of Fargo, North Dakota we spent a few days in Big Sky Country—it’s an incredibly long state to drive through. Missoula in the western region is almost 350 miles from Billings in the east and once you hit Billings, you still have another 247 miles until you finally come to the North Dakota border.

Watch out for rattlesnakes

If you do find yourself roadtripping along interstates 90 and 94, there are a number of Montana communities that are definitely worth your time, here are a few of them.

Three Forks, Montana

This small town between Butte and Bozeman offers a few things—the historic Sacajawea Hotel, where you’ll be offered a glass of bubbly when you check in. There’s a summer farmers market in Three Forks and a quaint main street for strolling after a bison burger (complete with fire roasted . . . → Read More: Three Days in Montana: Roadtripping, Eating, and Drinking in Big Sky Country

Fried (or not) Avocado Tacos with Creamy Poblano Ranch

Avocado Tacos with Poblano-Buttermilk Dressing

If you haven’t already tried coating avocado with breadcrumbs and then frying, what exactly have you spent your life doing?

It’s okay. You can start now. Using this preparation, the outside gets delightfully crunchy and inside, the avocado is all ripe and creamy. But, if you’d rather not fry, you can achieve pretty much the same results by baking the coated avocado wedges in the oven.

This recipe produces wonderful summer tacos–little avocado wedges on a tasty refried beans pillow. Garnished with shredded cabbage and cheese, as well as salsa, you really can’t go wrong here. Plus, if you prepare the Poblano Ranch Dressing too, you’ll make it better!

I’ve made these tacos both ways; frying in peanut oil and baking in the oven. I found that the frying leads to a bit more of a uniform and golden crispiness, but rotating the avocado wedges in the oven did a fairly good job of even browning as well.

Since avocados can be bland, the key to maximum tastiness is to season the flour well and also to hit the finished avocado wedges with a sprinkle of kosher salt.

Avocado Tacos with Poblano-Buttermilk Dressing

. . . → Read More: Fried (or not) Avocado Tacos with Creamy Poblano Ranch