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When Life Gives You Pumpkins, Make Pumpkin Bisque!

29 Oct

It’s Halloween time again and the stores in Madrid are halfheartedly decorated with a pumpkin or two. It’s not quite as obvious as in the US, but the eager Spaniards are quickly catching on—advertisements for haunted theme parks crowd the metro and Halloween costumes are sold at every neighborhood Chino. I’m not a big Halloween lover. When I was a kid I liked it—costumes, candy, school parties… what’s not to like? I dressed up like everyone else I knew and went trick-or-treating in the bitter cold. Later, we spent months eating our pillowcase full of Halloween candy (my kids are donating that ish…!). In college I went to a costume party or two, but I never got really excited about dressing up and thought think that spending a lot of money on a costume is kind of a waste of money. It just isn’t my thing.

So here in Spain Halloween doesn’t bring that homesick feeling I get with Thanksgiving and Christmas. But, I somehow always end up celebrating it! I always meet someone who loves Halloween—its creepy music, scary movies, ridiculous costumes, and abundance of candy. In fact, I’ve carved more pumpkins in Spain than in the US! And Spaniards (although they misinterpret the holiday a bit) seem to love Halloween too.

One Spaniard's Interpretation of Jack-O-Lantern

This year was no exception. I may have just arrived in Madrid and not really know anyone, but due to today’s amazing technologies (facebook, twitter, gmail, wordpress) I was somehow invited to a fantastic pumpkin carving/seed roasting Halloween party with a group of super cool American expat ladies!

There were American sweets! Pumpkin spice cupcakes, rice crispy treats, a chocolate almond tart, M&Ms…

The house was wonderfully decorated (It felt like home!) and there was Halloween music playing in the background.

Equipped with a sharp knife and a book of potential pumpkin carving designs, 10 American women went at it (and I’d say we were successful!)

Scary Cat

Friendly Cat

While we carved we shared our experiences in Spain, our stories, our relationships. It was great to connect with others in similar situations.

I left the party with a carved pumpkin, some roasted pumpkin seeds, and a bag of pumpkin (I couldn’t let it go to waste!)

There was only one thing to do… make some mashed pumpkin and some pumpkin bisque! Mashed pumpkin (Puree de Calabaza) is a delicious side dish and it reminds me of home. It’s also the base for my version of Pumpkin Bisque (a lighter version that doesn’t use any cream).

Here is the step-by-step recipe. It’s easy—try it and let me know what you think!

I took the bag of fresh pumpkin left over from carving. The pieces were all shapes and sizes– so I tried to cut them more evenly!

After cutting, I rinsed them under cold water.

Then, into a pot of cold, salted water and boil until a knife pierces through easily.

When fully cooked, strain and return to the pot.

Add 2 tablespoons of butter, 1/4 cup milk, salt, pepper, cinnamon, and paprika. Adjust the butter and milk depending on preference.

And, there you have it! Mash it up and you have mashed pumpkin.

If you want to turn this into a “lighter” bisque (if there is such a thing) just add the puree to the blender and add a bit more low-fat milk while blending. When it is at your desired consistency reheat and enjoy!

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Antonia’s Salmorejo Recipe

22 Sep

The first time I wrote about one of my favorite Spanish foods was here. I had just made some for the first time on my own and was very proud that it had turned out almost exactly like my mother-in-law’s. Antonia makes the best Salmorejo I’ve ever had. I’ve tried others in Cordoba, Sevilla, and Cadiz but nothing has ever been quite as delicious. Salmorejo is one of those things that you eat and you feel 100% satisfied and super healthy at the same time. It’s a great food for keeping trim and is loaded with antioxidants.

I’ve been trying to get my family hooked for a long time without much luck. I think it’s something you have to get used to. I didn’t like it the first time I tried it either and now I’ve eaten it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner con ganas! But despite their initial skepticism I have managed a few converts. My Mom appreciates it and my best friend Holly loves it too.

After such a long time singing its’ praises I know I owe everyone the recipe. So, here it is, the BEST Salmorejo you will ever try. It’s also easy to make and inexpensive. Let me know if you try the recipe!

Antonia’s Salmorejo

Ingredients:

8 Medium Tomatoes (the quality of the tomatoes is one of the most important factors in the taste)

1 Medium Baguette

1 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil (again, quality is important)

1 Clove of Garlic (not too big)

A Splash of Sherry Vinegar (Vinagre de Jerez, although red wine can be substituted)

A Pinch of Salt

2 Hard Boiled Eggs

Sliced Serrano Ham (or Prosciutto)

1. Scald the tomatoes: Put a large pot of salted water on the stove and bring to a boil. Cut a small cross in the bottom of each tomato. When the water is boiling add the tomatoes for 30-60 seconds. Remove immediately and place in a cold water bath (a bowl filled with ice and cold water). The skin will peel right off of the tomatoes.

2. First Blend: Cut out the cores of the tomatoes and add all the rest to your blender. Blend at high-speed for about 30 seconds until the tomatoes are broken down.

3. Add bread: Take all of the “guts” out of your baguette and add them to the blended tomatoes. The baguette should have given about 2-3 cups of guts and you can experiment with how much you add, as this is how you change the texture. I use about 2 cups of the bread guts. Let the bread soak in the tomato juice for about 5 minutes.

3. Second Blend: Add the splash of vinegar, salt, and garlic and blend until the soup is an even texture and the bread is completely broken down.

4. Add Oil: If your blender has it, open the small hole in the top. Slowly add the olive oil as you are blending at a moderate speed. If it doesn’t have the hole, stop and go adding little by little.

5. Add Egg and Adjust: Add 1 hardboiled egg and blend until incorporated. Taste and adjust levels of salt, vinegar, garlic, and bread.

6. Serve and Enjoy: Serve in small bowls with diced hardboiled egg and sliced ham as condiments. Serve cold! Enjoy!

El Mejor Salmorejo del Mundo

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