By Bianca Bruno
While Halloween may have come and gone faster than we would have liked, the quick time passage is quite unlike the bitter-sweet chocolate that I searched for upon inspection of my sister’s trick-or-treat bag. It is, in fact, mostly sweet, at least for me, because my favorite holiday is only a couple of weeks away.
There is something about Thanksgiving that is joyous and warm and comforting, much like the food that is over-gorged on by family and friends on this great holiday. It has a significantly smaller stress-factor than preparing for Christmas does, and it isn’t nearly as cold. Even those skeptics of the fall season (or lack thereof) in Southern California, those who criticize our “seasonless” holiday season, but are happy to indulge in our 70-degree weather in the middle of March, can find that a slight bite in the wind on Thanksgiving day is all one really needs to enjoy a nice holiday. As for me, I’ve never experienced the beautiful changing colors of fall, and probably never will unless one of those bio-engineers decides to make a psychedelic, hybrid version of a palm tree. For now, I’m perfectly content wearing flip-flops in November and pretending that I’ll be spending Thanksgiving in New England with Ina Garten. This Pumpkin Soup with Chili Cran-Apple Relish recipe adapted from the Food Network sure helps keep the fantasy of autumn alive.
Pumpkin Soup Ingredients
About 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (I never really measure)
1/4 stick of butter (2 tablespoons)
1 bay leaf
2 ribs of celery with green tops, finely chopped
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
Salt and pepper (duh! when do you not need salt and pepper?)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground thyme
About 2-4 teaspoons hot sauce (or more depending on your preferred heat level)
6 cups chicken broth or stock, or vegetable stock
2 14-ounce cans of cooked pumpkin puree (or 1 28-ounce can, whatever you can find)
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Cran-Apple Relish Ingredients
1 crisp apple, chopped (I used Granny Smith)
1/4 red onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice (I used the juice of 1 small lemon)
1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Heat a medium-sized pot over medium to medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and melt the butter. Add bay leaf, celery and onion. Season with salt and pepper. Cook 6 or 7 minutes, until tender. Add flour, poultry seasoning and hot sauce (to taste), then cook flour for 1 minute. Whisk in chicken stock and bring to a boil. Whisk in pumpkin puree in large spoonfuls. Simmer soup 10 minutes to thicken, and then add cream and nutmeg. Reduce heat to low and keep warm until ready to serve.
While soup cooks, assemble the relish by combining the apple, onion, lemon juice, cranberries, chili powder, honey and cinnamon.
The relish is incredibly delicious. I recommend doubling the recipe and eating it on fancy-shmancy crackers, or even just plain out of the bowl.