Saturday Night: Chunky Pumpkin Soup for Pre-Partiers

>> Saturday, January 30

It's Saturday.  It's Saturday.  Are you getting this loud and clear?  SATURDAY.
The long-awaited herald of the real, live weekend.  We all know Friday is for sissies.  Saturday is when the Rockstars rule the world, the glow of unforeseen adventure in their glittering, glassy eyes;  the cold winds of a Swiss January deter only the faintest of heart, and those of us who know what it means to boogie take to the streets in pursuit of swaying bliss.

But not without some soup first.

Tonight is not just any Saturday either, but specifically the Saturday of the Couchsurfing monthly meeting in Basel, and a huge party in nearby Freiburg, Germany, where many of us are going afterwards.  Couchsurfing has come to life for me again in the last few months:  The joy of meeting new people and having those laughter-inducing spontaneous conversations moments afterwards.  So it is with eager anticipation that I eat this soup, bundle up against the snowy night, and get ready to find what Basel's Saturday has to give.

As with all pre-party meals, this one is simple and fast.  I want you to forget mincing, dicing, and julienning, and pick up that butcher knife like a hatchet.  Get ready to CHOP.  That's right, good ol' coarse, gritty, CHOPPING.  I want those veggies chunked, and I want Martha Stewart gasping at the wayside as you whip this soup out so heartily you could make a woodchuck shiver.

Chunky Pumpkin Soup
Consider putting on some Cheb Khaled as you whip this baby up, just to get in the mood.

-1 little round orange pumpkin (squash?  they call them all pumpkins here...any small round orange pumpkin-like winter vegetable oughtta do it)
-2 big potatoes, chopped
-2 big carrots, chopped
-1 big leek, chopped

-1 tbsp fresh chopped ginger (+)
-1 tbsp dried rosemary
-1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
-5 cloves garlic, chopped
-Fresh ground pepper to taste
-1 tsp tamari (opt.)

Lotsa water and as much bouillon as you deem fitting.  (could be none)

Heat the ghee in a large pot and add the mustard seeds.  Cook, stirring, until they start to pop, and then add the ginger and leeks.  Stir to coat with ghee and then add the carrots, potatoes, pumpkin, rosemary, water to cover, and bouillon.

Cover and cook until the potatoes are tender.  Add the garlic, then puree just a little bit with an immersion mixer, and check the taste.  Add tamari, pepper, and salt to taste.


The Walrus Bread

>> Sunday, January 24

Today I had a mad craving for something doughy, so I hunted around for a while for a good minimalist gluten free bread recipe using chickpea flour, which I have right now.  I tried out the simplest one I found, one for Walrus Bread from Bob's Red Mill, a flour mill from northern Oregon which I visited last year with my family.  Though the title has a mischievous ring, the product is a sumptuous, classic brown bread.  I enjoyed mine most with molasses on it, though I didn't complain about the avocado and zatar...or the apricot jam...or the tahini.

My variations were to toss some pumpkin seeds on top before baking, to sue some millet instead of all rice flour, and I used raw sugar.


Z'nuni: Brunch for The LGK

>> Monday, January 18

Swiss German has a wonderful way of turning simple words like "snack" into amazing works of condensed thought.  Take, for example, the word "znuni," which basically means midmorning snack.  Nuni is a shortened version of neun, for nine.  The 'i' is the Swiss diminutive suffix, making it cute and little (instead of the German 'schen').  The 'z' doesn't make that much sense to me, but I guess it is an abbreviation of das, the article for 'nuni,' which is surprisingly a noun.

What's my point?  Well tomorrow I have to bring it-not in the cheerleading sense, but in the znuni sense-something for everyone to eat.

It's Switzerland.  Did I mention that?  Well let me paint you a clearer picture of what that means at znuni-that means bread, butter, cheese, and chocolate.  And mandarines because they are the international winter food of western countries.  I eat rice cakes and trailmix.  That is because in Swiss the word for 'gluten free diet' is probably something like 'nichts' which means 'nothing.'  Or 'luft' which means 'air'.  Seriously, as far as most of my classmates are concerned, I must live from water, lemons, and salt, because there's nothing else edible that I could possibly eat.

So today I've decided to bring something fantastic for znuni.  I thought about it a long time and it even merited a parental skype-call to get some advice.  The love child of my fling with znuni is:

The Mandarine Upside-Down Cake

2 1/2 cups flour or 2 cups flour* (or sub a little hazelnut meal)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups sugar (yikes!)
1 packet vanilla sugar
1/4 cup dried cranberries
4-5 mandarine oranges (plus more for juice, if you want to use fresh juice)
1/2 cup margarine plus  4 tablespoons melted
pinch of salt
1 tsp xanthan gum
3 eggs
1 cup (I used half coconut milk, half mandarine juice)

Melt the 4 tbsp margarine and pour into a round cake pan.  sprinkle with 1/2 cup sugar.  peel the mandarines and slice them so that they look like pineapple rings, with cross-sections of the segments showing, and lay the rings out in the pan.  fill the spaces between with the dried cranberries.

cream the butter and sugar.  Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until fluffy.  transfer to a big mixing bowl

mix the dry ingredients in a medium bowl.  Alternate the dry ingredients in 3 parts with the milk in 2 parts as you add them to the fluffy egg mixture and combine.  (flour, milk, flour, milk, flour).

Pour into the pan and bake at 175 C for about 30 minutes, until it starts to come away on the sides.  Remove and let cool until you can remove it from the pan.  Then flip it and let it cool completely or serve still lightly warm.

*My mix was: 1 cup millet flour, 1/4 cup potato starch, 3/4 cup rice flour (mix-red, white), 1/4 cup ground hazelnuts, 1/4 cup corn flour


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