24 October 2009

The Taste of Autumn

The autumn leaves
Drift by my window;
The autumn leaves
Of red and gold.
~ Autumn Leaves

woke up Saturday with rain a pounding a steady bluesy rhythm on the shingles. I sighed as I made a pot of Gingerbread Spice tea. Normally I enjoy a good rain. it enhances the coziness of being at home. But this Saturday I had plans to drive out to Delaplane with friends to pick pumpkins and revel in the fiery and golden mountainsides. Now we would have to come up with another way to get our autumn fix. I do not mind walking the fields in a light mist, but a relentless downpour is quite another!

My friends and I decided to spend the morning and early afternoon catching up on errands and what not and then convene at my place around five-thirty for dinner and pumpkin carving. The only requirement was that everyone had to buy their own pumpkins from the store [sigh] and bring a knife. [Mwhahahaha!]

The pumpkin is king of the fall vegetable garden. Its myriad shades of orange and gold and plump, meaty flesh fit right in with the textures and scents of the season: knobbly sweaters and fuzzy blankets; velvety cups of spiked apple cider and steaming bowls of soup. Being versatile vegetable , however, it is not afraid of starring in a custard as well as pie; a soup as well as a fresh-baked loaf of bread. It is a comfortable vegetable.

And one of my favorite comfort foods when evening temperatures suddenly drop is chili. It is economical to make, it is filling and it invites a crowd. And although I usually connect chili with snowy winter days , I recently discovered a recipe that included pumpkins and turkey. Now that combination screams autumn!

To prepare for our pumpkin massacre that evening, I shopped at the Falls Church Farmers' Market and picked up a Fairytale Sugar Pumpkin [they have such an interesting shape and colour!], a few green chilis, and some large, juicy tomatoes. Then I headed to the nearby grocery store to pick up ground turkey and fresh cilantro. Once I arrived back home, I picked the last of our green peppers and set about chopping vegetables and put them in a bowl while the turkey browned.

You will notice that the recipe does not call for juice of any kind: no tomato juice or apple juice or liquid of any kind. I was wondering how this was going to turn out to be chili without it but my fears were unfounded. The ripe, diced tomatoes plus the pureed pumpkin create their own "soup" base. With several dashes of curry and ginger added, and a bowl of sour cream and a plate of freshly grated cheddar on the table, a simple but hearty dinner was ready by the time my friends arrived, pumpkin victims in tow.

Now all that's left to do is dry out the pumpkin seeds and roast them!

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

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