In my opinion this is the best time of year for produce. I know people love asparagus in spring, or tomatoes in August. Ok so sweet corn is a pretty big deal but that’s one vegetable. It’s not like fall. An explosion of squashes, apples, root vegetables, pears, cold weather greens and brussels sprouts. Did I mention squash and apples yet? What’s not to love. I have always loved apples but the squash is one of the many vegetables I discovered when I became vegan and actually started to cook. My favorite so far is the kabocha. I have been known to eat an entire one for dinner – half savory, the other half sweet so I can have dessert too.
My most recent favorite thing to do is soup. I have a great blender but I’m usually too lazy to haul it out to puree soup. This one needed it. This was one of those velvety smooth ones you can’t stop eating. The best part though was the chestnuts. Oh yeah, you heard me. I love me some chestnuts. They instantly take me back to the Jardin du Luxembourg. We bought roasted chestnuts from the vendor by the gate and found a bench overlooking the park. After we ate them all and burnt our fingers he laid his head on my lap to take a nap and I people watched and thought about how incredibly lucky I was.
So chestnuts are kind of a good thing for me. And luckily I had a free jar still sitting in my fridge to go with my free squash. Yep, free. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before but I work in an awesome grocery store. We don’t feel it’s ethical to throw away food unless absolutely necessary, so employees are encouraged to use out of date and damaged food. It’s obviously pretty great from the free food standpoint, but honestly I love it for being so thoughtful. Far too much food is thrown away in this country. Far too much everything is simply thrown away. We try to minimize our waste as much as possible and that absolutely extends to our groceries. So free chestnuts, free squash, free baked tofu and arugula and sun-dried tomatoes. Yeah they might be out of date or banged up, but it’s certainly still edible.
This whole dish came out of an iron chef kind of night. I looked at all my free stuff and everything from our CSA share and Dorie Greenspan’s Around my French Table (which I’m in love with) and decided soup was in order. So here you are.
Kabocha Chestnut Soup
1 tbsp. Earth Balance
1 tsp. olive oil
1 leek, sliced and rinsed of sand
1 shallot, sliced
1 medium kabocha squash, peeled, seeded, and diced
1- 7 oz. jar of chestnut, roughly chopped
6 c. water
2 tsp. Fleur de Sel or 1 tsp. fine sea salt
1/4 c. soy creamer, optional
Heat the EB and olive oil over medium heat in a dutch oven or large soup pot. Add the leek and shallot and saute for 5 minutes until softened but not browned. Add squash, chestnuts, water, and salt; turn up the heat and bring to a boil then simmer for 25-30 minutes until the squash is very tender. Puree with an immersion blender or in batches in a regular blender, you’ll probably need to add some water or stock to get it completely pureed. Reheat, add soy creamer if using and adjust salt if necessary.
Adapted from ‘Beatrix’s Red Kuri Soup’ from Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table.
Wilted Arugula with Baked Tofu and Double Tomatoes
1 tsp. olive oil
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 package store-bought baked tofu or 1/2 lb. home-made baked tofu
2 small tomatoes, chopped
3 sun-dried tomatoes, finely diced (I used the oil-packed ones)
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. soy sauce
1 large bunch arugula, coarsely chopped if not using baby arugula.
Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. When hot add shallot and tofu. Saute, stirring occasionally, until shallot is beginning to color and tofu has browned on several sides. Add both kinds of tomato, sugar, and soy sauce. Cook until most of the liquid from the tomatoes has evaporated. Add arugula and saute until wilted. Salt as needed.