My hope for an extremely hot summer morphing into a pleasantly warm and sunny fall certainly hasn’t come about. There is a chill in the air and the sunshine that just never seemed to go away this summer doesn’t appear to be interested in smiling down upon us cold subjects.
Still, autumn has a refreshing charm, and that is especially true for cooks. The abundance of fall harvest is truly an inspiration. It’s time to enjoy and dress up local squash, corn, fruit and the last of the tomato crop and our backyard garden harvest. Soups and stews begin to appear on the menu more often, along with casseroles. Those of us who enjoy baking are more than happy to warm up the kitchen and take in the mesmerizing aroma of savory and sweet creations.
With cooler weather also comes the winter holidays and food certainly is a central focus of most festive gatherings. Culinary enthusiasts tend to become even more creative and ambitious than usual if they are the ones cooking the fare.
At the same time, different dietary requirements and restrictions can make cooking for larger gatherings rather challenging because the host(s) want to make sure everyone present has a satisfying and pleasurable gastronomic experience. Vegans and vegetarians often do not look forward to the culinary aspect of occasions traditionally dominated by meat, poultry and fish. The thought of a salad, some mashed potatoes and a chunk of bread somehow doesn’t have my tongue dancing for joy. And if seasoned vegans and vegetarians are preparing most of the spread, with little or no meat present, the carnivores are expecting a leafy green salad, some tofu dish that resembles dog mush, and endless vegetable dishes that also surely contain tofu too. Maybe even the dessert contains tofu!
As Thanksgiving in Canada is quickly approaching, I thought it was timely and appropriate for this veteran vegetarian to offer up some vegan and vegetarian menu and entertaining ideas from my kitchen that preserve the textures, flavours, substance and flare of dishes traditionally associated with the occasion that are sure to please everyone at the table.
To get you started, here’s one of my favourite fall soups — a simple pumpkin and potato soup that makes a colorful, warming and nourishing starter for a lovely Thanksgiving dinner, or any cool weather meal for that matter.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
2 cups fresh pumpkin, diced
1 large potato, diced
1 carrot, diced
3 cups water or vegetable stock
1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add the olive oil, wait a few moments, then swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the onion and cook for 2 minutes or until the onion starts to turn translucent. Toss in the spices and stir to coat the onions. Add the pumpkin, potato and carrot, and stir to coat the vegetables with the spices.
Pour in the water or stock, raise the heat to medium-high, and bring the soup to a low boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 20-30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
Remove from heat and season with salt. Blend the soup with a hand blender or in batches in a countertop blender. Serve hot or warm in bowls with a sprinkle of fresh ground black pepper or fresh grated old cheddar cheese, or with a little swirl of cream or sour cream if desired.
Reheat leftover soup on medium-low heat and thin with a little extra water.
Serves 4 to 6