curried pear and butternut soup

Before you quickly click away from this post muttering squash, AGAIN?? please humor me. If there’s any time of the year I’m allowed to indulge my love of all things gourd, it’s fall.

On Halloween evening I biked to the grocery store to procure a baguette. We were going to have it with Mark’s delicious Punkin Ale rendition of this Beer Baked Beans recipe. I rode home with my baguette sticking out from behind me, feeling like I was headed to a dinner party in Montmarte.

The best thing about that little jaunt though were the pumpkins. Dotting front stoops like jolly orange goblins, glowing as if they had invaded the streets of Syracuse, the rotund globes guided me all the way home. There’s something about a carved pumpkin that makes me smile every time.

Leaves crackled under my bike tires as I passed people in lawn chairs doling out candy. My twilight ride wove through neighborhood streets that grew more festive as the sun sank.

But my recipe today doesn’t have to do with beans, baguettes, or pumpkins, but another type of squash. I’ve posted about the silky, meaty butternut once before, but today it’s back, pureed into a low fat soup with pears and curry powder. Here it is pictured with a swirl of sour cream.

Some friends and I made this soup a few weeks ago as part of our newly founded “Estro-cook” nights. The semi-weekly Sunday evening cook-a-thon was named after a Winnipeg Folk Festival workshop called “Estro-Jam,” where women from different bands teamed up to play a daytime stage.

I just love how this picture shows off the sunny October afternoon I enjoyed it on. Having soup in the freezer is one life’s easiest pleasures.

This soup can even be dressed up with cubes of tofu and green lentils, as this cafe on B.C.’s Sunshine Coast did. I took this picture while I was solo cycle-touring around Vancouver island, and this picture reminds me of those days, spent largely alone, when a bowl of soup and a Moleskine journal could very well be a vagabond’s best friend.

And years later, though I am holed up in Syracuse as the fall wilts to shades of ochre, the dear gourd does it again.

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goan nostalgic for shrimp curry

One year ago today I was in a plane headed across the world for Delhi. I knew little then of the pleasures India had to offer, in spite of frequent visits to buffets on Ellice Avenue. I knew little as I relaxed for 15 hours in the cool aircraft — watching movies, chatting idly, and eating out of tiny geometric platters — of the variety and intensity of experiences awaiting me.

In a tribute to the year anniversary of our honeymoon, I decided to cook up some curry to honor that wild and indelible trip. Though we didn’t visit the south of India, this recipe is inspired by the cuisine of the southern state of Goa (go-ah), known for its seafood. (The regions we visited boast plates of either Mughal-inspired lamb and chicken or the vegetarian dishes reflecting the Hindu reverance for all life.) Goan food is characterized by the addition of creamy coconut milk and fish to traditional curries.

I found the recipe over at Eat Like a Girl — a pretty blog with a wonderfully cheeky name.  Since today was a double-whammy training day, I needed something quick and easy and so used this recipe as a jumping-off point. We had purchased some pre-cooked frozen shrimp (oh the lows I stoop to in the name of a sale!), and so integrating it into this dish was a no-brainer.

Next time I would spend the extra 3 minutes and cook raw shrimp; our little guys tasted a bit like a long-forgotten cocktail ring rescued from the bottom of a freezer. Oh well, chalk it up to cheap post-work out protein.

And thanks to the genius boxes of spice mixtures we found recently at our local Indian grocery store, this little cyclist had no spices to measure or grind when she arrived home starving. Having adapted this recipe to the slow-cooker earlier in the day (not to cook the sauce but simply to keep it warm), all it took to deliver the aromas of India to our palates was tossing the shrimp into the simmering sauce, a pot of my hubby’s perfect every time basmati rice, some fresh cilantro, and a table set with cooling yogurt and sweet chutney.

I was unfortunately too hungry to reflect on it properly then, but thinking about it now, the happy dance of chili, cumin, turmeric, fenugreek, cardamom, caraway and cloves on my tongue will always take me back to that radiant land. A land of scents and tastes and heat unimaginable, a place of passion and devotion, a destination where two young lovers set out on the journey to eat and love (and survive!) in the most important of ways — together.

 

Good thing I didn’t sacrifice him to the Ganges, otherwise who would’ve made me rice?

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