As the temperatures dip, our desire for a warm, comforting meal increases. Fall veggies, like squash and pumpkin, offer the perfect chance for a delicious soup or dish.
Hamilton Township, New Jersey –While autumn is largely marked by the changing of colors in the leaves, it is also a time of cooler weather, making it a perfect soup season.
“Fall is a great time to get back in the groove of cooking soup, after taking time off throughout the summer,” says John Kuropatwa, executive chef of Spigola Ristorante, in Hamilton Township, New Jersey. “There are many great soup ingredients that are in season right now, making them more affordable, accessible, and fresher-tasting.”
Vegetables that are typically in season during the fall include a variety of squash, mushrooms, pumpkin, cauliflower, potatoes, onions, and leeks. Any of these can make the base for a great-tasting autumn soup that can be served alongside a meal or, paired with a good, crusty bread, can be a meal on its own. Some popular soups for this time of year include potato, mushroom, pasta fagioli, onion, and butternut squash.
“The great thing about soup is that there is no right or wrong. You can pretty much use whatever you have on hand to make it, and it will still taste like you put a lot of thought into it,” adds Kuropatwa. “Having low-fat soup with your meals, or as your meal, a couple of nights per week is a great way to help fill you and warm you up while also getting more vegetables into your diet.”
Fall also brings pumpkins back to the forefront. Pumpkins –members of the gourd family, along with watermelon and squash – are an American pastime each fall. In fact, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 1.1 billion pounds of pumpkins were produced in this country in 2008, at a value of around $141 million. While most families plan on getting a pumpkin this season, they are not always sure how to select a good one, or what to do once they have it home.
“Pumpkins are a sign that we are heading into the holiday season,” says Kuropatwa. “But what is so exciting is that they provide so many opportunities to create great dishes that we don’t have year-round. It’s really a special time of year.”
If you are in the market for a pumpkin, this season, keep the following shopping, usage and disposal tips in mind:
Selecting. To pick a good pumpkin, opt for one that is mature, feels firm, and has a rich orange color. Avoid ones that have scars and cracks. You can check the firmness by pushing on it with your fingernail. If it is mature, it should not scratch with the pressure.
Storing. Once you get the pumpkin home, you can store it for at least a month in a cool, dry place. If you want it to keep longer, you can take the pumpkin flesh out of its skin; it can then be frozen, dried or canned.
Using. There are a variety of uses for pumpkins. Many people opt to carve them into jack-o-lanterns. Others may decide to cook with them, which is a good option because they are loaded with antioxidants, beta-carotene, and vitamin A. They also provide fiber, potassium, and calcium. Pumpkins can be baked whole in the oven (set at 325 degrees, cooking time varies by size). Just be sure to poke holes in it first and then, when it’s finished, remove the skin, seeds and membrane.
The seeds can be roasted in the oven by tossing with some oil and laying a single layer on a baking sheet for about 12 to 15 minutes at 250 degrees. Pumpkin can also be used to make pies, pancakes, muffins, soups, and variety of other tasty recipes. A quick online search can net a wide array of pumpkin recipes. If you want to carve your pumpkin but still get some nutritional benefits, either carve it and toast the seeds, or opt to decorate it with non-toxic paint so you can still bake it afterward.
Discarding. If you go the route of creating a jack-o-lantern, this season, you may be wondering what to do with it once the festivities have moved on. Composting it makes a great option if you or someone you know has a garden. You can also check into donating it to local animal farms, or see if your city is collecting them for recycling purposes.
“No autumn would be complete without the great pumpkin,” Kuropatwa says. “They are so versatile and fun to work with. Even the kids can get in on selecting and using them. It’s truly a family activity.”
With the arrival of the fall season, give this soup a try.
For a great pumpkin dish, try this recipe.
Spigola Ristorante is a modern Italian restaurant based in Hamilton Township, New Jersey. The restaurant features a full menu of traditional and modern Italian cuisine, as well as an extensive wine list and bar. The establishment also offers weekly live entertainment, events, specials and daily happy hour, catering services and private party facilities. To learn more, visit the website.
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