Japa K. Khalsa
At Thanksgiving, the turkey is the centerpiece of the meal, but what brings color and life are the bounty of freshly prepared vegetables. The New Mexico fall harvest gave us many squash, pumpkins and our famous chile for the Thanksgiving meal. How can we bring lots of veggies to the table that are colorful, full of flavor and add to the traditional side dishes of mashed potatoes and peas?
Pumpkin Chile Soup
Pumpkin soup is a beautiful and healthful accompaniment to your Thanksgiving supper. Pumpkins are considered one of the best ways to build the health of the adrenals and kidneys. Their slightly sweet flavor and texture are beneficial for the pancreas, and they are full of antioxidants, vitamins and cancer prevention. Guests will appreciate something unique from the usual sweet potato. Find a cooking pumpkin, different from the Halloween jack-o-lantern, as it has a slightly thicker skin. You can buy a second pumpkin to open and use as a serving dish for a festive presentation.
Serves 5 or more if served as an appetizer
• 2 – 2-pound pumpkins
These items can be chopped somewhat coarsely, as soup will be blended later on:
• 5 ribs of celery
• 1 onion
• 3 garlic cloves
• 4 medium shallots
• 4 cups stock of your choice
• salt and pepper
• 2 Tablespoons of Herbes de Provence
• 5 tablespoons fresh green chile, deseeded and chopped
• optional garnish; chives and red chile powder or paprika
• The flesh of one pumpkin, chopped into 1-inch chunks
Cut top off pumpkin and scoop out the innards, separating flesh from seeds and goo. You can save the seeds and pan-roast them later. You may also want to save the outside layer of your pumpkin to use as a serving vessel. Cut flesh into 1-inch chunks.
In a large saucepan or small stockpot, sauté green chile over medium heat about 5 minutes. Remove green chile with slotted spoon and set aside. Next, sauté the remaining veggies: celery, onion, garlic and shallots. After about 8 minutes, add stock and pumpkin pieces. Raise heat to high and bring to boil, then reduce heat to maintain low simmer. Soup is the most tasty when cooked slowly. Cook about 45 minutes, until pumpkin is very tender. During the last 10 minutes, pour a tablespoon of olive oil into the lightly simmering water and add your Herbes de Provence directly to this mini oil pool. As the oil herbs disperse into the water it will spread flavor throughout your soup. After the flavorings have dispersed and cooked, turn the heat off and let it cool for a bit, then purée soup, either with immersion blender in pan or in batches in regular blender. Soup can be made ahead up to this point and refrigerated. Reheat before serving, add chile, red powder, green chile at the last minute to maintain texture and flavor and serve as a spicy garnish. Open and remove the seeds from your second pumpkin to use as a serving dish.
Chop, Saute, Serve
What if you still need one more side dish besides the mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and green beans? Or you are going to a Thanksgiving potluck and need to whip something up that’s easy and tasty? A vegetable stir-fry is a crowd pleaser; the bright colors and variety of vegetables add choices to the spread of food. Just chop up any assortment of veggies, and put the slowest cooking veggies in first (carrot, onions, potatoes, celery) with olive oil and a splash of water. The olive oil cooks best on medium heat, and the water helps the oil to keep its integrity and healthful qualities during the cooking. Add the zucchinis, broccoli or greens a little later (about 5 to 7 minutes) as these cook fast. These last veggies should be cooked to the point of visual brightness (they will brighten as they cook) and then stop. You should taste-test along the way so that they are not too crunchy, but don’t let them get dull and soft by overcooking, as you want the color of the vegetables to dazzle on your table. For flavorings put in combinations of garlic, basil, salt and a pinch of red chile or ginger, soy sauce and garlic. Just pull the veggies to the side, add one more tablespoon of oil and then quickly stir in the seasonings in the pool of oil. Let this simmer for a few minutes and then stir well so that all the veggies are coated with flavor.
Red Chile Tofu
You can contribute a New Mexican flavor to turkey alternatives with some fresh red chile powder. Baked tofu is very easy and will satisfy your vegetarian guest. Slice the tofu into ¼-inch-thick slabs and lay on a slightly oiled cookie sheet. Squirt with lemon juice and also Bragg’s Amino Acids (a special soy sauce) for flavor. Lemon juice helps the tofu break down a bit and become easy to digest. Now cook for about 20 minutes in the oven, preheated to 375 degrees. Flip over at about 20 minutes until each slab of tofu is bubbling and starting to crisp. Sprinkle medium red chile powder on top of each slice and let cook for another 15 to 20 minutes. For flavor, sprinkle it with nutritional yeast for the last few minutes of cooking. Tofu is very high in protein, calcium and iron. It tastes similar to a bland white cheese, like a Mexican farmer’s cheese. Because it picks up the flavor of whatever dish it’s in, it’s an excellent companion to many vegetables.
Tasty Gravy and Veggie Broth
Say you’ve made your veggie stir-fry and soup, and while you were doing this, you left a giant pile of vegetable parts on the counter. Instead of composting them or sending them to a landfill, you simply swept them into a giant pan and boiled them on the counter for an hour or two. Now you have a delicious, healthful broth to use for your gravy. If you have a vegetarian guest you can use this broth for a separate gravy from the pan drippings. It has no additives like store-bought broth and is full of minerals.
One tip is to put all your Thanksgiving vegetable discards in a bag or Tupperware and freeze them. Save this bag and, when you need to, just crockpot the veggies, cover with water and cook all day to make a beautiful broth. Healers and cleansing enthusiasts swear by vegetable broth as a gentle way to cleanse and detoxify the body. The minerals from the vegetables support the body, and the sheer simplicity gives the body a timeout and a chance to restore health. It is generally recommended to sip broth and fast for a morning or even a full day as a way to “reset” the body. If you overeat for Thanksgiving or the holidays, this is your secret weapon to recovery.
Japa K. Khalsa, (DOM), is co-author of Enlightened Bodies: Exploring Physical and Subtle Human Anatomy (enlightenedbodies.com). She teaches a weekly yoga class for people with chronic pain at Sacred Kundalini in Santa Fe. She combines traditional acupuncture with herbal and nutritional medicine, injection therapy and energy healing. Her work emphasizes optimal health and personal transformation through self-care and awareness of the interconnectedness of all life. www.drjapa.com