Happy Almost Halloween! Welcome to another edition of Progressive Eats, our virtual version of a progressive dinner party where each course is held at a different home. With Progressive Eats, a theme is chosen each month, members share recipes suitable for a delicious meal or party, and you can hop from blog to blog to check them out. This month we are sharing a delicious Halloween menu hosted by Heather, who blogs at All Roads Lead to the Kitchen. We have dishes that show off the colors associated with Halloween, as well as some cute and creepy ideas. No matter your level of Halloween spirit, you’ll find something delicious to add to your repertoire this season!
I have never been that clever with Halloween food creations, unlike my friends in this group, so when I first heard today’s topic, I immediately thought of the combination of orange and black and wondered what I could come up with. It didn’t take me long to figure out exactly what I wanted to make for you … a beautiful blend of flavors and colors, perfect for your holiday party, and an absolutely delicious, creative way to serve two of my favorite soups!
The “black” portion of the soup bowl was easy, my go-to black bean soup that is rich and packed with tons of Mexican flavors. One of my favorites since I had my first bowl at the venerable Chez Panisse back in the 80s, it is perfect all winter long for filling lunches and dinners. If you like spicier food, you can either add more chiles en adobo or some cayenne pepper. You can also pass hot sauce at the table for your guests to add to their own preferred level.
My original thought for the “orange” portion was butternut soup, but that is more gold than orange. While I love the flavor of butternut squash soup, especially during the holidays, I wanted to boost the color and decided to add another of my favorite soup ingredients, carrots. The combination of squash and carrots is truly remarkable, very soothing and satisfying, perfect for cold days throughout the winter and spring. You could also add some yellow and red food coloring to boost the color even more if you want.
Both of the soups are delicious on their own and you can serve either one at seasonal parties, brunches, lunches or dinners. It would be fun to make both and offer your guests their choice.
If you want to serve them in the same bowl the way I did, the secret is to have both soups as close to the same consistency as possible. Fill two measuring cups with spouts with the soups and pour at the same time into opposite sides of the bowl. This is easiest with two people pouring unless you are ambidextrous and really steady! Sprinkling seasoned pumpkin seeds (see below) along the line between the two soups hides any imperfections in the separation.
In the recipes I have given you several options for garnishing. You can use any of those that you like when you are serving these soups. For today’s blended soup, and given the Halloween holiday, I decided to garnish the soup with some Dukkah-seasoned pumpkin seeds.
The Dukkah Pumpkin Seeds are incredibly easy to make. Just place the shelled pumpkin seeds on a foil-lined baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and Dukkah seasoning. Use a spatula to carefully mix the seeds, making sure they are all coated with the oil and seasonings. Spread them back into a single layer.
Bake at 350°F for 5 to 8 minutes or until they become fragrant and barely start to become golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool. Taste and add more seasonings if desired. You may want to make a huge batch of these – they tend to disappear and are one of the best between-meal snacks I make!
Don’t be afraid to use seasonings in these soups. The main difference between professional chefs and home cooks is the amount of seasoning they use. The pros use a lot more salt, pepper, herbs and spices than you would imagine. It is often magically transforms an ordinary meal into an outstanding one.
I hope you have a wonderful Halloween and get lots of adorable little Trick-or-Treaters knocking on your door. Stay warm and when you get back with your bag of goodies, have these soups hot on the stove and ready to warm up you and your little ones!
Make sure you check out the other recipes below and see the creative and wonderful recipes my friends have shared!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
Both soups are delicious and good enough to serve on their own for weeknight dinners or parties. I like to make them ahead and have them ready for reheating. The flavors deepen overnight so be sure to taste them again once they’re warmed and make any adjustments needed.
Watch the prepared foods, like the canned beans or stock, for any possibility of gluten-ingredients. Always read the labels and if you have any questions, contact the manufacturer to be sure it is safe.
- 2 small or medium butternut squashes *
- 5 large carrots, peeled and chopped
- 3 celery stalks, chopped
- 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
- 1 orange or yellow bell pepper, stem discarded, seeded, and chopped
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp butter
- 3-1/2 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
- 2-1/2 cups water
- 1 tsp kosher salt, or more to taste
- 1 tsp ground white pepper
- 1 or 2 tsp curry powder, to taste
- 2 tsp dried sage
- 1/4 cup heavy cream or plain yogurt
- A few drops of food coloring, if desired to deepen the color
- Fresh sage leaves or parsley
- Organic olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Prep the Butternut Squash: * Rinse the squash under running water and pat dry. To make it easier to work with, use a paring knife to poke several holes in the squash to release the steam and microwave on High for 8 minutes. Use an oven mitt to remove the squash from the microwave and place it on a cutting board. Let sit until cool enough to handle.
- Using a sharp, large knife, cut the “neck” of the squash off. Set the rounded end on the cut surface and cut in half, revealing the hollow center. Scoop the seeds and strings out of each half and discard. Using a vegetable peeler or your knife, remove the skin from the squash. Cut squash into cubes and transfer to a bowl.
- Prep the remaining vegetables and place in a second bowl.
- Cook the Soup: In a large stockpot, over medium-high heat, heat olive oil and butter. When the butter is melted, add the carrots, celery, onions and bell peppers; stir to coat evenly with the oil. Sauté 2 to 3 minutes, stirring often until the vegetables are softened but not browned. Add the squash, chicken broth and water. Stir in the salt, white pepper, curry powder and sage.
- Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to low, cover and continue cooking until vegetables are fork tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. You should be able to easily break the squash cubes in half. When done, remove pot from the heat and let cool for 5 minutes.
- Using an immersion blender, puree soup in pot. You can also use in a blender; puree in batches, leaving the lid slightly ajar, holding it steady with a kitchen towel over the top to protect yourself from splashing hot liquid. Never fill the blender more than half full with hot liquid because the will expand dramatically and can burn you. Transfer back to the stockpot to keep warm. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. Stir in the cream just before serving.
- If you want a deeper orange color, you can add a few drops of food coloring. It isn't required, but will definitely make the soup more orange and less golden. Look at this page from the Food Network for the ratio of red to yellow coloring.
- For the Garnish: Wash the sage leaves and pat dry thoroughly with paper towels. Set a plate next to the stove and cover with a couple layers of paper towels. Set out a pair of tongs.
- Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. When it is shimmering, add a single layer of sage leaves, making sure that there is plenty of room between each one. Fry, watching carefully and turning with tongs as needed, until crispy. Use the tongs to transfer them to the paper-towel lined plate. Immediately sprinkle lightly with kosher salt. Repeat until all the sage leaves are cooked and salted.
- To Serve: Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and place 2 or 3 fried sage leaves on the top of each bowl. Serve immediately.
- Yield: 6 to 8 servings
- *Alternately, you can buy pre-cut butternut squash at many grocery stores. Look for them in the produce department. This saves you a lot of time and may be worth the extra cost.
- 2 tbsp organic olive oil
- 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 large red bell pepper, stem removed, seeded and finely chopped
- 2 stalks celery, trimmed and finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, peeled, core discarded, and minced
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- 1 tbsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 to 2 canned chipotle chiles en adobo, chopped finely or 1 tsp chipotle powder (use less for lower heat)
- 3 (15 oz) cans black beans, rinsed thoroughly and drained
- 2 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock, or water
- Juice of 1 fresh lime
- Corn tortillas, cut into 1/2-inch-thick pieces (gluten-free if needed)
- Organic olive oil
- Fresh cilantro leaves, chopped, for garnish
- Chopped green onions, for garnish
- Make the Soup: In a heavy-bottomed large stockpot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. When shimmering, add the onions, bell peppers, and celery. Cook, stirring often, about 5 minutes or until vegetables are softened. Reduce heat to medium and add the garlic, oregano, cumin, cocoa powder, salt and pepper. Continue to cook for another minute or two, to let the seasonings blend.
- Stir in the water and scrape up the fond from the bottom of the pot. Stir in the beans, bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Remove from the heat and, using an immersion blender*, puree the soup until smooth. Whisk in the lime juice, taste and adjust seasonings.
- Fry Tortilla Strips: Set up a baking sheet with sides next to the stove and line with paper towels. Set a spider strainer next to the stove.
- In a medium saucepan, add about 1 to 2 inches of oil. Heat over medium-high heat to 375°F. Use a candy thermometer or Thermapen to monitor the heat of the oil. Working in small batches, fry the tortilla strips until the edges begin to get crispy. Use the spider to transfer the cooked strips to the paper towel-lined sheet. Sprinkle lightly with kosher salt. Repeat with remaining tortillas.
- To Serve: Ladle soup into warmed soup bowls and garnish with fresh cilantro green onions and fried tortilla strips. Serve hot.
- Yield: 4 to 6 servings
- * You can also use in a blender … puree in batches, leaving the lid slightly ajar, holding it steady with a kitchen towel over the top to protect yourself from splashing hot liquid. Never fill the blender more than half full with hot liquid because they will expand dramatically and can burn you. Transfer puree back to the stockpot to keep warm.
These recipes are part of our monthly progressive dinner party, Progressive Eats. See the links below for more inspiration and great recipes!
Progressive Eats Halloween Menu
- Halloween Pomegranate Negroni from Mother Would Know
- Halloween Black & Orange Soup w/ Dukkah Pumpkin Seeds from The Heritage Cook
- Bloody Feetloaf from All Roads Lead to the Kitchen
- Black Rice Risotto with Butternut Squash from Pastry Chef Online
- Chocolate Tombstone Parfaits from That Skinny Chick Can Bake
- Mummy Halloween Cupcakes from Creative Culinary
- Mummy Truffles from The Redhead Baker
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, a progressive dinner involves going from house to house, enjoying a different course at each location. With Progressive Eats, a theme is chosen each month, members share recipes suitable for a delicious meal or party, and you can hop from blog to blog to check them out.
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