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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Winter heat

I know I shouldn't complain, because this winter so far, hasn't been that terrible. With the exception of a few couple gelid days, the cold has been survivable. But for the first time ever, our apartment is not the tropical jungle that's always been during the coldest months of the year, courtesy of the central heating system in our building. Someone thankfully turned it down, and I'm finally debuting the usage of a sweatshirt inside my home! I'm drinking steaming green tea non-stop and I've been craving chile peppers on everything I eat. Swirled in my soup, sprinkled on chicken, spicing up salad, and I even added chipotle powder to a new chocolate cookie recipe I developed for a client. I guess my body craves heat, and that's a good way of getting it.
I thought the cookies would be crazy, but they were quite addictive. My daughter thought it an insult to deceive people (aka sweet innocent children like her) looking at a sweet, fudgy chocolate cookie, with a treat that would ignite a vengeance fire in their mouths at the very end of the taste experience. But that's what I love about them: the heat. I finished all the leftovers by myself.
My client texted me asking if the cookies could be made without the chiles. Her customers weren't into them either.
Disappointed, yes! But that's not the first time that I've seen spicy sweets rejected.
Some years ago, when I was working at the James Beard Foundation, the temple of foodie-ism, I brought in with me some Mexican candy to the office, so my coworkers could get a taste and go through the cultural experience of the addictive sweets Mexican kids love. Plenty of them are sweet-sour-salty-spicy combinations, mostly flavored with CHAMOY, a sauce (kind of a brine), that takes many different incarnations: it can be a liquid, a powder or a paste made with salt, water, vinegar, chili, and sugar. It's eaten topping industrialized artificially-flavored candy, fresh fruits, vegetables, sorbets, popsicles and any other edible thing.
That time, I shared some little sweet gummy spheres covered in powdered chamoy. No discretion: everyone spit them out making gestures of disgust and disbelieve. I told them I thought their palates were immature.
Well, I guess I can't say that to my client's customers...

However, I can share with you this recipe for a delicious sweet-sour-salty-spicy (don't worry, it's not the chocolate-chipotle cookie one) soup that we've been eating in this household. Even my 7-year-old is into it with chipotle (which is smoked, dried and ground jalapeno pepper) and all!
Chiles are an amazing seasoning and a very nutritious addition to our diets. They are a good source of antioxidant carotenes, flavonoids and Vitamin C, and their spiciness is given by a substance called capsaicin, a potent anti-inflammatory. Chiles have been shown to have cardiovascular benefits and increase thermogenesis (heat production) in our bodies, which gives a nice sensation in this cold weather and if that weren't enough, burns more calories! 

I think I just gave you the whole ingredient list in the title, but here we go:
  • Vegan
  • Dairy, egg, nut, gluten, wheat, and soy free
  • Super ingredients: All of them are full of fiber, antioxidants and vitamins

20 ounces butternut squash (about 1/2 medium squash), peeled, seeded and cut
1 organic sweet potato, peeled and cut
2 organic apples (I used Gala), peeled, cored and cut (OR 1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce)
3 cups (24 oz.) apple cider
1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon (more to taste)
1 small can coconut milk
2 teaspoons chipotle chile powder, or to taste
Salt and pepper to taste


In a large saucepan, mix squash, sweet potato, apples, apple cider, cinnamon, salt and pepper to taste and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Let simmer until squash and sweet potato are easily pierced with a fork, about 35 minutes.

Remove from heat and puree with an immersion blender, adding some water or cider if the soup is too thick. Adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and cinnamon.

Serve soup on bowls and add some coconut milk (about 1 tablespoon one each bowl) right before serving, in scribbles and sprinkles with chipotle powder.
Serves 4-6.
Enjoy and keep warm!


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