Monthly Archives: September 2013

Pumpkin season: Two recipes

Yesterday was the first official day of fall, but with early morning and evening temperatures already dipping into the low 50s here, I’ve already been getting into the spirit of some warm-your-belly-from-the-inside autumnal cooking.

Having a good excuse to cook with pumpkin — such a festively colored food — has been fun. I’ve never really made anything with pumpkin except for pumpkin bread and, of course, pumpkin pie, so I’ve been experimenting with incorporating canned pumpkin puree into main dishes. And I’ve been really pleased with results!

Pumpkin is very mild by itself, and its creamy texture and faint sweetness pairs really well with the smokiness and spiciness of sausage, it turns out. I use only chicken and turkey sausage because it has much less fat than pork sausage and is just as flavorful, in my opinion. My grocery store sells both fully cooked chicken sausage and uncooked turkey and chicken sausages in casings, all in a variety of flavors. Since I live in an apartment and can’t grill meats, I find using sausage keeps meat — which I ordinarily only have the time to saute or bake — interesting and flavorful.

Anyhow, one standard size can of unsweetened pumpkin goes a long way. One can was sufficient for both these recipes and a little extra leftover, which I’ve been adding by the spoonful, along with some cinnamon-sugar and nutmeg, to the occasional morning bowl of oatmeal. It’s almost like pumpkin bread…almost. ūüôā

Without further ado:

Pumpkin-black bean soup with chicken-chorizo sausage:

Adapted from Closet Cooking

pumpkin black bean soup


  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 medium Spanish onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 chicken-chorizo sausage, quartered and sliced (I used Al Fresco’s Chipotle Chorizo Chicken Sausage)
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1 medium potato, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 15-oz. can reduced-sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 T oregano
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne (optional)
  • 1/4 cup skim milk
  • 1 T butter
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • fresh cilantro, chopped (for topping)


  1. Heat oil in pan. Add onions and saute until tender. Then add garlic and saute until fragrant.
  2. Add chorizo and saute until slightly browned and thoroughly heated.
  3. Add chicken stock, pumpkin puree, potato, beans, oregano, cumin, and cayenne. Bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat and simmer 45 minutes, until potatoes are tender.
  5. Remove from heat and let cool 10 minutes.
  6. Swirl in milk and stir in butter until melted. Top each bowl with black pepper and fresh chopped cilantro.

Pumpkin-sage farfalle with sweet Italian turkey sausage:

Adapted from Rachel Ray, served with roasted lemon-garlic broccoli and cauliflower

pumpkin sage pasta


  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 lb. sweet Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium Spanish onion
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 6 sprigs fresh sage leaves, cut into chiffonade
  • 2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/4 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1 T butter
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • freshly ground black pepper and sea salt, to taste
  • 1 T corn starch (or 2 T flour, for thickening)
  • 1 lb. whole wheat or enhanced (such as Barilla Plus) farfalle pasta
  • parmesan, grated (for topping)


  1. Prepare pasta to al dente, following box instructions. Drain and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in large skillet over medium heat and saute turkey sausage until brown, breaking apart with wooden spoon. Drain excess grease.
  3. Add onion and garlic to skillet with sausage, saute until tender and fragrant.
  4. Add bay leaf, sage and 1 cup broth to pan and cook until the liquid is reduced by half.
  5. Add the remaining 1 cup broth and pumpkin puree. Stir until smooth and well-combined. Heat until bubbling.
  6. Add milk, butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, pepper and corn starch. Simmer 10-15 minutes until sauce thickens.
  7. Add cooked pasta to sauce. Top each serving with freshly grated parmesan.

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Honeysuckle and Dirty Drawers: ‘The Sound and the Fury’

It’s been a busy summer, full of many happy things, but especially books. When the humidity and oppressive heat and pestering mosquitoes roll in, I can’t help but want to dive into some Southern lit and hear the drawled out vowels lift themselves from the pages.

This summer I finally conquered¬†Gone With the Wind (final thoughts: glad to cross it off the list, but ehhhh) and re-read Flannery O’Connor’s delightfully dark collection of short stories,¬†A Good Man is Hard to Find (highly recommend). I guess I’m just more of a Southern Gothic than magnolias-and-moonlight kind of girl.

Eden Gardens State Park 018

Confession: Every time I read a Southern Gothic book, this is the setting I visualize: this is an old home near my hometown in Florida, and is now part of a state park (Eden Gardens in Santa Rosa Beach). I mean, just look at this property!

Eden Gardens State Park 009

There’s just something about the racism, the crippling weight of tradition, the sweltering heat, and the unwavering pride that makes for some wonderfully brooding, depressing reading.

And nothing embodies that more than this book:

sound_and_the_furyI’ve read a lot of Faulkner before — his short stories,¬†As I Lay Dying (multiple times),¬†Light in August (and wrote an in-depth analysis on unwed, pregnant Lena Grove I’m awfully proud of), and¬†Go Down, Moses. These things happen when you go through your high school and college education in the South, and opt to take an honors-level Southern Lit class.

But somehow I’d never delved into that novel for which Faulkner is most known, his “magnum opus” if you will,¬†The Sound and The Fury. I kept seeing it pop up on “100 greatest novels of all time” types of lists, like the one compiled by the Modern Libary.¬†The Sound and the Fury is No. 6, and I’d read all of the books above it except No. 1, James Joyce’s¬†Ulysses, which even I, a prolific reader, am quite intimidated by.

The most I knew about this book previously was the title was inspired by that quote from Shakespeare (Macbeth, I believe):

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing

So I started reading the Faulkner book, and get this: the first chapter is from the point of view of a 30-year-old mentally challenged man. It literally begins with a tale told by “an idiot.” This first chapter (of four) was my absolute favorite. Because Benjy, “the man-child,” has no concept of time, he flows through various memories, sometimes shifting time periods mid-sentence, as various sensory cues in his present-day environment — and later, visual images in his memories — bring other related memories back to the surface.

Like I said, I’ve read Faulkner before, but nothing like that. It was simultaneously very frustrating and deeply engrossing. Even though this chapter doesn’t make full sense until the reader progresses through the remainder of the novel and its other three perspectives, you instantly are overwhelmed with a sense of despair and hopelessness that continues throughout the book. Benjy is constantly wailing, and someone is always telling him to hush. At some point, you feel like you kind of need to wail in pain, too.

With patience and concentration, the puzzle pieces of the story fall together. (I once heard someone say everyone tells you Faulkner is like a puzzle missing a few pieces, but they believe it’s more like a complete puzzle, just with a completely different picture than you thought you were laboring over.) On one level, this is the story of the gradual decay and decline of a great “noble” Southern family in the grueling post-Civil War years. Surprise, surprise there, I know.

But I think on a greater level, this story is applicable to all of mankind as we become slaves to our own selfishness and that greatest, most heartless master of all, Time:

“A man is the sum of his misfortunes. One day you’d think misfortune would get tired but then time is your misfortune.” –The Sound and the Fury

I don’t want to give¬†too much away, but I was describing it to Sean and said, “It’s got everything depressing you can imagine — depression, alcoholism, suicide, bankruptcy, gambling, sexual promiscuity, illegitimate children, divorce, implied incest, castration, racism, mental retardation, you name it. And it’s amazing.”

I mean, there’s a part where the smell of honeysuckles is mentioned again and again in a very choking sense (“Liquid putrefaction like drowned things floating like pale rubber flabbily filled getting the odor of honeysuckle all mixed up …¬†I had to pant to get any air at all out of that thick gray honeysuckle … Honeysuckle was the saddest odor of all, I think”). I mean, you could write a whole essay on the honeysuckle imagery in Quentin’s neurotic, pre-suicide chapter! English major alert, over here.

You could also write many papers about how the brothers’ glimpse of their sister Caddy’s dirty drawers in the childhood memory from the first chapter is incredible foreboding for her later promiscuity and the family’s corrosion. Not that I’d want to write a paper, buuuut my brain thinks these ways, unfortunately.

Anyway, this is just to say that¬†The Sound and the Fury is well-worth its acclaim as a modern American classic. And it is definitively a part of the American South canon. It’s a book that demands to be read and re-read, processed, digested, manipulated.

But like I said, I’m a sucker for Southern Gothic. Sean’s waiting for me to just go ahead and get my PhD in the subject.

southern litP.S. Have you seen the trailer for James Franco’s attempt at translating¬†As I Lay Dying to film? I’m a little wary, but I’ll probably watch it anyway, having read the book at least four times.


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