Perhaps you have an inclination already, but I have a lot of cookbooks. There’s a built-in bookcase wall in our office upstairs with at least a hundred stored away, always within reach for reference. I have a bunch of selects on my coffee table because they blur that line between practicality and aesthetic experience. We have a little shelf-style cabinet in the kitchen for a small rotation of cookbooks or magazines that I’m particularly enjoying at the moment–for inspiration or outright line-by-line recipe following. A lot of spaces for a lot of different styles of cookbooks, all enjoyed in their own way.I’ve had Amy Chaplin’s first published cookbook At Home In The Whole Food Kitchen for about a month and it travels with me all over the house. As soon as it arrived, I excitedly ripped the box open on my porch and flipped through it right then and there. First it sat on my coffee table, readily available for browsing while I caught up with the early morning news or while I half-watched football with Mark on Sundays. It sat on my desk in the office as a relevant distraction while I edited photos or worked on other recipe-related projects. Now, it has a permanent home in my kitchen bookshelf, the most reached-for and beloved place for any book celebrating food in my home. It’s full of recipes to better your own connection to food, but also ones that are special enough (and still accessible) to bring your people together for real nourishment.
I’ve always trusted Amy’s voice on her blog. Her work and style makes perfect sense on a different level of awareness. I love when a book lies at a very particular intersection, the one that joins beauty/inspiration, practicality, and knowledge/curiosity. This is a vegetarian cookbook that I will refer to for the rest of my life. There are breakdowns of pantry staples, recipes you can make from those staples, whole meals, salads, desserts (with a particularly gorgeous section on tarts), but also notes on tea and cleansing. It’s a vision of healthy living that is complete, accessible and inspiring.
I made the kabocha and roasted chestnut soup since we’re deep into the season for all of those things. The ingredient list is pretty minimal, which I love. Just buttery roasted chestnuts enhancing the sweetness of the squash and a little finish of tamari to keep it perfectly savoury. We had it with some potato and herb focaccia for dinner the other night. Just right, but especially good because of the crunchy “leaves” on top. I love a whimsical and seasonal touch that evokes the goings-on of the outdoors in my food. It’s all about connection.
KABOCHA SQUASH AND ROASTED CHESTNUT SOUP WITH KALE SESAME “LEAVES”
Print the recipe here!
from Amy Chaplin’s At Home In The Whole Food Kitchen
NOTES: Amy’s original recipe calls for sheets of nori seaweed brushed with a mirin + sesame oil mixture brushed on top for the “leaves.” I only used kale because in the midst of throwing this together, I realized that I didn’t have any nori! Anyway if you have nori, you can tear the sheets into pieces and brush them with a mix of the following: 2 tsp olive oil, 2 tsp mirin + 1 tsp sesame oil. Sprinkle the nori with sesame seeds and bake in a 300 degree F oven for 8 minutes, rotating the sheet pan halfway through.
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, choped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp sea salt + more to taste
1 medium kabocha squash, peeled, seeded + cut into 3/4 inch dice
2 cups roasted + peeled chestnuts (method described below–you’ll need roughly 1 pound)
7 cups filtered water
1 large sage sprig
3 bay leaves
2 tsp tamari
ground black pepper
kale sesame “leaves” ingredients:
1 small bunch of lacinato kale
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp maple syrup
salt + pepper
small handful sesame seeds
First, prepare the chestnuts. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Place the chestnuts flat side down on the cutting board. With a serrated knife, cut a little slit into the top of each one. Place the cut chestnuts into a medium sauce pan and cover them with filtered water. Bring them to a boil and then drain. Transfer drained chestnuts to a sheet pan and roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until shells are coming away from the innards. Once cool enough to handle, peel chestnuts and set aside, discarding the shells.
Lower the oven heat to 400 degrees F. Wipe out the sheet pan used for the chestnuts. Tear kale leaves into slightly larger than bite-size pieces. Drizzle them with the olive oil and maple syrup and season with salt and pepper. Toss and massage the leaves until they are thoroughly coated. Arrange them in a single layer and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Slide the tray into the oven and bake for about 7-8 minutes, or until the kale has crisped and curled up just a little bit (these burn so fast, so be careful). Remove the kale leaves from the oven and allow to cool.
Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until quite soft, about 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic and stir, cooking for about 30 seconds or until fragrant. To the pot, add the salt, squash, chestnuts, water, sage, and bay leaves. Place a lid on the pot and bring to a boil. Simmer until the squash is tender, about 20 minutes. Purée the soup in batches in a blender and return to the large pot. Add tamari, salt, and pepper to taste. Serve hot with kale sesame leaves.