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. 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.
I’ve had Amy Chaplin’s 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 ripped the box open on my porch and flipped through it right there. First it sat on my coffee table, readily available for browsing while I caught up with the news. It sat on my desk in the office as a relevant distraction while I edited photos or worked on other projects. Now, it has a permanent home in my kitchen bookshelf. It’s full of recipes to better your own connection to food, but also ones that are special enough to bring your people together for 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, and desserts. It’s a vision of healthy living that is complete, accessible and inspiring.
I made the kabocha and chestnut soup since we’re in the season for 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!
More soup inspiration to be had here, and another great recipe (smoky stewed white beans and greens) from Amy’s latest cookbook can be found here.
Kabocha Squash and Chestnut Soup with Kale Sesame Crisps
- 1 lb chestnuts
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
- 1 medium kabocha squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 3/4 inch pieces
- 7 cups filtered water
- 1 large sage sprig
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 teaspoons gluten-free tamari soy sauce
- ground black pepper, to taste
Kale Sesame Crisps
- 1 small bunch lacinato kale
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup
- sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
- From Amy Chaplin’s At Home In The Whole Food Kitchen
- 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 F oven for 8 minutes, rotating the sheet pan halfway through.
- Preheat your oven to 425°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°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. Remove the kale crisps 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. Carefully purée the soup in batches in a blender, and then return the blended soup to the large pot. Add tamari, salt, and pepper to taste. Bring the blended soup back up to a boil. Serve hot with kale sesame leaves