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Whenever APPCA founder and executive director Candy Wallace and I have planning meetings, I get the benefit of her being a superb chef. She always prepares a dynamite lunch for us that makes me feel utterly spoiled. When I stepped inside the house at our most recent meeting she didn’t even have to announce that lunch was almost ready. There was the sublime aroma of beef stewing in something wonderful. I couldn’t put my finger on just what it was but as soon as Candy told me it was pumpkin pie spice, I smiled and started salivating. This was going to be good.

She had a big pot of what could be called either stew or chile on the stove simmering, with warmed cornbread muffins and a vibrantly colored kale salad on the table. If you’ve been to one of her Personal Chef Seminars you’ve enjoyed a meal or two around this table, too.

So, what’s so special about this stew? First, of course, is the fragrant pumpkin pie spice that she blends with cumin, chili powder, and oregano. If you buy pumpkin pie spice and have been frustrated that it only seems to have that one use for one holiday, Candy demonstrates with this stew that that’s a very narrow view. Cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, and ginger all marry beautifully with meats–and this combo is all that pumpkin pie spice is. So, use it for braising, for stews, in marinades. And, use it with poultry and other winter squashes and vegetables, too. It will add an intriguing sweetness to an otherwise savory dish.

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Second–and, of course, this is related to the pumpkin pie spice–Candy adds butternut squash cubes. So, you get the gentle sweetness and creamy texture of the cooked squash with the meat.

Finally, there’s the texture, not only from the cubes of beef tips and squash cubes, but also from the addition of ground beef and masa. It thickens the stew and gives it some heft–something welcome on a chilly afternoon or evening. (Now, as chefs you know that you can easily substitute beef for pork or even poultry to satisfy other tastes or just riff on the concept.) It’s a great dish to add to your client repertoire since it freezes beautifully.

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Candy says this dish sounds crazy, but tastes heavenly. I’ve enjoyed it, so I know she’s right!

SQUASH, BEEF, and PUMPKIN PIE SPICE STEW

6-8 Servings

Measure and divide into 2 prep cups and set aside:

1 Tbsp ground cumin
1Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

For the stewpot:

Olive oil to brown
1 to 1 ½ lbs cubed beef tips
1 cup chopped onion
1 chopped/seeded red bell pepper
2 Tbsp minced garlic
3 Tbsp tomato paste
3 Tbsp El Pato Salsa de Chile Fresco (small yellow can)
1 ½ lb ground beef
1 Tbsp masa
1 ½ cups beef stock
1 ½ cups red table wine
1 peeled, seeded, cubed butternut squash
2-3 Tbsp light brown sugar
2 large cinnamon sticks
Salt & pepper to taste
Sear beef cubes in hot oil in stewpot over high heat and broadcast contents of 1 prep cup of spice mixture over top. Stir occasionally for approximately 5 minutes until beef is browned on all sides. Remove cubes and set aside. You will not be able to drain fat from pot once it combines with spice mixture which becomes paste like consistency. Reduce heat, add next 5 ingredients, stirring until softened, fragrant, and red in color, approximately 8 to 10 minutes.

Add ground beef and broadcast contents of prep cup spice mix #2 overtop. Stir occasionally until browned.
Stir in the remainder of ingredients and bring to a boil, reducing heat to low simmer till thickened by cornmeal and tenderizing squash and beef tips. Simmer approximately 45 minutes.

Remove cinnamon sticks.

Cooling and refrigerating the stew overnight makes it possible to skim the fat from the top of the dish and allow flavors to develop before heating, adjusting for necessary salt and pepper and serving.

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Do you use pumpkin pie spice in novel ways? Inspire us with the dishes you’re making with it!

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

Simple Soup for a Group

Filed under: Recipes , Tags: , , — Author: Caron Golden , November 3, 2014

Halloween 2014

Anyone can make a Halloween party festive–but how about the next day when the neighborhood is taking down the decorations? Well, our little street in central San Diego is Halloween crazy! We love to go overboard for our trick or treaters. It takes a lot of effort to make sure every possible realistic creepy crawly bug, warty witch’s nose, and fake bloody appendage is artfully displayed. It’s a ghoulish feast for the eyes. That’s the fun part. But, as everyone knows, the clean up is always a drag.

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Even Julia enjoys a good ghoul!

So, I thought it would be fun on that chilly weekend to make a pot of soup that I could share with my friends on the block who were wearily packing up random pumpkins and spider webs, talking skulls, and tired ghosts. And what better soup than a creamy butternut squash soup? It’s easy to make, irresistibly tasty, and very healthy. I especially enjoy the nice touch of acid from the Granny Smith apples I add to balance the sweetness of the squash. And the squash itself, with its smooth skin, is much easier to work with (as in peel) than ribbed pumpkins.

Soup

This a great soup for families, of course. Perfect for the personal chef who has soup-loving clients. You can make it vegetarian by substituting vegetable stock for the chicken stock. And, here’s a quick tip for you to expedite the vegetables softening: chop them into small, 1/2-inch pieces.

Simple Soup for a Group

Serves 10 to 12

Ingredients
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium yellow onions, fine chopped
2 celery ribs, fine chopped
2 carrots, fine chopped
2 butternut squash, peeled, chopped, and seeded
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, chopped
6 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup minced chives for garnish
Smoked paprika for garnish

prep

Heat a large soup pot to medium high. Melt the butter and add the mirepoix (the onions, celery, and carrots). Stir and saute for five to seven minutes or until the vegetables are softened and the onions opaque. Do not allow them to brown.

Stir in the squash, apples, chicken stock, and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes until all the vegetables are soft.

Making the Soup

Puree the soup in a blender or Vitamix (let cool first) or immediately with an immersion blender until smooth.

Pureeing soup

Stir in seasonings. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Adding the spices

To serve, stir in a dollop of sour cream or heavy whipping cream, and garnish with minced chives and a sprinkling of smoked paprika for an added dash of flavor.

Serving the soup

Serve with a tossed salad, cheese and fruit board, and a crisp Chardonnay.

What’s your favorite cold weather soup to make for clients (or yourself)?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

 

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