Pumpkin Soup

3 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
1/2 tart apple, such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 cups canned pumpkin puree (from one 29-ounce can)
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon dried sage
1 bay leaf
3 1/2 cups water
2 1/2 cups canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
1 1/2-pound piece of ham, cut into 1/4-inch dice

In a large pot, melt the butter over moderate heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and apple and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the pumpkin puree, wine, sage, and bay leaf. Add the water, broth, salt, and pepper and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 15 minutes. Add the ham and simmer, uncovered, until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes longer. Remove the bay leaf.

Stir-Fried Green Beans with Ginger

2 to 3 Tbsp canola or other high smoke point oil
1/2 pound to 3/4 pound of fresh, tender, crisp green beans, cut into 1 1/2 to 2 inch pieces
1 small yellow or white onion, sliced root to stem (see how to slice an onion), about 1 cup of sliced onion
1 ounce of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks (see how to peel and cut ginger)
1 large garlic clove, sliced very thin
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp sugar
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
A generous pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Heat a wok or large frying pan over high heat on the hottest burner you have for about 90 seconds. Add the vegetable oil and let it heat up until shimmery. (Toss a sliver of onion into the oil when you think it’s hot. If the oil is hot enough, the onion will sizzle.)

Add the cut green beans, sliced onions and julienned ginger and toss to combine. Break up any clumps of sliced onion that might have stuck together. Spread everything out in the pan and let it sear untouched for anywhere from 30-90 seconds, you want to get a little browning on the vegetables. Stir the vegetables and let sit for another 30-90 seconds. Add the sliced garlic, stir again and cook for another minute.

Mix the soy sauce and sugar together and pour into the pan. Turn off the heat and immediately toss the vegetables to combine. The sauce will start to caramelize and may burn unless you keep everything moving for a few seconds. Pour the sesame oil over the green beans and onions and sprinkle with black pepper. Toss to combine one more time. Serve immediately or let rest and serve at room temperature. The beans should still be somewhat crisp. They will cook a little more in the residual heat of the pan or serving dish.

Yield: Serves 3-4 as a side dish.