As I have been writing every year, I’ve always loved Thanksgiving as the ultimate American holiday, yet one where, just like in Greece, food and family and friends are in the spotlight. Thanksgiving reminds me that all is not a given and that we should be thankful for the good things that come our way, big and small. That feeling couldn't be more timely during a pandemic that has cost so many lives worldwide. Those of us that stayed healthy during this crazy year do have a lot to be thankful for.
For the first time since we came to the US so many years ago, there will only be four of us around the table. Not all of our children will come home, as is happening with so many families, and our extended family of good friends, with whom we used to always celebrate together, will also be celebrating with just their immediate families...no wonder it's hard to find a small turkey these days!
I'll miss the noise and laughter around a big dining room table, full of so many different dishes. Our friends who would join us are other Europeans and Latin Americans in Cincinnati and we would always celebrate Thanksgiving with alternative menus. Each one of us would bring a "traditional" Thanksgiving dish but with a twist inspired by their country of origin. We all loved this rich culinary tradition and I wanted to keep it up this year, even if we weren't all going to be together. I had been scratching my head to find that something special and then decided to experiment with two of Sparoza's products that have a warm, wintery flavor.
I've often written about one of my favorite winter ingredients being Sparoza's handcrafted Cooking Blend with Spices & Orange Zest that I use in everything from cakes to roasted vegetables and soups (try my sweet potato and carrrot soup recipe that I shared in the past). My newest favorite is Sparoza's Shaman tea, with its strong and exciting flavor that makes the best ever homemade chai latte (Sparoza founder Efi Ekmezoglou shares her recipe in the tin). I happened to come across a recipe for a tea-scented soup and I was sold on the idea of trying Shaman tea with pumpkin....it seemed like such a no-brainer for Thanksgiving! With a delicate scent of of cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and ginger, yet the tough of black tea, I was sure this would fit the bill for something different on our small Thanksgiving table.
Try the recipe below. You can drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil (Philippos' organic EVOO has a second spout that's perfect for finishing dishes), add some toasted pumpkin seeds, or if you're feeling really indulgent, whip up some heavy cream to top off your soup for an even richer experience!
1 butternut squash
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cups of broth or water
1-2 tsp Shaman tea leaves
Salt and pepper
Cut the butternut squash in 1" cubes.
Chop the onion and the garlic.
In a large pan, warm the olive oil on medium-high heat and sauté the onion for 2-3 minutes until translucent and soft. Add the garlic and stir for about a minute. Add the squash and sauté for another minute. Cover with the broth or water, so that the squash is just barely covered with the liquid. Add some salt, bring to a boil and then reduce to medium, letting the soup simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes or until the pumpkin is soft.
While waiting for the squash to cook, brew a strong cup of the Shaman tea by steeping a heaping teaspoon of leaves in a cup of boiling water. Let it steep for at least 5". If you'd like an even stronger flavor, steep two teaspoons of tea.
When your vegetables are cooked, use an immersion blender or food processor to puree the mix, adding half of the tea. Add part of or all of the rest of the tea, depending on the texture and taste you want and serve.
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