Every year, we host the Neighborhood Watch for Halloween. A while back, our neighborhood was plagued by teens who thought egg-throwing was mischief and good fun, but who didn't realize that eggs permanently stain masonry and fabric awnings, and etch the paint on cars. Over 40 dozen eggs (we retrieved the cartons,) or 4 full cases was thrown in a four-block area, and the damage was intense.
Ever since that night, the Neighborhood Watch has worked with the two municipalities that span our neighborhood and with local police to make sure everyone has a safe and fun Halloween. We have a special radio-patrolled watch on that evening. Since Halloween is Dad and Sparky's special night, and I have to stay home to hand out candy - and it falls to me to be the Watch's "home base." Naturally, for me this means putting out a spread.
In past years, I'd put out chili and cheese and crudites - but I found that many of our Watch members were following a more principled diet, and couldn't enjoy what I offered. This year, I resolved to come up with a vegan option (as vegan foods, in general, are accessible to a wider variety of dietary restrictions.)
I happened upon this recipe for a savory vegan pumpkin dip, and realized it was just about two textures away from cream soup. As an added benefit, most of the ingredients seemed food-desert friendly...and off I went!
Now, there are several ways you can replace cream (without making some horrible faux-creme sort of thing) without animal products. The easiest is Almond Cream, or Cashew Cream: simply put the nuts and the same volume of water in a pot, bring it to a boil, allow it to soak for 15 minutes and then blend it in your blender. I add salt and a small amount of olive or vegetable oil to mask the "woody" nut flavor - you'd be surprised how well the result works as a substitute for cooking cream. Rolled oats will work if you have a nut allergy on your hands, but after trying both I found I preferred almonds.
1/2 cup slivered blanched almonds (or oats, or unsalted cashews)
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sage
1/2 of a 15 oz can of pureed pumkin (NOT pumpkin pie mix)
1 cup apple cider
1/2 cup water (additional)
1/4 cup fortified wine like Sherry, Port or Madeira (check and see if vegan wine is important.)
Paprika to garnish if desired.
As described above, put your nuts or oats in a small saucepan, cover with the water, and bring to a boil. Once it's boiling, turn off the heat and allow to soak for 15 minutes, then pour the entire thing into a blender and blend until smooth and fluffy. It will look something like whipped cream cheese (oatmeal will look a bit browner.) You can add a bit of your second 1/2 cup of water if it isn't blending smooth.
Add the pumpkin, salt, sage, apple cider and nut or oatmeal cream to the saucepan, whisk thoroughly and bring up to a light simmer. Reduce the heat and add the fortified wine (I like mine to taste slightly boozy, but if you simmer slightly and boil off most of the alcohol the soup will taste a bit nuttier.)
Serves 4. Enjoy!