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The Deluge and Pumpkin Dumplings

NY1 visits our October fundraiser.

It’s been quite a few weeks here in the New York area. It started with NY1 coming out to film our fundraiser, pictured above. Next, New York was hit by a devastating hurricane. And now, in the weeks that follow communities still struggle post-storm to get their lives back to– if not normal, at least a routine. I’ve been volunteering and donating where I can, and tweaking recipes in hopes to bring a little bit of nourishing comfort to those I teach.

Most of my after-school students live in Chinatown and Battery Park City, two areas hit hard by Hurricane Sandy. Both neighborhoods saw widespread power outages, flooding, and storm-related damages. Public schools across NYC were closed the entire week post-storm. Early last week as power was (mostly) slowly restored and (most) subways reestablished operation, my school re-opened and I finally headed back to work. The subways downtown smelled pungently sterile from an excess of cleaning products. On the streets, buildings were still pumping water from flooded basements, and tree pits sighed from over-saturation. The school I teach in this year was lucky. No power loss. No flooding. No damage. My students had their own windy and watery adventures to share, some still without power, but all of us happy to see each other safe. Sadly, the community center I taught in the past three years, just a few blocks from the school, saw extensive flooding and damage with estimated rebuilding costs between 1.3 to 2.5 million dollars. The kitchen I helped build up– in a sub-basement, was filled with water floor to ceiling. The pool received damage, as did a ceramics and art room, toddler play area, teen lounge, and more. Devastating.

To help us all rebuild internally, I thought a little chicken soup was in order for my students– with pumpkin dumplings. Because cloud-like dumplings bobbing in soup is far more comforting than squiggly wormy noodles, in my humble opinion.

So there we are, chopping our carrots and celery. We’re mixing our dumpling batter and I request a student to come forward and add water into the pot when it happens.

A flooding.

The filled 2-cup container is apparently too much to lift aloft to reach the pot. Or perhaps this little kindergartner is farsighted– or has no depth of field– because she did manage to actually lift the container. She just poured the whole of its contents outside the pot rather than inside. All over our electric burner. All over the brand new supply of paper products. All over my shoes on this 40 degree and dropping day. All over her pants.

She looks up at me smiling: “oops.”

We try again getting maybe half in the pot this time: “heh, oops.”

Maybe that’s what the weather in New York is saying to us. From hurricane, to nor’easter to now 60 degree days. There are still people without power, homes destroyed, lives, beaches, and businesses are in ruins. Perhaps it’s the weather’s way of sharing with us a big “oops” of misunderstanding– missed water reaching into spaces it doesn’t belong.

People have been asking me for this recipe. At after-school, we made chicken soup with pumpkin dumplings. In my ESOL and GED classes I’ve been pumping this recipe a little more savory, a little more on the stew side, with the addition of kale and chickpeas. It was this latter rendition that received the highest complement from a teen: “Damn, Ms. Stacey, this shit is mad good.” [I love that we can use those terms in the same sentence to mean something positive.]

A combination of the two would be great– and that’s how I wrote it here.

If you’re wondering about that fundraiser, there will be more. One a month to be exact with a free cooking class to kick each one off. As we raise money more classes will be posted, so hold tight. You can read more about it on the What’s New page.

Kale-Garbanzo Soup with Pumpkin Dumplings
Serves 4
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1-2 hot chile peppers (optional), chopped
1 bunch kale, chopped
1 cup garbanzo beans (chickpeas), cooked
1/2 cup tomato sauce
2 quarts chicken or vegetable stock (homemade or low-sodium)
salt, to taste

Dumplings:
1 egg
1/2 cup pumpkin, cooked and pureed
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 pinches salt
pinch of cinnamon

Prep vegetables: mince garlic, chop carrots, celery, onion, chile and kale. Warm a wide stock pot over medium-high heat, add olive oil. Add garlic, carrots, celery, onion, and chile, sauté 5 minutes to soften. Add kale, garbanzo beans, tomato sauce and stock. Cover and bring to a boil, allowing kale to wilt.
While coming to a boil, mix dumpling ingredients in a bowl, evenly combine.
Once soup is boiling, make a well in the center of the vegetables and turn heat to medium. Spoon dumpling batter, about 1 tablespoon at a time, into the pot, leaving a touch of space between dumplings. If you run out of space, newer dumplings can be dropped over older ones just don’t move them around at this point (the dumplings at the top will steam, rather than boil). Cover pot. Cook 15 minutes, until dumplings have doubled in size.

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