Cardamom-laced Pear Crisp is a Swedish-inspired delight to serve for dessert or breakfast. Karen Schneider / For The Forecaster

This is the time of year when I start preparing my favorite cold-weather foods and African Peanut Soup is one of my top favorites. Aromatic and healthy, this vegan recipe is a standout that will warm you up on even the coldest days to come.

Adjust the spices to your liking and serve with the cauliflower salad that is also inspired by African flavors. This soup goes together quickly, and most of the ingredients can be kept in your pantry so you can make it on a whim.

Karen Schneider cooks and writes in the village of Cundy’s Harbor. You can reach her at [email protected]

This is also the time of year when I keep a kitchen garden going in pots perched on the sunny windowsill. Cilantro, jalapeños, parsley, basil, chives and thyme are at the ready to be snipped and added to a simmering soup or other main dish.

This autumn salad tastes best when it’s made a day ahead then served at room temperature. This gives the dressing time to sink in. To blanch the cauliflower, bring a large pot of water to a boil then dunk in the head of cauliflower, allowing it to cook for two minutes. Lift the cauliflower from the hot water with a slotted spoon then immediately plunge it into a bowl of ice water.

I have one word for this pear crisp: heavenly. It may go against your instincts to add only cardamom (I used 2 teaspoons) to the fruit, but trust me. You can save the cinnamon and nutmeg for another day. The addition of oil to the topping makes it extra crispy.

I have to say, I have made hundreds of batches of fruit crisp in my lifetime, and this recipe is one of the best ever. You’ll want to have a plan in place for sharing this or you will eat the whole pan of crisp by yourself and not be sorry.

African Peanut Soup

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium sweet onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeño, seeded if desired and diced (optional)
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, including juice
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 cups vegetable broth
1/3 cup natural peanut butter
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 handfuls baby spinach, julienned
Fresh cilantro, for garnish
Roasted peanuts, for garnish

In a stock pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté for about 5 minutes or until the onion is translucent. Add bell pepper, jalapeño, sweet potato and tomatoes. Raise the heat to medium-high and simmer for 5 minutes more. Season vegetables with salt and black pepper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together peanut butter and 1 cup vegetable broth until no clumps remain. Stir into the vegetables along with the remaining 3 cups of broth, chili powder and cayenne. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 10-20 minutes or until the sweet potato is fork-tender. Stir in chickpeas and spinach and cook until leaves are wilted. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Ladle into bowls and garnish with cilantro and roasted peanuts. Yield: 6 servings

Chopped Cauliflower Salad

1 large head blanched cauliflower, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small red onion, chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Juice of 1 lemon

Heat oil and sauté onion and garlic until soft. Stir in cumin, coriander and cinnamon, then season with salt and pepper. Stir in lemon juice and turn off the heat. Toss cauliflower with warm dressing and adjust seasonings if needed. Yield: 4 servings

Pear Crisp with Cardamom

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) softened butter
2 tablespoons canola oil
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 cup oats
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
Pinch of salt
3 pounds firm pears, apples or a combination, peeled, cored and sliced
1-2 teaspoons ground cardamom
Heavy cream or vanilla ice cream for serving

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square or round baking dish. Combine butter, oil and sugar with a fork. Stir in nuts, lemon juice, oats, flour and salt until combined and crumbly.

Place fruit in prepared baking dish, sprinkle with cardamom and toss. Crumble the topping over all. Bake until the filling is bubbly and the crust is browned, 30-45 minutes. Serve warm with heavy cream or ice cream. Yield: 6 servings

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