While cooking, listen to this: Gemini - Alabama Shakes

My partner and I run on completely opposite schedules. I wake up at around 7:00 each morning to get ready for work and ease into my day, while he stays burritoed for a few more hours. By the time I get home from work, anywhere from 7:15 to 9:00 or later, he’s already well on his way to a gig. Once he’s home, I’m the burritoed one.

Now that we live together we see each other a bit more than we used to, but not by much. What to do? Stuff a week’s worth of dates into one Sunday. Normal!

The basic formula thus far has been vegan spot for brunch + low-key activity in the city. Two weeks ago we did Peacefood (they have VEGAN CHICKEN AND WAFFLES HELLO) and Strand. This week, we went to Quantum Leap for the first time and then popped over to a board game cafe, figuring it would be a fairly quiet spot to hang out for a while and play chess or something.

I know I’m still in my relative youth, and that my ears are fine, but this place was LOUD. Not like, an unassuming buzzing din that you can ignore once you focus on something else. It was so loud that I actually couldn’t hear myself think. And my thoughts are very loud! We realized we needed to leave when we couldn’t figure out how to play a game, not because we’re incompetent or slow, but because it was so loud we couldn’t read the instructions. Like could not see the words on the page and comprehend them. That was our cue to leave.

Which is a shame, because this place is awesome, but we realized that day that we are the play-games-at-home-with-tea-and-music kind of people. Living in New York is an amazing experience but it is also a LOUD experience, so giving our ears a break is crucial.


So the plan now is to buy like, seven games and play them at our apartment in sweatpants, listening to music or podcasts or absolutely nothing. I love the brunch spots we hit up weekly, but the perfect addition I can think of to a lazy board game Sunday is staying at home making a giant pot of this pumpkin leek soup with some grilled cheese croutons.

And maybe some wine.

Definitely wine.

Don’t act surprised.

This soup is the edible embodiment of the word “autumnal.” It’s creamy, comforting and full of fall flavor with roasted pumpkin and caramelized leeks. Topped with grilled cheese croutons (YEP), it’s the perfect comfort food for a day spent playing games and ignoring other people.

Sounds like the ideal day to me.

Love and meows, Rina


Yield: 4-6 servings

Active Time: 25m | Inactive Time: 1h

Category: Soup, Fall, Winter

Source: slightly adapted from The New York Times

Special Equipment: pastry brush, high-speed blender/food processor/immersion blender



2 medium leeks

1 Tablespoon butter

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 Tablespoon butter OR olive oil (chef’s choice)


1 4-pound sugar pie pumpkin

2 Tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste


2 garlic cloves, minced

3 cups vegetable broth

1 cup milk of choice or half-and-half

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 Tablespoons minced chives, to garnish

grilled cheese croutons:

4 slices bread of choice

Cheese of choice, in any amount you like (we went with cheddar and a nice few slices per sandwich)

1-2 Tablespoons butter


Prep: Preheat the oven to 425 and spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.

Clean the leeks: cut off the root end and the dark green, fibrous leaves of the leeks, so that you’re left with the white and light green part. Slice in half lengthwise, then slice into small half-moons. Fill a large baking dish with cold water and add the leek slices. Swish in the water to clean (leeks are DIRTY they literally grow out of sand), then scoop the leeks out and place them in a bowl. Dump the water.

Saute the leeks: in a large saute pan add the butter and olive oil and place on VERY low heat. When the butter is melted, add the leeks, give a good stir and leave alone. Stir every 10 minutes or so to make sure they aren’t sticking. Cook until soft and starting to turn a light golden brown.

Prepare and roast the pumpkin: Cut the pumpkin in half with a big, sharp knife. Scoop out the seeds and strings with a spoon (roast them for a snack!) and cut each half again to get quarters. Brush olive oil onto each quarter, season with salt and pepper and place cut-side down onto the prepared baking tray. Roast for 35 minutes, or until the pumpkin is easily pierceable with a fork. Allow to cool slightly, then peel off the skin.

Finish the soup: add the sauteed leeks, roasted pumpkin, garlic, vegetable broth, milk/half-and-half, salt and pepper to a large soup pot. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes or so to bring all the flavors together. Immersion blend, or do 1-2 batches in a food processor or blender.

Make the grilled cheese: add the butter to a saute pan and place on low heat. When melted, add 1 slice of bread, the cheese, then another slice (super complicated, I know). Cover with a lid or a large plate and cook until deeply golden brown on one side, about 2-3 minutes. Flip and cook for another 2 minutes or so, or until the other side is golden brown as well. Allow to cool slightly, then cut into 1-inch squares.

Assemble! pour the soup into bowls, garnish with the grilled cheese croutons and the minced chives and GET IN THERE.

To keep: the soup can be kept for a few days, or freeze for up to 3 months. Make the grilled cheese right before you serve the soup.