Locavore Lore: Perfect pumpkins
“Your mom’s name is what?”
“No, really, what is her real name?”
“No way! What is her middle name, Seed?”
“Well, actually …”
It’s true. My mom’s name is Pumpkin, middle name Seed. Despite my mama’s funny name, I do love her namesake — both of them.
Most cooks reach for canned pumpkin when a recipe calls for it. That’s understandable because it’s quick and easy. While cooking pumpkin may be intimidating for many aspiring cooks, they are not much more difficult than baking a potato. Simply cut the pumpkin in half, scoop the seeds and strings (save the seeds if you want to toast them, recipe below), and place cut side down on a baking sheet with a cup of water poured around it. Bake at 375 until tender, and simply scoop out the flesh and discard the skin. If a recipe calls for puree, simply mash or puree the flesh. Tah-dah!
One of my favorite fall dishes is a pumpkin pozole soup, with the most adorable little serving vessel you’ve ever seen — a pumpkin. It can also be made in two or more smaller pumpkins for individual “bowls.” The stew is quick and hearty, and the end result is much more impressive than the actual time and effort it takes to prepare. The stew is great by itself, but once you add this oh-so-cute serving vessel to the mix, it’s almost too much — in a good way.
The disposable serving container is perfect to bring to a potluck, and you’d have the most impressive dish at the party for sure.
Pumpkin Pozole served in a pumpkin
• 1 large pumpkin or 1 small pumpkin for each guest
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 medium onion, diced
• 1 pound boneless skinless chicken, cut into 1-inch pieces
• ½ cup sliced carrots
• 1 cup sliced celery
• 1 cup red bell pepper, diced
• 1 serrano pepper, deseeded and diced
• 4 cups of cooked pumpkin or winter squash
• 3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
• 1 15-oz. can of hominy
• ½ cup of sour cream
• 1/3 cup chopped cilantro, additional for garnish
• 1½ teaspoon sea salt
• 1 teaspoon ground pepper
• 1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes
• 1½ teaspoon chili powder
• ½ teaspoon dried oregano
• 1 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
If serving in a pumpkin, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut around the stem of the pumpkin to make a cover that lifts off. Scoop out strings. Spray or drizzle the inside of the pumpkin with olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Bake pumpkins and the lids (with the lids off) for around 30 minutes or less, depending on the size of the pumpkin you select. You want the pumpkin to be tender on the inside, but this is your “bowl,” so you don’t want it to fall apart.
Heat a dutch oven or large saucepan over medium high heat and add oil. When hot, add chicken, onion, carrot and celery. Cook about five minutes until chicken is no longer pink, and add bell pepper and serrano pepper. Cook for an additional three minutes, and stir in all remaining ingredients except cilantro. Cover and reduce heat, simmering for 10 minutes. Add cilantro and simmer for an additional five minutes before serving. If serving in a pumpkin, ladle the stew into the pumpkin and garnish.
I recommend serving it with shredded cheese and hot sauce.
One of the great things about roasting whole pumpkins is that you can toast the seeds, making the majority of this delicacy edible. It is also worth noting that you can roast the seeds of other winter squashes like kabocha and butternut.
To toast, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Separate the strings and flesh from the seeds. Rinse the seeds with water and get them as clean as possible. Towel dry the seeds and place in a bowl. Toss with a tablespoon of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Bake for 15 minutes and let the seeds cool before eating. The possibilities for seasoning are endless. For a sweet variation, combine a tablespoon of brown sugar with several dashes of cinnamon and a pinch of salt.
Kale and Pumpkin Salad
• 8 oz. of kale leaves, chopped and de-stemmed
• ¼ cup shredded carrots
• ¼ cup shredded red cabbage
• ¼ cup rice vinegar
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
• ¼ cup honey
• ½ teaspoon each, salt and pepper
• 3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
• ½ of a sugar pumpkin or kabocha squash
• 1 tablespoon of butter
• Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375. In a bowl, combine the kale, carrots and cabbage. In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, oil, salt and pepper, and honey. Combine the dressing with the salad and let sit for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, place pumpkin face down in water on a baking sheet and bake until tender but not mushy, about 20-30 minutes. Remove skin and cube pumpkin, tossing with butter; salt and pepper to taste. Combine pumpkin cubes with the salad and toss with toasted sesame seeds.