Monday, November 15, 2010

UnRecipe: The (Tastes) Great Pumpkin

Pumpkins. They're not just for pies. Well, duh, of course you know that. They're for carving funny faces in. When smashed, they can inspire 90's indie band name titles. They're also nifty-keen for soups, stews and chili. To help inspire minds already clicking away on Thanksgiving plans, here's some non-dessert uses for our squashy friend, reminding us that The Great Pumpkin isn't just great, he's DELICIOUS.

Hey, there, Pumpkin! - Photo by Wasabi Prime

For those fans of the Peanuts Gang, I apologize to Linus Van Pelt for taking his sacred All Hallows Eve cow, hacking it in twain and roasting the bejeebers out of it. But you can't get a tasty roasted pumpkin without doing all that stuff. My journey to give Peter-Peter Pumpkin-Eater a run for his money started out at the grocery store when I saw a sign that priced small pumpkins at $1.99 a pop. Not per pound, per pumpkin, which was pretty good, since butternut squash was priced that amount by weight. Granted, these weren't sugar pumpkins, the creamier-textured pie-friendly varieties. These were basically destined to be mini jack-o-lanterns, but I hate to see produce go to waste, so I bought three of them and set to work on incorporating them into food.

Pumpkin soup with a unique flavor twist - Photo by Wasabi Prime 

Despite their small size, these little guys were stringy buggers. The flesh was compact and definitely more tough than the pumpkins you'd use for pies. But that didn't make them any less edible. Once split, seeded and roasted in the oven till fork-tender, it still had that lightly sweet, fragrant scent that pumpkins have when cooked. Mild in flavor, it becomes a bit like a potato, able to play with a variety of seasonings. Blended smooth in a food processor or blender, it's great for soups. I made my version of pumpkin soup with creamy coconut milk, enhancing the pleasant sweetness of the squash. Adding a few different spices like cardamom, chili powder and nutmeg, it had more of a Southeast Asian flavor to it, versus the typical mild pumpkin soup. I reserved the seeds, dried them out, and roasted with chili powder to make them into a crunchy topping.

For my next trick, I will make a pumpkin disappear into this chili! - Photo by Wasabi Prime

This blog should be renamed as 101 Ways to Eat Chili. It's true, I make it a lot. Just call it the comfy pair of sweatpants and baggy sweater you always throw on after a long day at work -- it's always a good fit. The latest batch of chili ended up getting half a roasted pumpkin mixed in. The soft chunks of the roasted squash sort of melted into the chili and made for a great thickener. You don't really notice the flavor but it adds a nice, rich texture to the chili. I did the same to a chicken curry I made that week and it made the sauce pleasantly thick, plus gave it a pretty orange hue.

I still have a few more pumpkins left from the squash shopping spree. Another nice thing about thick-skinned squash is their shelf life. As long as the skin isn't pierced and no bruising, they can just hang out on your counter for quite a long time. Ultimately, the remainder of the pumpkins will be roasted down and have their mushy goodness frozen for future uses, as I haven't decided on the specifics of how I'll use them. But I'm already envisioning breads and cakes, or a rich, creamy mushroom and pumpkin lasagne.Stay tuned, I'm sure Pumpkin 2: Electric Boogaloo will be a sequel worth blogging about.

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1 comment:

  1. hello fellow pumpkin lover (and possible fellow smashing pumpkins fan?), great post! i also think pumpkins are underrated and the true underdog of the fruit family. check out my blog post about pumpkins:


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