Sunday, November 16, 2008

pumpkin 101: roast it, toast it, puree it and parlay it

pumpkins: the harbinger of fall. you can cook them into pies, carve them into jack-o’-lanterns, toast their seeds and smash them on your neighbor's lawn. most pumpkins you see around this time of year are of the ornamental variety, genetically engineered to grow to gargantuan proportions; these are ideal for carving and smashing. smaller, "sugar pumpkins", are what you will need to seek out if you intend on eating this festive fruit.

pumpkins can be prepared a number of different ways, however, roasting them really intesifies their earthy sweetness. with the addition of some cream and spices, roasted pumpkin can easily be transformed into a delicious pumpkin puree that can be used in many sweet applications such as pumpkin pie. YOU'LL NEVER BUY THE CANNED STUFF AGAIN!!

Pumpkin Rice Pudding
yield 1-2 qt

1 cup arborio rice
2 cups water
3 cups whole milk
3/4 cups light brown sugar
nutmeg and cinnamon to taste
1-2 cups pumpkin puree
2 egg yolks
2 TBS whole butter

1. par-cook rice: bring 2 cups of water to a boil, add rice. bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. cover and simmer on low for 15-20 mins or until the water has been fully absorbed. this can be prepared 30 mins to 1 hr ahead of time, but fresher is bester - you know that.

2. combine milk, brown sugar, nutmeg and 1-2 whole cinnamon sticks in a small sauce pot. bring to one boil, kill the heat and pour milk mixture over the par-cooked rice.

3. bring milk-rice mixture to a quick boil, reduce to a simmer and cook UNCOVERED for 20-35 minutes. the pudding will begin to thicken, add pumpkin puree, one cup at a time until desire flavor is achieved. continue to simmer until desired consistency is reach.

4. once pudding has thickened to your liking, KILL THE HEAT. add the beaten egg yolks and whole butter. the residual heat will melt the butter and cook the egg so you don't get the salmonella. make sure the pudding is as thick as you want it to be because you can't cook it any further. DO NOT PUT BACK ON HEAT, IT WILL CURDLE!

5. allow pudding to sit 15-20 minutes. you can serve it warm, but i think it's best after spending the night in the fridge. you're call.

Roasted Pumpkin Puree
yield 1-2 qt

1 ripe sugar pumpkin
olive oil, as needed
1-2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4-1-/2 cup whole milk
salt as needed

-- preheat oven to 400.

1. cut pumpkin in half, scoop out innards. save the seeds so you can toast them later.

2. rub pumpkin halves with olive oil, inside and out, all over that sum'bitch. season liberally with salt, once again, all over that sum'bitch. place seasoned pumpkin on a parchment or foil-lined sheet tray, CUT SIDE DOWN. bake until the flesh gives little-to-no resistance to a knife poke.

3. allow pumpkin to cool slightly, but not too long; it will be easier to remove the flesh from the skin while the pumpkin is still well heated. remove flesh from the skin, the skin should peel away easily enough. try scooping it out with a spoon. get as much out as you can!

4. scoop pumpkin flesh in a blender or food processor, season with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt. add enough milk to get things moving. WORK IN BATCHES! -- don't over crowd your food processor, you will not get optimal results and it might explode hot puree all over your face. not cool.

5. adjust seasoning to taste. this recipe is a good start, but it lends itself to modification, add more or less of any ingredient to better suit your taste. consider adding brown sugar or some butter, it's up to you. you can use this puree whenever a pumpkin recipe calls for the canned stuff. i guarantee this is better. freezes well for up to 2 months.

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
yield 1 pt

pumpkin seeds from one medium-large sugar pumpkin (about 2 cups), rinsed and picked through
1-2 tsp olive oil
salt to taste
optional seasonings

-- preheat oven to 375.

1. scoop the stringy, seedy innards out of your pumpkin and place into a work bowl. pick through the seeds to remove most of the stringy pumpkin guts ( a little left over is OKAY). rinse seeds in a colander to help move this process along.

2. put seeds in a small pot with enough water to cover by 2 inches. salt to taste. bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer for 10 minutes. drain in a colander and allow to dry. try spreading the seeds out on a flat, paper towel lined surface, they will dry much faster this way.

3. toss seeds with olive oil and 1/2 tsp of salt in a work bowl. spread seeds out onto a parchment or foil-lined sheet pan and bake in oven until golden brown and toasty, about 15-25 minutes.

4. season seeds with a little more salt while they are still hot. experiment with other flavors, try garlic powder, some goya stuff or old bay. allow to cool and eat by the greedy handful.

© 2008 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -