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Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012 03:31 pm

Pumpkin, savory

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What comes to mind when you think of eating pumpkin? If you’re like most Americans, your answer will almost certainly be pumpkin pie. Of course there will always be a few nonconformists who’ll vote for pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin muffins or pumpkin milkshakes. But I’ll bet that few, if any, think of pumpkin in savory (as opposed to sweet) dishes.

But pumpkin’s natural hint of sweetness is perfect for fall salads with vinaigrette dressings and/or salty ingredients such as bacon, either in the form of roasted cubes or crunchy raw shavings (I use a vegetable peeler). Pumpkin can be used in other savory ways from risottos to soups to stews.

In some other countries, the situation is reversed: sweet pumpkin desserts are the oddity, while pumpkin is common in savory dishes. In Latin America, the Caribbean and the Philippines, a type of pumpkin known as Calabaza, Caribbean pumpkin or West Indian pumpkin can be grown year-round. It’s commonly found in dishes that pair it with rice or beans – or both – as well as in beef or pork stews.

When my daughter, Ashley, was at university in New Zealand, pumpkin was regularly served in the dining hall as a vegetable side dish. Most often simply cut into cubes and roasted, the next day the leftovers would appear in another guise, such as being combined with diced red peppers, scallions and feta and dressed with a vinaigrette as a salad. The pumpkin eaten most in New Zealand is the variety Jarrahdale. Jarrahdales have the traditional pumpkin shape, but the exterior is a lovely celadon green. Its orange flesh gets rave reviews for its pure pumpkin flavor and velvety texture. In the last few years I’m increasingly seeing Jarrahdales at farmers markets and produce stands.

One year Ashley made Thanksgiving dinner for a group of her friends. (New Zealanders, of course don’t celebrate that most American holiday.) They loved the turkey and dressing and cranberry sauce, but weren’t enthusiastic about the pumpkin pie. “They’d never had pumpkin for dessert,” Ashley says. “They thought it was really weird.”


Savory pumpkin quiche

This quiche is perfect for fall. Though I’ve used various herbs for it, sage is my favorite. If you’d rather make a vegetarian pumpkin quiche, eliminate the bacon and use olive oil for roasting the pumpkin cubes and sautéing the onion.

  • 1 partially baked tart shell, either a 9-inch regular pie pan, 10-12-inch for a thinner tart pan with removable bottom
  • Dijon mustard
  • 3 slices thickly sliced bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 c. pumpkin, cut into approximately 1-inch cubes
  • Olive oil (if not using the bacon)
  • 3/4 c. finely chopped onions OR 1/2 c. onions and 1/4 c. red bell pepper
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 c. half and half
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Freshly ground nutmeg to taste, about half a teaspoon
  • 1 T. minced fresh herbs such as sage leaves, rosemary or thyme, optional
  • 1 c. coarsely grated natural Swiss cheese, such as Gruyere or Emmanthaler

Preheat the oven to 400 Degrees.

Brush the pie shell with the mustard. If there are cracks or holes, make sure that enough mustard gets into the cracks and holes to seal them. If you’d rather not use mustard, beaten egg will also work well. Put the pie shell into the oven for a few minutes, until the mustard or egg has congealed. This keeps the crust from getting soggy when the custard mixture is added. Let the pie shell cool to room temperature.

Sauté the bacon in a skillet until it is crisp. Remove the bacon from the skillet and drain the pieces on paper toweling. Pour off most of the fat into a bowl, leaving just enough to coat the skillet’s bottom.

Toss the pumpkin cubes in the bowl with the bacon fat, then place them into a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet or baking dish. Place in the oven and bake, stirring a few times, until they are somewhat browned (caramelized) and completely cooked through. Set aside to come to room temperature.

Over medium heat, add the onions to the skillet and stir to coat them with the fat. Cover the skillet and cook for a few minutes, or until they have softened and become somewhat translucent. Remove the cover, and continue cooking until the onions are golden and caramelized. Remove from the heat and let come to room temperature.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until they are completely blended, then add the cream, salt and pepper, nutmeg and herb(s), if using.

Scatter half the cheese evenly over the bottom of the pie shell, then scatter the roasted pumpkin cubes and sautéed onion.

Pour the egg and cream mixture gently into the pie shell, and then scatter the remaining cheese over the top. Be sure not to overfill the shell, or it may run over the sides. Bake 30-40 minutes or until the tip of a knife inserted into the center of the quiche comes out clean or almost clean. The quiche will continue to cook through its internal heat after it is removed from the oven. Baking time will depend on the size and thickness of the quiche. Serves 6-8.


Pumpkin soup baked in a pumpkin

The pumpkin isn’t only in this soup, it’s also the soup tureen. It’s delicious, and a real showstopper at the dinner table. Kids love eating it and love helping make it even more – with close adult supervision, of course!

The only crucial thing – besides making sure that you don’t pierce the outside of the pumpkin when you’re scooping the flesh – is picking the right pumpkin for the job: one that’s not only the right size, but also a variety that’s flavorful.

  • 1 pumpkin
  • Whole milk
  • Half and half
  • 1 T. butter, or more if necessary
  • 1/2 c. minced onion or leek, white parts only – or more if your pumpkin is large
  • Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • Chopped fresh parsley
  • Grated natural Gruyere (not the kind that’s been processed) cheese or other Gruyere-type cheese for accompaniment

Choose a squat or round pumpkin instead of a longish one. Most importantly, be sure the pumpkin will fit into your oven.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Melt the butter over medium heat and add the onion or leek. Sauté until they’re softened and translucent.

Cut a lid in the pumpkin and remove the seeds and strings. Fill the pumpkin up to about three inches from the top with water, then measure the water to see how much milk and cream you will need.

Blot the inside of the pumpkin with a lint-free towel to remove excess water.

Place the pumpkin on an ovenproof platter or shallow baking dish large enough to hold it.

Using equal parts whole milk and cream, bring them to a simmer. Mix in the sautéed onion and pour the combination into the pumpkin. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste. The amounts will depend on the size of the pumpkin. Cover the opening as tightly as possible with foil and place the pumpkin lid on top. (The foil is to prevent the lid from falling in.) Bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or longer depending on the size of the pumpkin until the flesh is cooked through.

Gently remove the lid and foil and set the lid aside. Carefully begin scooping the flesh into the liquid, being sure not to get too close to the edge. When you have scooped as much of the pumpkin flesh as you are comfortable doing and still leaving the shell secure, use a hand-held blender to purée the soup.

Check and adjust the seasonings. Sprinkle with the chopped parsley and serve. Pass the grated cheese at the table.

The number of servings will depend on the size of the pumpkin.

Contact Julianne Glatz at realcuisine.jg@gmail.com.

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