Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Jumpin' Punkins! Sugar Pumpkins

Sugar pumpkins, often labeled as pie pumpkins, are appearing now. Sugar pumpkins are a smaller variety of pumpkin with a slightly denser and somewhat sweeter flesh than the larger jack o’ lantern type. Sugar pumpkins are the variety used for pumpkin pie filling. Smaller in size, they weigh between 4 to 5 ½ pounds each. After roasting, they will yield enough flesh for several purposes: risotto, soup, and of course, pies.
The hardest part of using them is cutting the pumpkin down into quarters and removing the seeds, but if you have carved pumpkins you will be familiar with the procedure.
Heat oven to 400 degrees, Cut the top off the pumpkin as if you were carving a jack-o-lantern. Carefully cut down the length of the pumpkin, cutting the pumpkin into quarters; neatness and precision do not count. Place the pumpkin quarters skin side up onto a baking pan lined with aluminum foil. Tent the pumpkin pieces with another piece of foil and bake the pumpkin for an hour, or longer, depending on the size of the pumpkin. When you can easily pierce the flesh of the pumpkin with the point of a knife, remove the pumpkin from the oven and let col. When cool, separate the flesh from the skin, discard the skin and store the flesh in plastic containers or large food storage bags. If you are not planning on using all of the pumpkin soon, freeze it until needed.

The risotto or soup recipes could be made with roasted butternut squash or roasted kobocha squash.
And yes, there will be pumpkin pie.

Pumpkin Risotto with Fried Sage and Toasted Pepitas

For the purpose of this recipe, this has been scaled to two portions. For each additional serving, use 1/3 cup arborio rice, ½ cup pumpkin, and additional broth
Even though I have made risotto for a long time, I still set a timer (for 18 minutes after the wine is added) and cook the risotto while eyeing the timer.

2/3 cup Arborio rice
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth                
2 Tablespoons minced shallot
½ cup dry white wine
1 cup reserved pumpkin, mashed
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 to 3 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
olive oil, for cooking
salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 fresh sage leaves
2 Tablespoons toasted unsalted pepita seeds

1. Place the broth into a saucepan over medium heat and bring it to a simmer. Keep it at a low simmer as you cook the risotto.
2. Place a second saucepan for the risotto over medium heat. When hot, swirl in 2 Tablespoons olive oil. Add the shallots and sweat for 2 to 3 minutes; adjust heat if necessary. Add the rice and stir to coat it in the olive oil.
Pour in the white wine and stir. Stir until the wine is almost absorbed. Ladle about ¼ cup of the hot broth into the rice. Now begins the process of stirring the rice and adding the broth, about ¼ cup at a time. Adjust the heat to keep the risotto at a gentle simmer. Add broth when the liquid is almost absorbed into the rice; stir throughout at this point of the cooking.
3. Continue cooking the risotto by adding more broth as needed. After about 10 minutes cooking time, you won’t need to stir constantly but watch that there is enough broth in the pot and the risotto isn’t sticking to the bottom of the pot.
4. After about 13 minutes, add the pumpkin. Continue cooking for another 5 minutes.  Taste the risotto. The rice should be firm but it shouldn’t have any undercooked crunch to it. If it does, continue cooking for a few more minutes.
5. When the risotto is al dente, remove risotto from heat. Stir in 2 to 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter. Add the Parmesan cheese and freshly ground black pepper. Cover and set pan aside.
6. Place a small sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add about ¼” oil, such as canola oil to the pan. Add the sage leaves and fry until crisp. Remove the leaves and drain them on paper towels.
7. Check the risotto.  Add a little extra broth if you like your risotto a little loose. Crumble half of the sage leaves over the risotto and stir them in. Portion the risotto into two bowls. Drizzle each with a little extra virgin olive oil, additional grated Parmesan, the remaining fried sage leaves and pepitas.

Curried Pumpkin Soup
This pumpkin soup has a Caribbean accent with coconut milk and curry powder. You could omit the coconut milk and use light cream or half and half in its place.

½ medium onion, chopped
2 to 3 stalks celery, chopped
2 to 3 carrots, chopped (about 1 cup)       
3 cups reserved roasted pumpkin
olive oil, for cooking
6 cups cold water
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
One 15 ounce can coconut milk
1 to ½ teaspoons curry powder  (to taste)

1. Place a 2 Quart pot over medium heat. Swirl in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the onion, celery, and carrot. Stir and sweat the vegetables for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the pumpkin, water, salt, pepper, and stir. Bring the soup to a simmer. Cover the pot and continue cooking on a low simmer until all of the vegetables are soft, about 35 to 40 minutes. Remove pot from heat and let cool. Puree the soup in batches in either a blender or food processor until smooth. Return the soup to the pot. Add the coconut milk and curry powder; whisk to combine. Adjust for salt and pepper. Heat and serve.

Here are two versions of Jumpin’ Punkins, one from Duke Ellington, the second from Cecil Taylor.(!)

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