Pumpkin Three Way

Posted Saturday, November 28th, 2009 at 5:44 pm

3 pumpkins

Caution: This material might not be suitable for an unripened audience.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  We spent it with my husband’s family where we enjoyed a pot luck feast.  I brought a Pumpkin Pie (recipe below), cranberry sauce and my Persimmon Chutney, which was a big hit.  The chutney ended up being served on the cheese platter, a brilliant combination.  The best part was that no one died of botulism!

My fridge is now stuffed with delicious leftovers which we’ll be eating for days.  Right now I’m making a turkey broth from the bones my mother-in-law so generously gave to me.  I’ve have a turkey pot pie on the menu too.

But what I really want to talk about is pumpkins.

This is the first year that I’ve experienced the wonders of this handsome squash, so often dismissed as mere eye-candy.  The amount of food one of these shapely beauties can produce is astounding.

Thanksgiving seemed like the appropriate time to use the pumpkin made famous by its appearance in the Farm Apartment header.  This is my fourth or fifth pumpkin of the Fall, and I’m not sure I’ll be getting anymore.  Before saying goodbye to them all together, I thought I’d share my favorite recipes, in case you still have a few lounging around your kitchen.

Please take note that all of these can be made from one medium sized pumpkin.  Not kidding.

This recipe is adapted from The Santa Monica Farmers’ Market Cookbook

Drunken Pumpkin Pie

Note: This is only a recipe for the filling, since I am a total chicken about making pie crusts.  I used a pre-made Arrowhead Mills Graham Cracker Crust which, while a little mushy, I think worked fine.

I have added a secret, sinful ingredient: whiskey. It makes everything taste better.

2 eggs

2 cups fresh roasted pumpkin (smallish Sugar Pumpkins are the best)

1 1/2 cups whole milk

1 cup pack dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground all-spice

2-3 tablespoons of whiskey

To roast the pumpkin:

Preheat oven to 375.  Pierce the pumpkin in a few places with a knife or a fork.  Place on a baking sheet.  Put it in the oven whole.  Roast until brown and shiny and is easily pierced with knife: about 1 hour for a 5-lb squash.

Cut the stem off the pumpkin.  Cut in half lengthwise.  Scoop out the strings and the seeds.  (Separate and save the seeds for roasting later – yum).  Scoop out the flesh and puree in a blender or food processor.

To make the filling:

Preheat the oven to 425.  In a large bowl whisk the eggs until blended.  Add the pumpkin, milk, brown sugar, spices and whiskey and whisk until thoroughly mixed.  Pour the filling into the prepared crust.  (If you have too much, put the pie in the oven and wait about 10 minutes.  The filling will have settled and you can add to it.)

Bake on the lowest oven rack for 15 minutes.  Reduce the heat to 350 and continue to bake until the filling jiggles slightly in the middle – about 35 to 45 minutes.

Let cool completely before serving.  The pie can be made a day ahead.

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For me, squash equals “no butter baking”.  That’s right, squash is an excellent substitute for butter in most recipes.  I learned this from one of my favorite cookbooks,Golden Door Cooks Light and Easy

With my leftover pumpkin puree, I kept all my spices out and  made a Pumpkin Spice Bread that’s the best baked good I’ve made in a long time. Or ever?

This is an adaptation from one of Michel Stroot’s Recipes.

No Butter Pumpkin Bread

1 cup fresh pumpkin puree

1 banana, mashed

1/2 cup or more chopped dates, raisins or Turkish apricots

2 tablespoons canola oil

3/4 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons honey or agave

2 eggs lightly beaten

1 egg white lightly beaten

1 1/2 cups semolina flour

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground all-spice

Roast a pumpkin and make a puree.

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350.

In a large mixing bowl, mash the banana into the pureed pumpkin and mix.  Mix in the dried fruit, brown sugar, oil, honey, and beaten eggs and egg white.

In a separate mixing bowl, combine the semolina flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, and spices.  Pour the pumpkin mixture into the dry ingredients and mix well until combined.

Pour the batter into a greased loaf pan.  Bake for 50-55 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Serve warm or let cool.

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After making both of these, I still have some pumpkin puree left.  So I’m going to cook a Pumpkin Soup with the turkey broth I’m making.  As I only have about a cup of the puree left, I’ll adjust the recipe accordingly.

This recipe is adapted from How to Cook Everything

Pumpkin Soup

1-2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 pound pumpkin, roasted and pureed

1-2 largish  tart apples, such as McIntosh, Granny Smith, Braeburn cored, peeled and roughly chopped

1 onion, roughly chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

4 cups chicken, beef, turkey or veggie stock, preferably warmed

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 teaspoon fresh tarragon leaves, or 1/4 teaspoon dried

1 cup heavy or light cream (optional)

minced fresh parsley leaves or snipped chives for garnish

Directions

Roast the pumpkin and puree the flesh.

Place the butter in a large, deep saucepan turn the heat to medium. When the butter melts, add the apples and onion. Cook, stirring, until the onion softens, 5 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the pumpkin, wine, tarragon and enough stock to cover most of the solids.  Turn the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low, partially cover, and cook for about 15 minutes. Cool slightly, then puree the soup in a food mill or blender.

Return it to the pan and cook gently over medium-low heat until heated through; do no boil. Stir in the cream and cook, stirring, until hot, about 1 minute (do not boil). Garnish and serve.

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Can Doers

Posted Wednesday, November 25th, 2009 at 5:42 pm

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The constant sunshine and good weather can lull us Angelenos into believing that we live in a land of plenty.  Put a seed in the ground and chances are it will grow. Yet, the reality is that hunger remains a serious problem here.

Here come the hard facts.

According to Fed Up With Hunger’s “Blueprint To End Hunger” (click here for PDF):

  • 1,000,000 Angelenos feel hungry every day.

  • The recent economic crisis has exacerbated the situation, resulting in increased unemployment, home loss and a 41% rise in those seeking emergency food services.

  • Most disturbing is that children and the elderly are the most at risk with 25% of LA children and 50% of independent elderly facing food insecurity on a daily basis.

Rick Nahmias of Food Forward came up with a juicy idea to help combat these staggering statistics.  Started in 2009, his organization gathers volunteers to glean excess fruit from trees in private residences and then donates the bounty to food banks.

They work with SOVA, JFS’s Community Food and Resource Program and M.E.N.D Poverty.  Combined, these food banks distribute the fruit to 30,000 hungry people a month.

As of November 12, Food Forward has collected 60,649 pounds of fresh fruit in 2009.

Though this number is astounding, it is not hard to believe.  As a native Angelino, I’m used to seeing trees sitting in yards pregnant with fruit that is never picked. Many home-owners treat their trees as mere decorations.  They don’t know what to do with all they produce and they don’t have time pick it.  So the fruit dangles, like so many dusty Christmas ornaments, rotting away.

With Food Forward in the picture, hopefully there won’t be many un-harvested trees left in LA.

So, how do we preserve all that fruit?  Can it of course!

On Sunday my husband and I were lucky enough to participate in Food Forward’s brand-new canning venture at M.E.N.D’s kitchen in Pacoima.

M.E.N.D stands for Meeting Each Need With Dignity.  Started in the early 70’s in a garage, the organization has now grown into the largest poverty agency in the Valley.  They provide emergency food, clothing, medical, vision and dental care in addition to several other services. In 2008, they served over 368,969 individuals.

Kevin West of the savingtheseason.com and Surfas Canning Class fame, and Nina Corbett of putsup.com were generous enough to donate their time and lead a workshop for Food Forward volunteers in M.E.N.D Poverty’s kitchen.  The idea being to train gleaners to preserve their fruit to donate or sell as a means of raising money for the organization.

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On this Sunday afternoon, about 20 FF volunteers gathered around a table  filled with fruit and listened as Nina and Kevin gave instruction.

The canning process is straightforward and, in practice, pleasing in its Zen-like repetition.  First peel the fruit, then chop it, wash the jars, heat them, boil the water, make the simple syrup, poach the pears, stuff the jars with as much fruit as possible, then seal the jars, boil them, cool them, and eventually eat them.

Each volunteer brought 12 jars to donate.  So with 240 jars, 10 crates of pears, and 7 huge pots we split into groups and got to work. I grabbed a peeler with the dullest blade I’ve ever used and picked a pear to peel (say that three times fast).

Soon, everyone was moving apace: peelers, choppers, syrup makers, water boilers, timekeepers, jar washers, talkers, photographers, and jokers. We were a jolly group, buzzed with the easy camaraderie of folks who think spending a Sunday afternoon canning is a fun idea.

My husband seemed to be having the best time, challenging anyone close by to try squeezing more pears into a jar than him. Needless to say, nobody could – for which he gave praise to many years of playing Tetris.

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After a few hours, it was time to can the canning.  There was no official count, but I’d say we made about 50 jars of pear preserves which were all donated to M.E.N.D.  Not bad!  Plus, FF now has a small army of expert canners at the ready.

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Nina Corbett of putsup.com

Afterwards, we were treated to a smorgasbord of Kevin and Nina’s gourmet preserves.  Kevin’s Fire-Roasted Peppers in Red Wine Vinegar (a recipe that is thankfully published on his blog) were transcendent.  Nina’s raspberry jam was about the best I’ve ever tasted.  Oh and the pickled okra – yum!

For those of you out there with fruit trees in your yards, Food Forward is always looking for new trees to harvest.  Contact Erica, the Property/Harvesting Coordinator at erica@foodforward.org.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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Things I’ve Done To Persimmons

Posted Friday, November 13th, 2009 at 10:22 am

Persimmon ill

It was only a week ago that the sweet flesh of my first persimmon passed my lips, seducing my virgin taste buds with its luscious sweetness.  Like the first blush of a new romance, I was intoxicated.  It seemed as if we had known each other forever and I couldn’t even remember my life before.  The possibilities of this new relationship seem limitless and eternal.  Put simply, it is love.

Chicken With Persimmons, Apricots and Capers

This is an adaptation of a recipe in The Santa Monica Farmer’s Market Cookbook, an essential item for anyone interested in adding flavor to their cooking library with delicious seasonal recipes using the freshest ingredients.  The original recipe was “Chicken Legs With Kumquats, Prunes, and Green Olives.”  I changed it to “Chicken With Persimmons, Apricots and Capers” and served it with a side of roasted Brussels Sprouts with a Balsamic Glaze – also from the SM Farmer’s Market Cookbook.

Ingredients

2-3 boneless, skinless free-range chicken breasts
2-3 persimmons, skinned and cubed
1/2 cup dried Turkish apricots
1 cup boiling water
1 onion chopped
3/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken of vegetable stock
2-3 tablespoons capers (to taste)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt

Directions

- Pour enough boiling water over the apricots to cover them until they soften.  About 15 minutes.

- Meanwhile, peel and cube the persimmons.

- Use a scissors to quarter the apricots.

A Fall palate

A Fall palate

- Pour oil in a pan and heat over medium heat.  Add the chicken pieces, seasoning each side with salt and pepper.

- Sear each side for about 3-4 minutes, until the outside is opaque.

- Remove the chicken to a plate.

- In the same pan, saute the onions in the oil created by the chicken until it’s translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and stir for 1 minute.

- Add the wine and raise the heat to medium until liquid is reduced by half, about 3 minutes.

- Return the chicken to the pot and add the apricots, persimmons and capers and a dash of salt and pepper.  I added a bit of the stock at this point, to keep everything from sticking.

- Stir, cover and reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, adding stock if necessary.   Add the rest of the stock and simmer for 10 minutes more or until chicken is cooked through.

Persimmon Apricot Caper Chicken

*****

Persimmon Salsa on Moroccan Spiced Tilapia

Served With Salad

And Citrus Vinaigrette Dressing

These are recipes I got from the world wide web.  The mix of flavors, the orange with the spicy, sweet salsa and the curry flavored fish was transporting.  And it was all pretty simple to make.

PERSIMMON SALSA

I left out the mint and ginger, simply because I didn’t have any and it was still wonderful.  Also I put a little bit more lime juice in.

Ingredients

4 small or 3 medium-size firm but ripe Fuyu persimmons, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 1 2/3 cups)
2 tablespoons minced white onion, rinsed, drained
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
1 teaspoons minced seeded serrano chile
2 teaspoons minced fresh mint
1 teaspoon minced peeled fresh ginger

Directions

Mix persimmons, onion, lime juice, basil, serrano chile, mint, and ginger in small bowl. Season salsa to taste with salt and pepper. (Salsa can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving.)

MORROCCAN SPICED TILAPIA

I chose tilapia because I’ve heard that it’s one of the most sustainable of all the fishes.  However, I’ve never been able to prepare it so that it doesn’t taste completely bland.  This recipe is genius!  It could not be easier, takes 10 minutes, is relatively healthy and it’s delicious!

Ingredients

2 tilapia fillets
Salt and ground black pepper
1 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoons ground coriander
1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions

Season both sides of tilapia fillets with salt and black pepper. Rub cumin and coriander all over both sides of fillets. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add tilapia fillets and cook 3 to 5 minutes per side, until fish is fork-tender.

Citrus Vinaigrette

This recipe is from one of my all time favorite cookbooks, The Golden Door Cooks Light and Easy. Michel Stroot is a culinary wonder when it comes to preparing simple yet gourmet yet low-calorie, healthy meals using the abundance of fresh produce that Southern California boasts. Honestly, you can’t go wrong.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons water
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons champagne or chardonnay vinegar (any white wine vinegar will do)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

optional ingredients:

1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon chopped lemon or common thyme

Directions

Combine all ingredients and process until smooth.  I usually use and old jam jar and shake it up really good.


Persimmon Chutney

For this recipe, see my post on the Canning Class at Surfas.

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Surfas Canning Class

Categories: Canning , Recipes | 3 Comments
Posted Thursday, November 12th, 2009 at 12:49 pm

Yesterday was full of food adventures.  The day began with a free canning and preserving class I read about in a post on Slow Food LA.  Canning has always been something I’ve wanted to try, but the scientific complexity and potential danger of it was too scary.  I imagined exploding jars sending shards of glass into the flesh of my loved ones, pots boiling over with scalding water, long painful deaths by boticilism, and worse, all that wasted fruit splattered on the walls like a scene from a bad slasher film.  Okay, you got me.  I’m paranoid.

Anyway, this year, I’ve decided to face my fears.  My wonderful husband accompanied me to Surfas, everyone’s favorite cooking store in Culver City.  By the time we got there, the test kitchen was standing room only.  A grandmotherly lady in a cheerful cherry print apron, Bettina Birch, was busy chopping persimmons for a chutney.  She was accompanied by a handsome young fellow, Kevin West with a southern drawl and a quick wit.  Donning a fitted wool vest, his blonde hair cropped and parted to the side, he reminded by of a banker in an old western movie.

My gaze went straight to the colorful mason jars of preserves that decorated the perimeter of the counter. The brazen peppers the color of a bullfighter’s cape, the soft orange persimmon hugging each, the cherries, mysterious in their maroon syrup.

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Each jar had a handmade tag lovingly attached to its lid with twine, proudly declaring the the contents within.  There was definitely a craft to this.  It was the perfect intersection between individual industry and art.

I imagined my kitchen counter bedecked in such a way, creating a sense of culinary joy and pride such as I have never before experienced.  I grabbed one of the canning kits stacked before me and listened with rapt attention.

When my husband learned that canning doesn’t necessarily imbue the food with enhanced flavor, he lost enthusiasm.  “What’s the point?” he asked.  Especially in Santa Monica, where there is a farmer’s market practically every day of the week and everything grows all year round.

Well, there is the aesthetic value I described above.  Also, there is the “Little House On The Prairie” effect.  I love the idea of carefully preserving food to survive the winter, even though the temp may only drop to 60.  And we can always give them away as gifts for the holidays!

Below are the recipes and my notes.  Reader, these are the recordings of a half-cocked lady.  Please consult a USDA approved canning recipe book like Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving before tryin’ this at home.

Canning Recipes

The chutney recipe above also calls for  a 1/2 teaspoon cardamon!

Notes

- The key to canning is getting as much air out of the can as possible. Canning kits come with a special wand designed to help you pack down the fruit and remove air bubbles from the jar.

- When choosing fruit that is firm and maybe even slightly unripe.  You want it to be able to withstand all the cooking.

- Botulism can only exist in low acid/PH environments.  Most fruits are already high enough in PH (raspberries, strawberries). However, if not, vinegar or lemon or lime juice will do the trick.

Preparing The Jars

- They must be hot before adding hot food. Wash jars and then dry them by putting them in a 225 degree oven for 15 minutes.  Not necessary to “sterilize.”

- When placing a jar in a boiling pot of water use a canning rack to elevate the jar above the bottom of the pot.  Placing glass on metal can lead to accidents.

- Put jar in water immediately after putting on the lid.

- Start the timing of the “water bath” from the time the water starts to boil.  Boil the water and then put all the jars in at the same time.  Turn up to a boil again and start timing.

- Sealing the jars. Essentially you just want to seal the jars as airtight as possible to protect it from the world of pathogens.  People over the centuries have had many techniques including using beeswax, or even paper soaked in brandy.

- Jars lids can take up to 24 hours to “pop.”

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