AUTUMN, is my favorite culinary month. Farmers markets from late August through October abound in gourds of all varieties and colors, and that just makes me happy. Persimmons, pomegranates and figs are in season which is a delight for my Mediterranean kitchen. Baked apple and pear pastries abound. Stuffed peppers, squash and cabbage frequent my table, as do wild mushrooms and roasted eggplant. All the root tuber vegetables like beetroot, parsnips and turnips are fresh, and along with squash and pumpkin varieties, are roasted, fried, blended and stewed. You can’t go wrong!
The west coast of Canada is alive with colors and the anticipation of Halloween. I am double happy to celebrate 4 Thanksgiving dinners- 2 in Canada in October and 2 in the US in November. This year I played around with a variety of pumpkin recipes. And here is what I’ve learned: pumpkins are high in antioxidants, beta-carotene, and Vitamin A & C (the bright orange color is a dead giveaway). The ‘cartenoids’ reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease. Pumpkin seeds are very good for you. They are second to peanuts in protein content and have zinc and other vitamins that are said to lower cholesterol.
Did you know people have pumpkin parties? These are some novel DIY ideas: pumpkin face mask, pumpkin air freshener, pumpkin bowling, use them as vases, use hallowed pumpkins as photo props for babies and pets, and save the seeds and grow more pumpkins. Smashing them is supposed to be fun too. Joke: when is a pumpkin not a pumpkin? When you drop it; then it’s a squash!
Pumpkin pies, cakes and breads are simple to make and can be quite healthy too. The pulp can be integrated into other pastries like chocolate cake and oatmeal cookies without much hassle. Puree can be frozen and eaten weeks later. Blend it into pumpkin soup served with pumpkin biscuits and pumpkin butter. The roasted seeds are a delicious snack and pumpkin seed oil is a great substitute for salad dressing (and healthy too). Vis-à-vis Harry Potter, try making some pumpkin juice too!
Stuffed Pumpkin Pudding
This pudding recipe is based off of one by Diane Eblin on The Whole Gang blog. It is gluten-free, dairy-free and low in sugar. I served it two ways, one by scooping the pudding into the pumpkin, and the other by placing the pan with the baked custard directly into the pumpkin. The latter way requires a fairly large pumpkin to start with.
1 medium sized sugar pumpkin or Jack-O-Lantern pumpkin (better if between 4 and 8 pounds)
2 cups fresh pumpkin puree or 1 15 ounce can of pumpkin
3 tbsp agave
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp of dark maple syrup
1 13 ounce can of coconut milk
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp allspice
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp sea salt
1. Cut off the top of the pumpkin and save the lid with the stem.
2. Scrape out the pumpkin strings from its roots and discard them. Scoop out the pumpkin seeds and set them aside for toasting.
3. Carve out the pulp from the inside of the pumpkin being careful not to poke through the other side and leave a half inch around the rim.
4. Brush the inside of the pumpkin with melted butter and a little sugar. Put back the pumpkin lid.
5. Bake at 350° for 50 minutes.
1. On a lightly greased baking sheet, place the wedges of pumpkin meat.
2. Bake on 350° for about 45 minutes or until tender. The pumpkin will turn a brighter orange and a knife easily slides through.
3. Mash the pumpkin in a food processor or by hand to make smooth puree.
4. Pour the puree into a colander, sieve, or cheese cloth and stir with a spoon until the liquid is removed.
5. Set aside 2 cups for this recipe, and refrigerate or freeze the rest.
1. Whisk together eggs, agave, sugar, syrup and spices in a large bowl.
2. Then, add the pumpkin puree and coconut milk and mix.
3. Pour the mixture into a pie pan.
4. Bake at 350° for 60 minutes, checking earlier to see if it is done. It will be finished when a sharp knife in the middle pulls out clean.
The Stuffed Pumpkin:
1. Allow both the pumpkin and the pudding to cool for at least 20 minutes.
2. Spoon the pudding evenly into the pumpkin shell.
3. For presentation, serve with fresh whipped cream, and reattach the lid.