Saturday, October 24, 2009

The great pumpkin

I love pumpkins. I love the way they look on the front steps, I adore drawing them with my kids, and I especially love the way they make the house smell when I roast them for their gorgeous orange-russet flesh. Yesterday, I updated my Facebook status to say "I'm roasting pumpkins for their flesh. Yes, they're food. And my house smells like Thanksgiving!" (Yes, I post on Facebook. Don't judge me.)
When I first read Barbara Kingsolver's "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle," the passage that made me laugh out loud was the one about the pumpkins. She swears that nobody knows that the decorations in their yard and on their stoop are actually edible. You can read that passage here.
I bought a couple of medium-sized sugar pumpkins, scrubbed them free of dirt, poked them with a sharp knife a few times, put them on a baking sheet, and stuck them in a 375 degree oven for about an hour. I think roasting pumpkins and squash this way is MUCH easier than risking fingers and countertops while wielding a cleaver and mallet.

My little orange friends roasted for about an hour; I tested for doneness by sticking a paring knife in. When the knife slid in with no resistance, I knew the flesh was cooked through and ready to puree. After taking them out and letting them cool for a few minutes, I basically just ripped into them, scooped out the seeds and stringy, goopy insides, and lifted the pieces of roasted flesh out of the skin and directly into the food processor. I pureed the pumpkin in the processor till it was smooth, but decided that the puree was a little watery and would benefit from some draining. I didn't want to lose half of my puree through the holes of my colander, so I made a makeshift filter of sorts, with coffee filters. That did the trick, as the water drained right through but the pumpkin stayed inside.

My two pumpkins yielded about 3 cups of smooth, aromatic puree. Now, what to make? I made the "Easy Pumpkin Cake" recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, "Serving Up the Harvest" by Andrea Chesman. It's a great cookbook and all-around reading book, trust me. It came out terrific. There are any number of pumpkin cake recipes out there, just Google it and it'll come up. One of my friends adds chocolate chips to her pumpkin muffins and cakes. I think I'll do that next time!

I still have about a cup of pumpkin puree in my fridge. I haven't decided on its final destination. Because I've (uncharacteristically) been baking a lot this week, we have a lot of sweets. So definitely, something savory is in order. Another one of my friends uses her pumpkin puree in lasagna. She uses the pumpkin as another layer in between the cheese and the tomato. It adds a bit of sweetness, and of course nutrition, to her hearty lasagna. I might try a pumpkin lasagna without the tomato, instead using a bechamel sauce with a touch of nutmeg. Maybe some sausage--I think the sausage's fatty savoriness would be a good foil for the sweetish pumpkin. And wow, wouldn't it be striking-looking, with the creamy noodles and sauce against the bright pumpkin flesh? Hmm, am I onto something? I'll try this on Monday and report back.


  1. You're going to make me buy a new cookbook, aren't you? :) When you began talking about pumpkin lasagna, I was saying, no, no, no, you need a cream sauce...then I read on. One of my favorite meals ever was at Giacomo's in the North End of Boston. Pumpkin ravioli in a mascarpone cheese/sage sauce - it's devine. I think adding some sausage to the mix would kick it up a notch. Go for it, I say!

  2. Pumpkin goes surprisingly well with tomato based sauces, too. I throw pumpkin puree in with my chili. Adds sweetness and depth.

    But you don't really notice the pumpkin. I agree a white sauce is the way to go if you want to highlight pumpkin/winter squash. I made a browned butter sage cream sauce for some pumpkin ravioli I got at the farmer's good! (Lisa, I don't know if you ever make it to the Westford Farmer's Market, and Tuesday is the last one of the season, but there's an outstanding pasta vendor there!)

  3. I'm inclined to agree about the desirability of white sauce in the lasagna. By the way, if anybody wants the recipe for the ravioli brown butter sauce, here's the one I have (it's listed as being for butternut squash, but pumpkin is also great):

  4. Thanks, Homemaker Man. Your blog is wicked funny. Yes, Julie, get that book. I love it and use it a lot more than a lot of my other cookbooks (and I have a TON). What A Card, yup, my friend Deb and I will be there tomorrow, pretty much right at 2:00, since we have to be home for elementary school kids by 3:15. Tinky, I hope to get my act together enough to make the white lasagna tonight. I'll report.