Stuffed Pumpkin

I first heard about this on NPR, when Dorie Greenspan was interviewed for a fall baking dish and also to promote her new book of Around my French Table.  Which I promptly put in my Amazon cart and which I now possess.  But because she encourages you to make this recipe your own, mine is nothing like hers except you start with a hollowed-out pumpkin and somewhere along the line you fill it will good things, put it in a 350 degree over for 90 minutes to two hours.  So I bought a sugar pumpkin at Trader Joe’s one day, and since we were having company for Halloween Night (the  trick-or-treaters in our neighborhood all grew up and went to college), I decided to try this.  Mine is stuffed with a small pasta blend (from Trader Joe’s), mushrooms and some Jimmy Dean’s sage sausage.  I roasted it with the lid on for 90 minutes, and it was done.  It makes a great presentation.

Start with the way Dorie starts: cut the lid off a pumpkin and hollow it out, scraping the flesh slightly to get rid of the stringy bits.  Sprinkle the inside cavity with salt, pepper and nutmeg.  I found it easier to grind the salt and pepper onto my cutting board, then pinch by pinch, sprinkle it around the inside cavity (the nutmeg went on from the spice bottle, no trouble).  Set aside.

In a medium size pot, brown the sausage well.  Turn off the heat, set aside.

Wash and cut about 3/4 pound crimini mushrooms into chunks.  In 1 Tablespoon butter, sautee half of the mushrooms in a saucepan (you’ll use this saucepan later for the pasta cooking); don’t crowd.  As they get done, dump them into the sausage, stir to mix.

When mushrooms are done, in about 1 Tablespoon olive oil, cook until slightly soft: 1 shallot, chopped and 1 large (2 small, or 3 weensy) cloves of garlic.  Stir in 1 and 1/4 cups of Harvest Grains Blend** mix (about 1/2 of the package), then add in 1 can of reduced salt Swanson’s chicken broth.  Cook until al dente–it will continue to cook in the pumpkin.  Add this slightly soupy mix to the sausage and mushrooms; stir to mix.

Spoon into your pumpkin, and don’t pack it down.  Just loosely spoon it in.  Set the pumpkin on a cookie sheet that has been lined with a sheet of parchment (or a Silpat) and bake at 350 for 90 minutes to 2 hours.  Check at 90 minutes.  The tip of knife blade should go in easily.  If the mixture is too soupy (mine wasn’t, but Dorie’s was) leave the lid off for the last few minutes.

Serve with freshly grated cheese, to be added atop the melange.  We served it by slicing it into wedges, then scooping out the mushroom/sausage mixture into a shallow bowl, topped with the cheese.  Encourage your guests to mix the cooked pumpkin with the rest–delicious.

I decided to try this again tonight, to see if we still liked it.  We did.  It’s perfect for a fall supper, and since a) today’s the last day in November–made it under the wire for fall, and b) we’re supposed to get a ten-year wind event tonight.  The house is creaking and moaning, and it feels like a Winnie-the-Pooh blustery day.

**Harvest Grain Blend: Could substitute a mix of pearl couscous, red quinoa, orzo and miniscule baby garbanzo beans.  At least that’s what the package says is in there.

Orange Dinner Rolls

Thanksgiving Day at our house this year was a quiet affair with all the children scattered to different places, my husband and I decided to have a quiet meal at home.  So that allows me to try a couple of new things, without the pressure of deadlines and wondering if the company will like it.

I have already written about the cranberry sauce, but here’s the other new thing I tried: orange dinner rolls.  I’d heard a couple of people say they were having them for their turkey-dinner, and then when I was cleaning out looking for that cranberry sauce recipe I thought I’d lost, I found a clipping of one of those “restaurant request” columns and it featured this recipe.  The restaurant was the Morrison Lodge in Oregon on the Rogue River, and the SOS columnist for the LATimes noted that the recipe “originated with Elaine Hanton, who, with her husband B. A., purchased the lodge in 1964.”

I’d nearly forgotten to make these, in the rush of side dishes and turkey. So with an hour to go, I zipped through the mixing of the dough, rolled them out and shaped them and let them rise on the stove, next to the warm air.  Since it only makes 24, it’s a quick mix, quick shape into muffin tins and they came out of the oven just as the turkey was being sliced.  Good timing.  Good rolls!

Total time: About 1 hour, plus rising time for the dough
Servings: Makes 2 dozen rolls
Note: Adapted from Morrison’s Rogue River Lodge

Ingredients for Dough
1 cup lukewarm water
1 packet active-dry yeast (2-1/4 teaspoon yeast)
3 1/4 cups (13.8 ounces) flour, divided, plus additional for kneading
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons shortening, at room temperature
1 egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon salt

In each cup of a 12-muffin tin pan, place about 1/2 teaspoon melted butter, then swish up around the sides with a pastry brush.

1. In a large bowl, or in the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the water, yeast and one-half cup flour, stirring to dissolve. Set aside just until the yeast is activated (the mixture will begin to bubble), 5 minutes.

2. While the yeast is activating, combine the remaining flour, salt, and 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar in a separate bowl.

3. With a fork (if working by hand), or using a dough hook, work half of the flour/sugar mixture into the activated yeast, then add the shortening and egg until combined. Slowly add in the remaining flour/sugar mixture (the mixture will at first be stringy, then very sticky as the flour is absorbed). Stir in the salt.

4. Move the dough to a floured surface. With floured hands, gently knead the dough (it will be sticky at first) about 5 minutes, adding flour as needed just to keep the dough from sticking to your fingers or the kneading surface. The finished dough will be tender, soft and slightly tacky. [Cook’s Note: I added a bit more flour and just used my mixer for another minute or two, remembering to keep the mixing brief.]

Ingredients and Process for Shaping the Rolls

4-5 tablespoons melted butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon finely grated orange zest (1 orange)

5. In a small bowl, combine the remaining one-third cup sugar with the orange zest. Using 1-2 Tablespoons of melted butter and a pastry brush, stroke the butter liberally inside 2 muffin tins, coating the wells thoroughly.  There should not be puddles of butter–just coverage.

6. On a well-floured surface, roll the dough into a rectangle measuring 24 inches by 10 inches.

7. Brush the dough with 3  Tablespoons of melted butter, then sprinkle over the orange-sugar mixture.

8. Roll the rectangle lengthwise into a tight tube (as when rolling cinnamon rolls). Cut the tube into 24 (1-inch) slices, using thread if possible (the thread will slice more easily and cleanly than a knife). If you use a knife to cut the slices, roll the tube one-quarter turn after each slice to keep the tube round; otherwise, it will flatten from all the slicing.

9. Place each of the slices into the prepared muffin tin (the tins must be well-greased or the finished rolls will stick to the bottom). Cover loosely and set aside until the rolls double in size.

10. Bake the muffin trays one at a time, until the rolls are puffed and golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Rotate the trays halfway through for even baking.

11. Cool the rolls slightly, then unmold. Serve warm.  I always tip up the rolls in their tins even if I’m not going to use them immediately as this allows the steam to escape and you won’t have soggy rolls.

Each roll: 126 calories; 2 grams protein; 22 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 3 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 13 mg. cholesterol; 10 grams sugar; 101 mg. sodium.

Cranberry Sauce Duo

We went back and forth this year on whether or not to go out to a restaurant or stay home and cook.  Out?  In?  And since all our children were taken care of and I heard it was going to rain, In was what won in the end.  I went looking for my mother’s most recent cranberry sauce recipe–tore apart all my stashes of clipped, stained, printed-out papers but couldn’t find it.  I went to Epicurious and searched.  Then I realized I probably had it on my computer.  Duh.

So here are two cranberry sauce recipes.  The first is from Epicurious, dated 2000. It’s a bit tart, but with the addition of ginger and the pepper, has a good tang to it. The second came from my mother and I don’t know where she got it from.

Cranberry Relish, from Epicurious

2 oranges
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, cut in fine julienne
1 bag (12 ounces) fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

1. Peel 1 orange and cut the zest (orange part only) into a very fine julienne, as thin as possible; set aside. Squeeze both oranges for juice; set aside.

2. Combine sugar and lemon juice in a small sauté pan. Heat up slowly and continue cooking until the sugar begins to caramelize. If necessary, wash down the sides of the pan by brushing with a little water to keep the sugar from burning.

3. When the sugar is caramel colored, add the julienned ginger and orange zest. Cook for about 1 minute, then add the cranberries, orange juice and pepper. Continue to cook on medium-high heat, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes or until the cranberries are slightly broken but not mushy (frozen cranberries will take about 7 minutes). Remove from the heat and let cool.

Cook’s Notes: I like my berry sauce a little soft, so I cooked it a little longer than they said.  I also tasted it and added about 2 Tablespoons sugar as it was a bit mouth-puckery too tart for me.  I think my oranges were smaller so everything was more intense.  I also grated my fresh ginger, as I keep it in the freezer and there was no way it could have been julienned.

Mom’s Cranberry Sauce, 2006

Cook 12 oz bag fresh cranberries in 1 cup water until skins pop open.  Add 2 cups sugar, scant cup chopped golden raisens, 1 chopped Granny Smith apple, zest and juice of 1 lemon, zest and juice of 1 orange.  Cook 15 minutes or until slightly thickened.  Add 1/2 cup chopped walnuts.

(The best yet, she says.)

Pear, Cranberry and Gingersnap Crumble

I regularly haunt Smitten Kitchen’s website as she cooks food that I can make, with only a few photos here and there, which makes it an easy read. (I don’t particularly object to a raft of photos, as they are helpful when a new technique is being presented, but occasionally they can get out of hand.)  But I’d have to say it’s her combination of ingredients that are the usual standouts.  She just has a way with food.  Summer Strawberry Cake is one of hers, too, and if you haven’t made that this summer, then you’ve really missed out.

Anyway, here’s a fall treat, made beautiful with three kinds of pears and cranberries and an interesting crumble on top, made from gingersnap cookies.  I bought a box in the grocery store and on first glance, I thought I’d bought a box of brown thin hockey pucks.  I snapped them (with some effort) into fourths then whirled the 16-18 cookies in my food processor to make the crumbs (although a ziploc bag and a swift firm hand with a kitchen mallet would also do the trick).  Amazingly, with the suggested addition of the ginger and pepper, those hideous store-bought cookies turned out okay atop the steaming, juicy pears and cranberries.

Adapated from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from Sweet Melissa Patisserie

1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
3 tablespoons (37 grams) packed dark or light brown sugar
1 cup gingersnap crumbs (4 ounces or 113 grams or about 16 storebought cookies)
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon table salt
Pinch of white pepper, especially if your gingersnaps aren’t particularly snappish
1/4 cup (1/2 stick  or 113 grams) butter, melted and cooled

Beauty shot of the pears.
From left to right: Bartlett (yellowish), Anjou, and Bosc.
The Anjou and Bosc are a little crisper than the Bartlett, but cook up well.

And here’s my trick for coring pears: a clay tool from an art supply store.

2 pounds (about 4 to 5) large ripe pears (I used combination of Anjou, Bartlett and Bosc) peeled, halved, cored and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces or 170 grams) fresh cranberries
1 tablespoon (15 ml) lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons (14 grams) cornstarch

Do you have one of these microplanes for zesting?  I figure I used about 1/2 of the lemon for this recipe.  You can freeze the remainder, wrapped up in a square of wax paper, then into a ziploc baggie.  Label it, please, before you stick it in your freezer. (You’ll thank me later.)

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Stir together the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, gingersnap crumbs, ginger and salt. Stir in the melted butter until large crumbs form.

In a large bowl, mix the pears, cranberries, lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla. In a small bowl, whisk the sugar and cornstarch together then toss it with the fruit mixture.

I just had to show you a picture of this before I sprinkled on the gingersnap topping.  Positively holiday-ish! I made this, doubled, for serving to the ladies in church.  Aside from the time taken to peel the pears, it’s a quick and easy recipe.

In a 1 1/2 to 2 quart baking dish, layer in the pear-cranberry mixture, then sprinkle the gingersnap crumble over the fruit. Set the crumble on a foil-lined baking sheet (if you are worried about it  bubbling over—I baked mine in a 9×13 pan and had no troubles) and bake it for about 45 minutes, until the crumble is a shade darker and you see juices bubbling through the crumbs. Let cool a little bit, then enjoy.

Cook’s Notes: The original recipe called for 1/2 cup [unsalted) butter in the gingersnap crumb topping; if you use that amount then the crumble will probably stay crisper an extra day.  Ours became softer the second day, but the flavor was still amazing—I wonder if it is the combination of the three pears together?  (The original merely asked for Anjou.)

And what am I doing in the photo above?  Weighing the ingredients.  You’ve noticed that all of her ingredients have a weight listed next to them.  She predicts that this will be the wave of the future, similar to what they do it in Europe. I decided to try it.  I placed the bowl on, zero-ed it out, then added each ingredient, zero-ing out after each.  I can change to kilograms from ounces on my scale; I suggest if you are going to try this, you look for that feature as well.  Instead of multiple cups and bowls, it’s just one-bowl-mixing for the dry ingredients.  Nice.