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.

Pumpkin Nut Bread

I found this recipe in a (Sunset?)  magazine when I was 17, and since I was a pretty good baker by that time, I decided to make it for my family.  I used up a good amount of nuts, real butter and got to talking on the phone with a friend while I mixed up the rest and put it in the oven.  The smell was really yummy and we were all looking forward to a slice of my newest recipe.  I pulled it out of the oven, and what?  Something was wrong.  It was flat, and hadn’t raised at all.  It tasted. . . terrible.  My mother came in and started to try and help me find the source of the problem.  Did you put in the salt?  Salt? I said.  I don’t think so.
Okay, then what about the baking powder?  Baking soda?  They need to sugar to help with their chemical and culinary reactions, she said.
Sugar!  I’d forgotten the sugar.  And probably one of the other three ingredients, judging from the height of the loaf.

Since then I have made it many many times. I never talk on the phone while mixing up the ingredients, and it has turned out perfectly every time.  You can increase the batch easily as one large can of pumpkin makes three loaves.  Tonight I made a plain loaf, a nut loaf and a loaf with mini-chocolate chips (add in about 1 cup).  We have family coming and we’ll be ready.

Pumpkin Nut Bread
3/4 cup milk
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 egg
1/4 cup melted butter
2 1/2 cups unsifted all-purpose flour (I substituted in 1/2 cup whole wheat flour for part of this)
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon each soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon each salt and ground ginger
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts or filberts or a mix of all three
[for the chocolate chip loaf, substitute 1 cup mini-chocoate chips for the nuts]

In a large mixing bowl, combine milk, pumpkin, egg and melted butter.  Mix to combine.  Add in sugar.

In a separate bowl, combine 1/2 cup flour with spices, soda, salt and baking powder.  Mix well and add to the pumpkin mixture.  Then add in the rest of the flour and blend only until dry ingredients are moistened.

Pour into a lightly greased 5″ x 9″ load pan; bake in a moderate oven (350F) for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Makes 1 loaf.

Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake with Buttermilk Icing

One day last month when I was trolling through my Google Reader, link led to link led to a site where a librarian for the Los Angeles Library System had determined to make better use of her bundt pan, and so was posting a bundt cake a day.  I found her early in the cycle and never returned, but did harvest this recipe, orginally published in November 2005 in Gourmet Magazine (may it Rest In Peace–and I was just about to subscribe to it, too!).

The other night we had three guests for dinner and I needed a quick dessert.  I whipped this up (yes, it’s really easy, though the mixing of the pumpkin with the buttermilk is unconventional), drizzled the frosting over the top and it was a hit at dinner.  I cut up the extra pieces, gave some away and Dave’s been taking a slice in his lunch all week.

yield: Makes 12 servings

For cake

1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened, plus additional for greasing bundt pan
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour plus additional for dusting pan
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin (from a 15-ounce can; not pie filling)
3/4 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs 

For icing
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons well-shaken buttermilk
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar

Special equipment: a 10-inch nonstick bundt pan (3 quart)


Make cake:
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Grease bundt pan generously, then dust with flour, knocking out excess.

Whisk together flour (2 1/4 cups), baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, and salt in a bowl. Whisk together pumpkin, 3/4 cup buttermilk, and vanilla in another bowl.

Beat butter (1 1/2 sticks) and granulated sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes, then add eggs and beat 1 minute. Reduce speed to low and add flour and pumpkin mixtures alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture and mixing until batter is just smooth.

Spoon batter into pan, smoothing top, then bake until a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool cake in pan on a rack 15 minutes, then invert rack over cake and reinvert cake onto rack. Cool 10 minutes more.

Make icing:
While cake is cooling, whisk together buttermilk and confectioners sugar until smooth. Drizzle icing over warm cake, then cool cake completely. Icing will harden slightly.

Cooks’ note: Cake can be made 3 days ahead and kept in an airtight container at room temperature.