Monday, October 10, 2005

Pumpkin Recipe with a Twist

We're still busy running around like wild women here, so I'm posting a recipe and article from Stephen Lee that was published in the Spt/Oct 2002 issue.

Fallin For Pumpkin .... a vegetable love story with a fairy tale ending

Charlie Brown, long of comic strip fame, is still looking for his Great Pumpkin, but thankfully I've found mine. Forget all those giant squash - like the 163 pounder that won the blue ribbon at last year's Kentucky State Fair and even those well-scrutinized and hand-picked globes gathered by families for their youngsters artfully carving into scary Halloween faces. My pumpkin, indeed "the" pumpkin of choice for any knowledgeable cook, is the pie or sugar variety - small, succulent and tender, perfect for any recipe.
Pumpkins, a member of the gourd family, along with watermelons and butternut squash, are so underutilized. The orange wonders are good for so much more than jack o'lanterns and those ubiquitous pies served at holiday time. Occasionally when making a beef stew, I'll simply substitute chunks of pared pumpkin for some or all of the potatoes called for in the recipe. Everyone loves the "gourmet" difference that exchange makes. One of my favorite methods is to simply steam chunks of pumpkin over two cups of vegetable broth. When the pumpkin is tender, I press it through a ricer, mix in just enough of the vegetable broth to make a moist mash, season with a snip or two of fresh chives and use the results as a heart-healthy side dish suitable for most any meal.
Smart cooks choose pumpkins that are free from blemishes and heavy for their size, just a little over one and a half pounds is perfect. You can keep whole pumpkins for about a month at room temperature and about 3 months if refrigerated; however, if you begin to use pumpkin the way I do you won't have to worry much about storing them - they'll be used up in a flash.
To help you take that leap into fun pumpkin cookery I'm offering one of my most favorite recipes. You might be tempted to reserve this effort for a special occasion, I have vegetarian friends who use it as their Thanksgiving dinner; but I encourage you to find the time (and soon) to put this tasty dish before your family and friends. You'll find the presentation magical and the results worthy of that fairy tale ending..... and they all ate happily ever after.

Cinderella's Lasagna in a Pumpkin Coach

10 6" diameter pumpkins - pie or sugar
2 cups vegetable broth
1/4 cup butter, unsalted
1 large onion, yellow - sliced thin
2 Tbsp. Tarragon, fresh - minced
1 Tbsp. brown sugar, dark
2 cups Almonds, toasted - chopped fine
2 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp. white pepper - freshly ground
24 5" x 5" sheets pasta, fresh or equivalent lasagna noodles
1 cup bread crumbs - dry
1 cup Parmesan cheese - freshly grated
1 cup Ricotta cheese

Cut tops off of pumpkins and reserve. Scrape and discard the seeds and strings from the pumpkin interiors. Place pumpkins with tops laying aside on a greased, parchment-lined baking sheet and roast, in a preheated 350 degree oven for about an hour just until the pumpkin meat becomes tender. Remove pumpkins from oven and let rest until cool enough to handle.
Remove all the pumpkin meat from 4 of the pumpkins, reserving to a bowl, and discard the shells. Remove and reserve most of the meat from the remaining pumpkins, leaving just enough to allow the pumpkins to hold their shape. Puree the pumpkin meat in a food processor with the vegetable broth and reserve.
Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add the onions and cook for 3 minutes, then add the tarragon and brown sugar, and cook for 2 minutes more, stirring occasionally. Add the pumpkin puree, mix well and bring to a boil. Remove from heat; add the almonds and season with salt and pepper.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add the pasta sheets or lasagna noodles and cook just until al dente. Drain and put a little of the pumpkin sauce over the pasta to keep them from sticking together.
To assemble: Place a pasta sheet into the bottom of each pumpkin, cover with a few spoons of the sauce and a sprinkling of bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese. Top with a little of the ricotta cheese. Continue with this layering in the same fashion finishing with a top of ricotta cheese. Choose the 6 nicest roasted pumpkin tops and place one back onto each pumpkin, discarding the rest.
Place pumpkins onto a lightly greased, parchment-lined baking sheet and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.
Remove the pumpkins from the oven and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Serve warm.

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