Fresh From the Farm – Katie Malich

I was at a recent dinner party where everyone but me went gaga over the dessert course. I was polite, of course. But inwardly I couldn’t muster up the high level of enthusiasm that the others had. I feel almost heretical to admit this, but …I could live a very happy and contented life without eating another piece of pumpkin pie.
Luckily (although perhaps not so luckily for my waistline), there are other pumpkin-based deserts which I would gladly eat at any fall holiday gathering. And even more luckily, pumpkin can be served as a vegetable side dish as well as a dessert.
Today’s Tuesday afternoon Culver City Farmers Market is the best place in town to find a wonderful and exciting selection of pumpkins. If you are planning to use the pumpkin for cooking, the sweetest and best-textured pumpkin to get is the aptly-named pie pumpkin. And the secret for getting the best quality cooked pumpkin to use in your desert recipes is to carve the pie pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds and place the halves cut-side down on a baking sheet. Bake them at 400 for about half an hour.
Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Food for Everyone has a recipe for roasted pumpkin which is simple and delicious. If you are wanting a side dish with a touch of sweetness and spice. And no darned pie crust.

Roasted Pumpkin

One  2  to 3 lb pumpkin
approximately 1/3- 1/2  c. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel and seed the pumpkin. Rather than use a vegetable peeler, I have cut the pumpkin in half from top to bottom. I then scoop out the seeds and stringy pulp. (Reserve the seeds to roast later. See last week’s Fresh From the Farm for roasted pumpkin seed recipes.) I’ll then divide each half into quarters, and then divide each quarter in half or into thirds. I’ll then use a sharp knife to cut the hard outside away from the tender flesh, much like you would peel the rind away from an orange slice. I’ll cut each peeled wedge into 2 inch cubes. You might prefer peeling the pumpkin first. Just do whatever is best for you. Place cubes in bowl. Drizzle 1/3 cup of olive oil over them. Toss to cover lightly. Add more oil and toss again if needed. Lightly season with salt and pepper. Spread the cubes in a large baking dish or sheet pan. Place in oven and roast for 15 minutes, turn the pieces, and then roast for 15 minutes more. Turn the heat down to 350 degrees and then bake 10-15 minutes more, or until the pumpkin cubes are tender. Best served warm.

Katie Malich will be looking forward to the end of Thanksgiving dinner for other reasons; coffee, cream…

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