Excerpt from the Market Newsletter originally published on 26 Oct., 2011. View the full newsletter for all the photos and links.
In the belly
Pumpkins, of course, are just one of the many winter squashes. Winter squashes are members of the Cucurbitaceae family, related to both the melon and the cucumber. They were originally cultivated, 10,000 years ago in South America, for their seeds. Now they offer us complex carbohydrates, fiber, alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and other carotenoids, omega-3 fats, and a whole alphabet of vitamins. They are said to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-diabetic and insulin-regulating properties. Research has suggested that growing winter squash can help remove contaminants from soil, which is good as long as you weren’t planning to eat them. The corollary is that this is a good vegetable to buy organic if you do plan to eat it.
In the kitchen
Being a bit pressed for both time and inspiration, I turn once again to good ol’ Epicurious for, of course, pumpkin recipes.
5.5 tablespoons minced crystallized ginger
1/2 cup dried currants or raisins
2 tablespoons brandy
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1.5 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cooked pumpkin puree (or canned solid pack pumpkin)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons low-fat buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large egg whites
1 large egg
3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons golden brown sugar
1/2 cup light molasses
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Mix 2.5 tablespoons crystallized ginger, currants and brandy in small bowl. Sift together flour, ground ginger, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt. Whisk pumpkin puree, buttermilk and vanilla. Beat egg whites and egg until foamy; beat in 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar. Beat until light, about 2 minutes; beat in molasses and oil. Beat in dry ingredients alternately with pumpkin mixture in 3 additions each. Stir in currant mixture. Divide batter among sixteen 1/3-cup muffin cups with paper liners. Mix 3 tablespoons crystallized ginger and 1 tablespoon brown sugar and sprinkle evenly over muffins. Bake at 375F about 25 min., until tester inserted into center comes out clean. Cool on a rack.
Sugar Pumpkin, Feta, and Cilantro Quesadillas
3 cups peeled seeded sugar pumpkin or butternut squash in 1.5-inch cubes (about 1 lb. whole pumpkin)
1 finely chopped seeded jalapeño (about 2 tablespoons)
salt and pepper to taste
12 flour tortillas, 8-inch diameter
10 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1.5 cups coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
2 limes, each cut into 6 wedges, to serve
Cook pumpkin in boiling salted water until tender but not falling apart, about 10 minutes. Drain and cool 10 minutes; transfer to a food processor and puree until smooth. Stir in jalapeño; season with salt and pepper. Spread about 1/4 c pumpkin mixture evenly on each of 6 tortillas. Sprinkle with feta, 1/4 cup cilantro and pepper to taste. Top each with a second tortilla. Cook in a heavy skillet over med-high about 1 min. per side, until golden with dark char marks.
1/2 cup fresh pumpkin seeds, not rinsed
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
salt to taste
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
Toss seeds with oil and salt and bake at 250F on an ungreased baking sheet, stirring occasionally, for 1 – 1.25 hours, or until golden and crisp. Combine sugar and water and cook over moderately low heat, stirring and washing down the sugar crystals with a brush dipped in cold water until the sugar is dissolved, and simmer it, undisturbed, tilting and rotating the skillet, until it is a deep caramel color. Stir in the pumpkin seeds until they are coated well, and turn the mixture out onto a buttered sheet of foil, spreading it evenly. Let the brittle cool completely and break into pieces.