Pumpkins grown for decoration (such as jack o’lanterns) are not suitable for eating; look for “pie pumpkins” or “sugar pumpkins” for baking. To save effort on a pumpkin pie without giving up your good home-made flavor, avoid the canned pumpkin pie filling and look for plain canned pumpkin puree (the label may say things like “unsweetened” and “100% pumpkin”), to which you can then add whatever your favorite recipe calls for.

You should also to be aware that squash of all kinds cross readily with any gourds growing in the area. Avoid squash with “warts” on the skin (compare a normal pumpkin with one of the “knucklehead” ones to see what I’m talking about). Warty squash are likely to have taste and/or texture issues.

Newsletters: 26 Oct., 2011

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.

Ginger-Pumpkin Muffins
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.

Pumpkin-Seed Brittle
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.

Index to all blog posts.

Newsletters: 20 Oct., 2010

Excerpt from the Market Newsletter originally published on 20 Oct., 2010. View the full newsletter for all the photos and links.

Cooking, and reading about cooking
Last month Jackie at L&I recommended a recipe from Chez Panisse Vegetables using corn and zucchini that I think must be this one. If you move quickly you still might be able to find all the ingredients.

Summer squash and corn pasta
4-6 small summer squashes, diced
5-6 ears corn, cut from cobs
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 jalapeño pepper, finely chopped
3 Tbsp. olive oil
salt and black pepper to taste
handful cilantro leaves
2 Tbsp. butter
4 Tbsp. water
1 lb. fresh fettuccine, cooked
juice of 1/2 lemon, optional
Saute squash in the oil until tender and a little brown; season with salt and pepper. Add corn, garlic, and jalapeño; continue cooking a few more minutes. Add cilantro (reserving some for garnish if desired), butter, and water; correct seasoning. Add fettuccine and toss. Add lemon juice if corn is very sweet and garnish with cilantro.
From: Chez Panisse vegetables / by Alice Waters and the cooks of Chez Panisse. HarperCollins, c1996.

Warm spinach and squash salad
1.5 lb. delicata squash cut in half, seeded, and sliced, or butternut squash peeled, seeded, and cubed
4 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 t salt (divided)
black pepper
3 Tbsp. lemon juice or red wine vinegar
8 oz. spinach leaves
1/2 c toasted sliced almonds
Toss squash with 1 Tbsp. oil, 1/4 tsp. salt, and pepper to taste, in a 12×17-inch baking dish. Bake at 400F ca. 20 min., until tender. Mix lemon juice with remaining 1/4 tsp. salt; add squash, spinach, and onions. Heat remaining 3 Tbsp. oil, pour over all, and toss to coat, wilting spinach. Serve immediately.
From: Yoga Journal, Nov. 2009.

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Caramelized butternut squash wedges with sage hazelnut pesto

Butternut squash:
2 butternut squashes (about 3.5 lbs), peeled, quartered, seeds removed
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, to taste

Cut each squash quarter into 1 inch wedges and place in a bowl. Toss with olive oil, sugar, salt, and cayenne. Arrange in a single layer on baking sheet lined with baking parchment. Roast at 500F for 10 to 15 minutes, until caramelized, rearranging as needed for even roasting. Remove from oven and flip squash pieces. Bake another 10 to 15 minutes until caramelized on the other side and cooked through, again rearranging as needed. Remove to a large bowl and toss with pesto.

Sage hazelnut pesto:
1/4 cup fresh sage, chopped
4-5 Tbsp. olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/3 cup hazelnuts, toasted
6 Tbsp. ricotta salata, crumbled or chopped to a medium-fine crumble
salt to taste

Warm 3 Tbsp. olive oil, sage, and garlic over very low heat until the oil begins to bubble. Pour into a small bowl, reserving the garlic clove. Place the toasted hazelnuts and reserved garlic in food processor, blender (using a small container if available), or mortar and process/grind into a coarse meal; add to the bowl. Add the cheese and 1-2 Tbsp. more olive oil and stir until combined; add salt to taste.

(Note: Since I can’t eat squash, I’m thinking this could be made with chunks of sweet potato by modifying the roasting time. dh.)

Adapted from food52.com

Versión en español: this post is also available in Spanish.
Esperanta traduko: this post is also available in Esperanto, because Dana is a language geek.

Pumpkin soup with cheese croutons

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
1 lb. (about 4 cups) pumpkin*, cubed
1 medium potato, peeled and diced
1 tsp. dried sage
salt to taste
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
8 cups chicken stock

for croutons:
12 slices French bread**
olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled
grated cheese of your choice — Parmesan, Gouda, or Cheddar would be good

Saute onion, celery, and garlic in oil over medium heat until softened and lightly browned. Add remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, and simmer 30 minutes or until pumpkin and potato are tender. Puree soup with an immersion blender if available, or in batches in a regular blender. Adjust seasonings and keep warm.

Toast bread under the broiler and brush with oil. Rub with garlic on one side and sprinkle heavily with cheese. Return to broiler and toast until cheese is melted. Fill bowls with soup and top with croutons.

Makes about 6 servings, but I bet it’d freeze.

*Make sure you’re using a pie or sugar pumpkin; jack-o-lantern pumpkins are not particularly palatable. You can also substitute butternut squash if you prefer.

**The original recipe doesn’t specify, but I suspect you want small slices, as from a baguette. This would probably also look great done like French onion soup, with bowl-sized slices of bread toasted, oiled, and garliced like the croutons, but then floated on the soup, topped with slices of cheese, and the bowls put under the broiler on a tray to melt the cheese.

Adapted from: Ghoulish goodies / Sharon Bowers. Storey, 2009. ISBN: 9781603421461

Versión en español: this post is also available in Spanish
Esperanta traduko: this post is also available in Esperanto, because Dana is a language geek.

Winter squash

native to: Mexico and Central America
in season here: fall
Winter squash come in many varieties, but they all have a fairly hard outer shell and a hollow inner cavity full of seeds. Modern squashes developed from the wild squash of an area between Guatemala and Mexico, and were first cultivated for their seeds, the flesh being meager and very bitter. While roasted pumpkin seeds are the best known these days, the seeds of all winter squashes can be toasted to make a healthy snack, full of linoleic and oleic acids. Place them on a baking sheet and roast them at 160-170F for 15-20 minutes to minimize damage to these fatty acids.

Winter squash has been known to be an important source of carotenoids, especially alpha-carotene and beta-carotene. 90% of their total calories come from carbohydrates, and about half of that has a starchy composition, so they’re one of the starchier vegetables, but not all starch is created equal: there are a number of animal studies showing that the pectins in winter squash have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, and insulin-regulating properties. Other antioxidants in winter squash include good ol’ vitamin C and manganese. Cucurbitacins, named after the squash family, Cucurbitaceae, are also found in brassicas, some mushrooms, and some molluscs, but were first discovered in winter squash. They have anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties. Winter squash also have valuable amounts of omega-3s, especially when you consider that less than 15% of their calories come from fats. They also provide plenty of B-complex vitamins: B1, B3, B6, pantothenic acid, folate, and the B-vitamin-like compound d-chiro-inositol, which are all important to blood sugar regulation.

Winter squash can be used to help clean up contaminated soil, absorbing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and other contaminants; which is great if you’re doing environmental work, but not so great if you’re planning to eat the squash. This is a good time to insist on that “organic” label, even though conventionally-grown squash is not known for containing pesticide residues. It keeps best out of the light in a steady 50-60F.

Read more:
label-style nutrition information for cooked butternut squash
label-style nutrition information for cooked acorn squash
label-style nutrition information for cooked spaghetti squash
label-style nutrition information for cooked pumpkin
a guide to 10 common types of winter squash
and apparently you can also eat pumpkin blossoms

Versión en español: this post is also available in Spanish.
Esperanta traduko: this post is also available in Esperanto, because Dana is a language geek.

Turkey and Butternut Squash Chili

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1 lb. ground turkey breast
1 lb. butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup chicken broth
4.5 ounce can chopped green chilies
2 cans (14.5 ounces each) petite diced tomatoes
15 ounce can kidney beans with liquid
15.5 ounce can white hominy, drained
8 ounce can tomato sauce
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. garlic salt

Heat olive oil over medium heat and cook the onion and garlic about 3 minutes, stirring. Add the turkey and cook, crumbling, until no longer pink. Add remaining ingredients, bring to a simmer, and simmer over medium-low heat about 20 minutes, until the squash is tender and turkey is done.

Adapted from allrecipes.com

Versión en español: this post is also available in Spanish
Esperanta traduko: this post is also available in Esperanto, because Dana is a language geek.