Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ziti with Pumpkin: Zit alla Zucca

This pasta dish is from Mario Batali and the Food Network. I was a little confused about his 1 pound pumpkin, cut into julienne. Does that mean a 1-pound pumpkin, which would give you about 12 ounces of pumpkin flesh julienned, or does it mean 1 pound of pumpkin from a larger pumpkin, julienned? I cut it in the middle and ended up using 14 ounces. Next time I would use twice that much. At one point, julienning a pumpkin would have taken me a while, but I'm getting to be an expert at all things pumpkin including cutting one up. It's a great recipe and the only complaint I heard was that it could have used more pumpkin.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Pumpkin Dutch Baby

According to Sunset magazine, Dutch babies were introduced in the first half of the 1900s at Manca's Cafe, a family-run restaurant in Seattle owned by Victor Manca. While these pancakes are derived from the German pancake dish, it is said that the name Dutch baby was coined by one of Victor Manca's daughters. In 1942, Manca's Cafe owned the trademark for Dutch babies, although the cafe later closed in the 1950s.

This pumpkin Dutch baby recipe comes from the website Baking Bites. I've been making traditional Dutch babies for weekend breakfasts for years and always put the ingredients in the blender and did for the recipe too. The eggs need to be whipped until frothy and then add the rest of the ingredients. This one did not puff up as much as traditional ones do, probably because of the weight of the pumpkin puree. Andrew, Karen, the Hub and I acted as taste testers, and everyone like the recipe.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Hokie Tailgating, Pumpkin Style

Andrew and his girlfriend Karen were meeting up with some long-time friends to watch the Virginia Tech - Miami football game, and wanted to take some traditional tailgating food that would also incorporate pumpkin. Hokie colors are Chicago maroon and burnt orange, so pumpkin food is really showing their colors. We decided on a menu of pumpkin nachos, pumpkin hummus and pumpkin pie shooters. It was kind of a spur of the moment idea and came together amazingly quickly and easily.

We looked at several pumpkin nachos recipes, but decided to make up one with what we had in the house. I tossed diced pumpkin with cumin, salt, pepper, oil and a pinch of cayenne and then roasted it. They layered it on chips with cooked crumbled chorizo, pepper jack cheese, tomatoes, green onions and avocado and baked it in the oven.

For the drinks, we used a professional recipe rather than the Baileys, Kahlua and cinnamon schnapps recipe that was everywhere on the web. It calls for a cooked pumpkin syrup for the base, and then add liquor and cream.

The pumpkin hummus recipe was given in the blog in November. After we packed it up, they left for Brian and Sara's house and the game and the rest of this blog belongs to them.

A - The nachos above were the finished project. While the pumpkin was a great addition, the stars of the show were the chorizo and the cheese. Both added spice in addition to depth and texture. As well as being delicious, the nachos turned out visually impressive and presented well from the baking tray. Find a more pretentious description of nachos on the internet and I will be impressed. 

K - It's nice that we begin our recounting of the night with a bit of class as things will quickly digress from here...

K - The hummus turned out great as well. Smooth and flavorful with just the right amount of pumpkin.

A - I prefer a savory hummus and the pumpkin still remained a pleasant addition. Now on to the good stuff...

A - Shown here are the four main culprits. The syrup was easy to prepare and really added a lot to the drink. We chose vanilla vodka and it mixed together perfectly.

K - Using light whipped cream and half and half instead of full cream did nothing to negatively affect the taste of the shot. They tasted great, perhaps in the case of a few individuals, a little too great...

A - Look innocent, don't they? We thought so too after the first 5 or 6. Brian's head cleaning up spills in the background should provide some clues otherwise (sorry Sara, it was Karen, not me). Here's a tip when preparing the shots: don't try to layer - the syrup and the cream are too thin. Instead mix the syrup, cream and vodka together, pour and add the whipped cream on top.

K - It was Andy.

K - The boys look great. Full of nachos and ready to cheer on the Hokies and dive into their first (and certainly not last) pumpkin pie shot of the night. I remained dilligent in my duties as head chef, photographer and ultimately...designated driver.

A - Wide eyed and full of wonderment. Would the Hokies crush Miami? Yes, yes they would. Were there any nachos left? No, no there weren't. Two trays were demolished within minutes save for a pittance of crumbs Brian was able to wrestle from the mongrels for poor Sara, still at work. Would I later lose my voice playing Rock Band 3. Maybe some questions are better left unanswered.

A - My two favorite things about fall are pumpkins and football. Throw in friends, nachos, booze and hokie beatdowns and you have a winning combination for a great night. Thanks to Jo for all her help in preparation and thanks to my friends for being such willing guinea pigs.

K - A great night with great friends. Can't wait to do it again soon!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pumpkin Stuffing

This pumpkin stuffing recipe is courtesy of Dean Fearing, Mansion at Turtle Creek, which according to their website is long hailed as Dallas's best restaurant for fine dining. I like the idea of fresh herbs instead of dry. I  diced the pumpkin and then roasted it because I think it holds its shape better and doesn't get mushy. The Hub went off with this to his office Thanksgiving luncheon, so I didn't really get to taste it. It was almost gone before he got through the line, but he said everyone like it.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good

This recipe comes the cookbook Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan. I made mine in this blue jarrahdale pumpkin. It is amazingly good.

You clean it out like you would start a jack-o-lantern.

Add the filling. The only change I made was that I used a combination of Gruyere and Emmental cheeses. Then bake it.

As you can see the flesh of this pumpkin was a good two inches thick and took over two hours to cook. I checked it by sticking a wooden skewer in the side, and left the pumpkin in until there was no resistance on the skewer.

You take the lid off for the last 20 minutes to let it brown. To serve we just scooped the filling out with part of the pumpkin. You can also slice it into wedges.Yum. I ate it for lunch all week.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Four-Layer Pumpkin Cake with Orange-Cream Cheese Frosting

I wanted to make this cake in order to provide an impressive Thanksgiving alternative to pie for those who like cake better. But when I was studying the recipe before making it, I found a really disturbing fact: This cake contains 750 calories (52% from fat), 44 g of fat (26.5 saturated) 175 mg cholesterol, 83 g of carbohydrates, 59 g sugar and on the good side 2 g of fiber and 7.7 g of protein per slice. Who in good conscience could eat this or serve it? I was trying to get an idea of what this compares to. Was I being naive, do all great desserts have that much junk in them? A small Reese's Peanut Butter Cup blizzard (and who eats a small?) is 600. And a piece of red velvet Cheesecake Factory cheesecake is 817. So apparently it's not the worst thing you could eat, but still I couldn't do it - I made half a cake. Instead of four layers, my cake has two layers and half the frosting.

Here's the Hub putting the batter together while I got the pans ready.

This cake uses one teaspoon of Chinese five-spice powder (my half cake only had 1/2 teaspoon) for seasoning. Chinese five-spice contains cinnamon, star anise, fennel, cloves, ginger, licorice, szechuan peppercorn and white pepper. Hmm is it me or was anyone else thinking this really should be called Chinese eight-spice? It's an interesting combination in a cake, but for those who don't like star anise, not to mention licorice, even 1/2 teaspoon is too much. The frosting is excellent with its hint of orange. I used fresh orange zest and toasted pecans instead of walnuts.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Pumpkin Tart Tatin

This recipe from the LA Times looks way better in their picture than in mine. I'm getting better with the pictures, but still have a long way to go. It didn't help that my tatin was just plain ugly to begin with. I made this on a weeknight (not something I would recommend) and we ate it as a side dish with pork tenderloin. It's hard for me to justify to myself the calories involved. I tell myself that it's for all of you that I eat this stuff.

The only change I made to the recipe was to use prepared pie crust instead of the recipe given for the crust.

It was really good warm that night and cold the next day. If I made it again in would be for a buffet or as a heavy hors d'oueve and serve it at room temperature. That way people would be cutting small pieces and mixing it with other less calorie heavy foods.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Starbucks Pumpkin Loaf, part 1

My two-year-old granddaughter Sophie loves the pumpkin loaf they sell at Starbucks. She yells her order from her car seat whenever they hit the drive thru at Starbucks (which is pretty often considering they are a Seattle family).

It's a funny thing about this recipe, whereas most of the Starbucks recipes are all over the Internet, this one is not. Many people are looking for it. Top Secret Recipes supposedly duplicated it, but is closed mouth about it because it is included in a book coming out later this month. I can purchase it on their website, but thought I would try this recipe first, which some claimed was close.

And those claiming that - would be wrong. It is not it. Not that it isn't an excellent pumpkin bread, it is. Not that I think Starbucks is the premier pumpkin bread either, I don't, but Sophie does.

The Starbucks loaf is square - not exactly sure how they do that, but this loaf has baking soda in it which makes it rise and gives it a domed top. I did add chopped pepitas to the top which exactly duplicated the their crunchy top. The Starbucks tastes sweeter and is darker in color. Also this recipe calls for three 7x3 inch pans. It's an odd size and I could only get close with disposable 8x4 inch pans.

I decided to spring for the 99 cents to buy the Top Secret Recipes version. I made it one evening and brought it to work the next day. I was sure I had nailed it because it looked exactly like it - same color and not domed.

It was pouring down rain in the morning so it was afternoon before I ventured out to Starbucks to pick up some of their pumpkin loaf for comparison. Sorry Top Secret Recipes, you can see from the unbiased votes below, it's not the same. They liked it, and it was gone in a flash, but the hunt goes on.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Baked Pumpkin Donuts

This recipe for baked pumpkin donuts comes from Cheekykitchen.com, who seems like a pumpkin-loving girl after my own heart. And she is absolutely right when she says you won't miss the grease of regular donuts one bit. The buttermilk glaze is perfect on these donuts warm from the oven.

I only made half the recipe, which was plenty for the three of us.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Pumpkin Hummus

I looked at a lot of hummus recipes before choosing this one from Slash Food. Strange as it may seem, it was the only one that contained chick peas, which I thought is essential for hummus. I also liked the cumin, garlic, and cayenne for spices as opposed to the routine cinnamon/nutmeg found in some others. This recipe contains just one tablespoon of the calorie heavy tahini, which only adds to its healthy aspects. This might just be my favorite recipe so far. I thought nothing could beat that buckle, but I really like this stuff.

It's easy to make and makes a perfect snack or impressive hors d'ouerve. I sprinkled parsley and a little paprika on it. Notice the cute little plate, a gift my mom brought back from Portugal. It doesn't have a bird on it, but I like it anyway.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Spiced Mini Pumpkins

Got a houseful of mini pumpkins? Have a lapse of judgement at the farmers market? (Mine was selling a basket of 50 mini pumpkins for eight bucks on the day before Halloween.) This recipe was easy using my new kitchen gadget: the hack saw. It worked perfectly for cutting these little pumpkins and I can't wait to try it on the big guys.

The recipe recommends filling these with pudding or custard or scoops of ice cream. I have mine stored in the frig and plan on rewarming them to serve with pumpkin ice cream later in the week.

The guys ate them stuffed with pumpkin trifle; I had mine with ice cream. They were good with both. Just this morning (well, last night in Seattle), my daughter Robin, her husband Roger and their friends Heather and BJ sent me a picture of small baked pumpkins filled with applesauce. The possibilities are endless.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Best Pumpkin Pie, part 2

In our continued search for the best pie to serve this Thanksgiving, I tested three different recipes from respected sources. For consistency and fairness, I used Libby's canned pumpkin and the same crust for each one. Two of the three recipes call for cooking the crust a little to avoid a soggy bottom crust - I did this for all three. Only one of the recipes provides a recipe for the crust.

Pie 1 came from the label on a can of Libby's pumpkin. It has few ingredients, but makes a great predictable pie. It is well spiced with a combination of cinnamon, ginger and cloves, and is recognizable, as one taster said, "This is the pumpkin pie I've been eating all my life." And he's right, it is. The only thing I changed was to cook the crust for 10 minutes with foil and pie weights and then remove this and cook another 5 to 10 minutes at 400 degrees F., and this is an adjustment I would recommend. I think we are so used to a soggy bottom crust on pumpkin pie, we don't even notice it. Even the pie on the label of Libby's has what appears to be a soggy bottom crust. But make one with a flaky crust and you can really tell the difference.

Pie 2 is America's Test Kitchen pumpkin and sweet potato pie. It uses heavy cream and whole milk in place of the typical evaporated milk and a combination of maple syrup, sugar and candied yams for sweetness. It uses slight amounts of cinnamon and nutmeg, but 2 tsps of grated fresh ginger for the spices. It also uses 3 large eggs plus 2 egg yolks. Lots of calories here, but we don't care - we're going for taste. The filling for this pie has 12 ingredients and cooks for 15 to 22 minutes on the stove top while the sous chef (The Hub) stirred constantly. It started as mild grumbling, but by the time the 22 minutes were over, he was so over this pie declaring he didn't care what it tasted like, it was too much work and went off to ice his shoulder.

Pie 3 is a pumpkin pie from Paula Deen and the Food Network. Paula uses cream cheese, half and half and butter for dairy. She cuts way back on the spices using only 1/2 tsp cinnamon and an optional 1/4 tsp ginger; she also adds some vanilla. I use pumpkin every single day so it wasn't a problem for me, but Paula calls for 2 cups of canned pumpkin, and a regular 15 oz can contains 1 3/4 cups. In order to follow the recipe exactly you have to open two cans of pumpkin and only use 1/4 cup from can two; I think the average cook would find this annoying.

How the testing worked: Four groups of four people each were given a plate with a small slice of each pie marked 1,2 and 3 and asked to rank them in order of taste. There was a group Sunday night, morning and afternoon on Monday and Tuesday morning. Talking was discouraged until the voting was done. The groups were kept deliberately small. The guy in the back of the picture with the TV, did not get pie.

On Sunday night: Libby 5 points, ATK 11 points, Paula 8 points
On Monday am: Libby 8 points, ATK 11 points, Paula 5 points
On Monday pm: Libby 9 points,  ATK 7 points, Paula 8 points
On Tuesday am: Libby 12 points, ATK 4 points, Paula 8 points

For totals of Libby 34 points, America's Test Kitchen 33 points, Paula 29 points

An interesting point is that the Sunday night and Tuesday morning results were almost exactly the opposite for the Libby pie and the ATK pie and I think the spices were responsible. By Monday pm, tasters were commenting on the ATK pie, asking if that was lemon or orange peel or what exactly was the overpowering taste. So if you choose to make the ATK pie, you should probably serve it within 24 hours. While the Libby pie seem to get better with age and would benefit from being made in advance and stored in the frig. The Paula Deen pie has a cheesecake lean with its cream cheese. Tasters didn't vary over time with their ratings consistently giving it a two or three.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Pumpkin Fudge

This pumpkin fudge recipe from the book The Perfect Pumpkin was a big hit with the taste testing crew at Discovery Creative. I and a couple of others voted "not my favorite." The good votes filled up the page and someone got a continuation sheet. I personally would have liked to see more pumpkin and therefore more pumpkin taste in it.

Pumpkin Fudge
   From The Perfect Pumpkin

3 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter
1 5oz can evaporated milk
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
12 ounces butterscotch bits
7 ounces marshmallow creme
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a large, heavy saucepan, combine the first 5 ingredients. Stirring constantly, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and cook to the soft-ball stage (234 degrees F, 115 degrees C), about 25 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the butterscotch bits. Add the remaining ingredients. Blend well and spread evenly in a buttered 9 x 13-inch pan. Cool and cut into squares. Wrap tightly and store in the frig.

I used pecans and toasted the nuts before adding them. I have another recipe for pumpkin fudge and will try it later in the year.

Notice the cute little bird on this plate, a gift from my daughter.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Pumpkin Chowder

Both The Hub and I loved this pumpkin chowder from Country Living magazine. I wasn't expecting to like it, and The Hub is always suspicious of anything without meat. I wondered what made this a chowder as opposed to just a soup. There is a multitude of definitions for chowder most of them centered around the ingredients and none of the required ingredients are present in this recipe, but we liked it anyway.

I used the rest of the white pumpkin and orange bell peppers. The only other change I made was to accidentally drop the black pepper container in the pot adding way more pepper than the 1/4 tsp called for. To compensate I picked as much as I could out and left out the crushed red pepper.  Andrew commented the next day that the chowder had a little kick to it. Hmmm wonder how that happened.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sugared Pumpkin Seeds

I found this recipe in the November 2001Chocolatier magazine. They were supposed to go on some pumpkin tarts that I haven't gotten around to making, but we are on our second batch of sugared pumpkin seeds, which we put on everything. These are made with hulled pumpkin seeds, also called pepitas, that you buy at the store, not the ones you pull out of a pumpkin.

The first time I made them I used a quarter sheet pan and it really wasn't big enough; the second time I used a regular baking sheet and it worked better. The seeds need to spread out to dry properly.

Sugared Pumpkin Seeds
1 scant tablespoon egg white (measuring this out was lots of fun)
1/2 teaspoon water
1 cup hulled pumpkin seeds
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt (omit if pumpkin seeds are salted)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil rimmed baking sheet. In large bowl, whisk egg white with water until frothy. Add pumpkin seeds and mix well. Combine remaining ingredients in small bowl and mix until well blended. Add to pumpkin seeds and toss with large spoon until seeds are coated with sugar mixture.
Spread coated seeds onto prepared pan in even layer. Bake for 20 minutes, stirring after 10 minutes. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack and allow seeds to cool completely. Store in covered container. Pumpkin seeds will keep for several days at room temperature.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Pumpkin Cannelloni with Sage Brown-Butter

For this recipe from Country Living magazine, I chose a white pumpkin.

This one came from the Level Green Farm stand at the Burke farmers market. The guys that man this stand have helped me tremendously to pick great eating pumpkins. For that reason, Level Green, owned by Carolyn and Gary Sisson of Montross, VA, is the first place I head when I hit the market and I am the proud owner of a garage full of their pumpkins. This one tasted wonderful and I am definitely going to pick up some more next week. The market is only open for a couple more weekends.

I made very few changes to this recipe. I did save a bowl and mashed the pumpkin with the cheeses in one step. The pumpkin filling was heavenly by itself and I can't wait to eat the leftovers for lunch next week. But, I think it was the pumpkin that made it so good.

It doesn't really tell you how or how long butter takes to brown, but mine took about 10 minutes with lots of bubbling from the water in the sage.

Both the Hub and I loved this, which kind of surprised me - it's not our normal Sunday lunch. When I put the leftovers in the frig, I put a damp paper towel over the pasta which was already drying out. Next time I might skip the pasta and just serve the filling as a side dish.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Best Pumpkin Pie, part 1

In order to be ready by Thanksgiving with the very best pie, we have to get to work now. In part 1, I tested fresh pumpkin against canned pumpkin. I used a Long Island cheese pumpkin, supposedly one of the best eating.

To make my own puree, I used this recipe from Gourmet magazine. It takes 10 1/2 hours - not for cooking but for draining.

After baking and running through the food processor, it needs to drain in a cheesecloth lined strainer for 8 hours or overnight. I think about a cup of water drained out of this puree.

I made the recipes exactly the same and even rinsed out the can and refilled it with my own so as to have the exact same amount. The recipe calls for 15 minutes at a higher temperature and then 40 minutes at a lower one. I used two ovens and moved the pies to the other oven after 15 minutes.

The results of eight tasters was 4 to 4. No one disliked either pie, but preferred one over the other for different reasons. Several found the canned pumpkin sweeter than the fresh. Everyone could taste the difference in the texture. The fresh pumpkin was thicker than the canned and made a denser pie. Some liked it, some didn't.

Bottom line - it doesn't seem to matter if you use canned or fresh. The canned is a more consistent product and a quarter of the cost of fresh. But Thanksgiving only comes around once a year and if you want to make it from scratch, that's OK too. Just make sure to use an eating pumpkin such as a white, sugar, Australian blue, fairy tale or Cinderella and not one meant for the jack-o-lantern trade.

In part 2, we'll start testing specific recipes.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Pumpkin Praline Trifle

This dessert from Bon Appetit magazine looks and sounds decadent. It would make a wonderful Thanksgiving dessert for those not hard over for pie. And because it needs to sit for 24 to 48 hours, it could be made earlier in the week. I made the praline and had already decided to buy spiced nuts next time before reading the same comments from others. Whole Foods has great spiced pecans as a seasonal item this time of year.

It went together quickly once all the components (praline, cream, pumpkin) were made. I left out the 4 1/2 tablespoons of dark rum. I'm not sure most people like the taste of dark rum, and with that much soaked into the ladyfingers, you were bound to taste it.

Since it has to sit for up to two days to let the flavors meld, I had planned on taking this to work, but it never made it. Sorry Discovery Creative. We made big dents in it even before the melding time was up and have been eating it for dessert every night since. This is definitely a winner.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

David Memmott's Red Coconut Pumpkin Curry

Our first guest pumpkin chef blogger. Do you have a pumpkin recipe you'd like to share? Contact me and I'm more than willing to share the pumpkin limelight. Take it away, David.

To take pumpkin in an unexpected direction, try a nice Thai coconut curry to warm your insides on cold days. Years ago I took a Thai cooking class and learned a simple form of this dish using salmon as the main ingredient. Since then I’ve tried chicken and shrimp. Four years ago I was visiting my brother in a small town in southeastern Idaho. It was fall and he took me to a little hole-in-the-wall Thai restaurant and I was surprised when they brought out a red coconut pumpkin curry. They were using local ingredients that were in season. That’s when I realized that this dish could go beyond our expectation when gazing at the menus in Thai restaurants. Since then I’ve made it with sweet potato and butternut squash but not yet pumpkin. 

Joanne provided a Japanese type pumpkin, which seemed like the appropriate choice. Overall it turned out great but in order to speed up the cooking time I cut off the top of the pumpkin and popped it in the microwave for 10 mins. I wouldn’t recommend this. The meat got too soft so I threw it under the broiler to get some browning. If you make this don’t try to cut corners. Cube, season and toss the pumpkin in a little oil or melted butter. Then roast it in the oven at 425 for 20 -25 mins. That’ll enhance its sweetness and be well worth the time.

Red Coconut Pumpkin Curry

1 tablespoon red or green curry paste
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 clove garlic - minced
2 cans coconut milk
2 lemon grass stalks
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
salt to taste
1-2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 can bamboo shoots - julienned (Drain and boil in water for 5 mins to take away the tin taste.)
1 red bell pepper - julienned 
1 lb pumpkin - chunked and roasted or sauteed to get nice caramelization
1 small jalapeno
1 tablespoon sugar
Thai basil or cilantro

Heat oil in large nonstick pan. Add curry paste and stir. (make sure the pan and oil aren't too hot or the paste will send up fumes and make it hard to breath.) Add garlic and let cook for 1 min. Add coconut milk and lemon grass stalks and bring to simmer. Skim off any skin that forms on the surface. Add cumin, coriander and fish sauce. Add bamboo shoots and continue to simmer for and few minutes then add red pepper and pumpkin and sugar. Finally add the jalapeno and turn off heat. Squeeze in half of the lime juice garnish with torn basil leaves and lime wedges. Serve over rice.