Pick a pumpkin and make a splendid autumn dinner
September 21, 2017
I have resisted pumpkin season's siren call my entire adult life. Never once have I craved a pumpkin Frappuccino or pumpkin pancakes.
But something strange has happened. This morning I sat at my computer sipping a pumpkin latte while the flame of a pumpkin spice candle gaily danced on my coffee table. Pumpkin mania has taken over my home.
I'll blame it on the season. This morning I made my annual drive over Boreas Pass to savor aspen trees in their glorious peak and our first dusting of snow arrived last weekend. Both events gave me a sense of urgency: Autumn is quickly fleeing and winter will soon arrive. This time of year fills me with nostalgia. I curl up on the couch in front the fire to knit and feel grateful that I have a warm place to spend my evenings.
The cooler evenings also mean I get to think seriously about comfort food. Dishes that contain carbs seem appropriate as the nights lengthen and stepping outside can't be done without a sweater or a vest.
As I wheel my cart through the produce section, the bins are filled with the most adorable deep orange little pumpkins that cry out: "We're not just for jack o' lanterns!"
I agree! The two savory pumpkin recipes I'm sharing this week are easy enough for a cook of any skill level, and don't require expensive ingredients.
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Here's our guiding principle: If the meal is so complex that the cook is aggravated and the ingredients so expensive that sharing a meal requires skipping several yourself, well, no one's having fun. So, let's cook with ingredients that are in season, make dishes from scratch when it's economical, and take short-cuts when it will keep us from skipping a dish that might seem too intimidating. You'll see these principles at work in this week's recipes.
The first time I attempted homemade ravioli, I rolled out the dough myself and badly miscalculated what 'thin' looked like. My dinner guests ended up with lumpy chewy dough triangles. Luckily, they were forgiving. This recipe solves that problem and makes homemade pumpkin-stuffed ravioli easy enough for a weeknight dinner yet elegant enough to impress your friends with a nice dinner on the weekend.
1 15 oz. can of pumpkin puree (please, not the pumpkin pie filling!)
1 package wonton wrappers (found in the produce section)
1 cup grated aged Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese
1 egg beaten
1 stick of butter
4-6 fresh sage leaves
Seasonings: grated nutmeg, salt, pepper
Yield: makes 24 large ravioli — they can be frozen if you don't use all at one meal
1. Mix the can of pumpkin with the grated cheese (reserve a little for garnish), season with freshly grated nutmeg salt, and pepper. Put large pot of salted water on stove and bring to a boil.
2. Place 24 wonton wrappers on work table, put a small rounded teaspoon of the pumpkin puree mixture in the center of each wrapper, brush the four sides around the puree with the egg wash. Then lay a wonton wrapper over the pumpkin puree and seal the edges to eliminate air pockets.
3. Brush the top of each ravioli with egg wash. I like to refrigerate the ravioli for 30 minutes to one hour at this point to allow the egg-washed wonton to dry and seal.
4. When you're ready for dinner, gently slide each ravioli into the boiling water. The ravioli is done when they float to the top. Scoop them out of the water one at a time.
5. While you boil the ravioli, put the stick of butter and the sage leaves into a small non-stick skillet. Allow the butter to foam, but not burn. You want the butter to slowly brown over a medium low heat, the butter will foam during this process. But don't let the butter burn! The sage leave will curl and fry in the butter. Use them to garnish the ravioli … they are delicious little bit of crispy goodness.
6. Pour a little browned butter over each plate of ravioli, garnish with fried sage leaves and a grating of parmesan or pecorino Romano.
Stuffed Individual Pumpkins
This is your go-to recipe when pumpkins are on sale in the grocery store. It's so simple and delicious, I firmly believe everyone should try it once. The recipe is as easy as what you have in your refrigerator. Bit of cheese from last night's wine and cheese? Throw it in. A few slices of your favorite sausage, bacon, leftover roasted vegetables, rice or bread cubes, get creative! Pumpkin is the perfect vessel for your creativity.
Yield: 1-2 people depending on the size of each pumpkin
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 45-55 minutes
1 small pumpkin (or acorn squash) per person
bits of your favorite cheese, sausage, bacon, cooked vegetables, cooked rice, quinoa or bread cubes
¼ cup heavy cream or half and half for each small pumpkin
salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Cut the top off each pumpkin, but save, because you'll be using it as a top as the pumpkin bakes. Then scoop out the seeds of the interior of the pumpkin so that the cavity is clear and ready to stuff.
2. Stuff the pumpkin with small bites of your favorite ingredients: cheese, meat, vegetable, bread (or rice), add enough cream just to dampen the ingredients.
3. Cover the cavity with the 'lid' you cut off. Roast the pumpkin for 40-45 minutes or until the pumpkin can be pierced easily with a knife. Take the pumpkin from the oven and let it rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.
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