Cooking My Heart Out: On pumpkins, fall, fashion, school and Grandma

It’s Fall, my favorite season! Just look at its brilliance, abundance and color! There is nothing like fall! It’s like the Goldilocks of all seasons.  I love it!

pumkins

Pumpkins are about as close to the top of my list of favorite things about fall, as a round heavy shapeless and hard to cut vegetable can get. Besides the fact that they are so good for you, they are also a fashion inspiration. I can pretty much find all pumpkin colors in my closet.

PumpkinColors

But my favorite thing about the pumpkins, is the desert that my grandma used to make for me.

Many years ago, I’d come home from school, and the intoxicating aroma of pumpkin and cinnamon would fill the house. My grandma’s pumpkin rice walnut pudding was my favorite treat in the fall. She made it frequently; mainly to indulge me. And also to make good use of the enormous pumpkins we had in the yard.
Today, when I was freaking out my dogs, chopping pumpkin and making the dessert I grew up with, I wasn’t aware that it was my grandma’s birthday….I always thought her birthday is on Oct 15, until my dad asked me if I made it in her honor. I guess I did…

I posted a photo of my dish with the memory snapshot above on Facebook and several of my friends asked me for the recipe.

So here it goes:

The best pumpkin to eat is either the Green Hubbard (pictured below) or the butternut squash. Both work well. I sometimes even use sweet potatoes. They have pretty much the same consistency.

GreenHubbard1

This slicing job isn’t for everyone. You MUST find either someone qualified who has done this before, or have it sliced at the store… Better yet, just find pre-sliced pumpkin, or just do it with sweet potatoes.

Or if you are like me and think that you absolutely must do it yourself, you may proceed AT YOUR OWN RISK! I do NOT recommend it for several reasons.

1. I have had friends rushed to the emergency room because they almost sliced their fingers off, trying to slice a pumpkin!!!

and

2. The process is extremely noisy and may scare the living daylights out of your pets. As it’s evident in Exhibit A. (“We might be next!)

Scaredy Dogs

This is what the Hubbard pumpkin looks like inside. (I like to gather these seeds, dry them on a paper towel and throw them in the garden in spring. And then wait for pumpkins come Halloween time. )

GreenHubbard2

Once you’ve chunked your pumpkin, you can prepare the rest of your ingredients and begin:

Pumpkin/ Rice/ Walnut pudding

My Grandma’s recipe.

WHAT YOU NEED

2lb Green Hubbard Pumpkin ( or butternut squash or sweet potatoes) This is the weight you need after it’s been cut and cleaned. So look for a pumpkin that’s heavier. If you have leftovers, you can make a delicious pumpkin soup.  Recipe for that will follow soon.

1 cup of Arborio rice (the one you buy for risotto, you can also use a japanese rice called Kokuho )

1 tsp of vanila

4 cups of milk

cinnamon

1 cup ground walnuts

5-6 TBS brown sugar

2 TBS butter

HOW IT’S DONE

Once you’ve established who will be cutting the pumpkin and have it chunked, (the flesh of the pumpkin is easy to cut.) you can proceed with slicing the flesh in 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick slices. They can be in any of shape the bigger chunks came out to be. There is no rule about that.. 

Get your baking dish and put a few pieces of butter at the bottom of it.

With your hand, sprinkle the dry rice to cover the bottom of the dish. Liberally, but not more than a layer of grains

Now arrange a layer of  the pumpkin slices

Sprinkle sugar, cinnamon, ground walnuts

Now again

Rice

Pumpkin

Sugar, cinnamon, ground walnuts

Continue like this until you finish all your ingredients.

You need to top off with sugar cinnamon and walnuts and leave some of these toppings aside..

Take the milk and carefully pour on top of everything, just below the rim of the dish

Sprinkle again with Sugar, walnuts and cinnamon.

Place the baking dish on top of a cookie sheet covered with aluminum foil (you want to minimize the damage to your oven. who wants to clean burnt on milk!)

Bake in preheated oven on 350 for 45 min or so… If your oven is temperamental, cover the dish with foil for 30 min at 400, then take the foil off, switch to broil on 450F to brown the top.

I am really bad with measurements. I hardly ever measure anything.. unless I bake a cake or bread. This is a very relaxed recipe. If you like rice, then put some more. I personally prefer more pumpkin.

Bottom line about the rice and the milk is that it’s 1 part rice to 4 parts liquid – this gives the rice a nice plump feel with a little crunch in the center. and it is not too dry.

so if you take 1/2 cup rice, then you need 2 cups milk

if you go for 1 cup rice – 4 cups milk

2 cups rice – 8 cups milk

etc. you get the drift.

Since I wasn’t sure where I was going with the baking, I did it a little differently.

My Impromptu Recipe (Pumpkin Rice Walnut Pudding 2)

Armed with my knife and meat tenderizer, I chopped the  green Hubbard pumpkin in chunks.

Arranged it on a cookie sheet sprinkled with brown sugar and baked it for 30 min.

Meanwhile, I boiled 1 cup rice with 4 cups milk, 3 tbs sugar and 1 tsp vanilla extract (but not all the way… i.e. I didn’t let it absorb all the liquid)

Then I put little chunks of a tbs of butter on the bottom of a baking dish

Poured the whole milk-rice mixture in the dish

covered it with the “pumpkin puzzle” (once it was baked it was even easier to slice it in little squares and trapezoids)

Put all the ground walnuts on top, sprinkled with the rest of the brown sugar, added cinnamon, some more milk to fill the dish, and baked it for about 20 min (until the liquid got absorbed and the top was browned)

Now that I’ve done it both ways, I still prefer the original recipe. The one I made today is very good , but I’ve done it the original way, and I will go back to doing it like Grandma. It is a more incorporated taste and I guess I am just partial to the sentimental value of a layered look and taste.

I miss you Grandma. Happy Birthday! You would have been 98 today.

PUMPKINPUDDING

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Bad Sandy stew

I’ve been watching and reading news and twitter feeds all day long from the north east.. Thinking about friends in this terrible weather,…. Having been in hurricanes myself (covering the for a major worldwide cable TV network) I felt all day long like something hearty and warm and delicious, to make anyone who eats it feel cozy and at home,… So I rushed home after work and school and I fried Sandy’s “wrath” with a lot of enthusiasm! Eat this you monster storm you!

“Bad Sandy” stew

1 table spoon olive oil
1 large onion
1/4lb apple smoked bacon
2 cloves garlic
1/4 lb okra
1/4 lb chopped fresh kale
1 box organic chicken stock
2 cans organic great northern beans
1 lb chunked cabocha pumpkin
Sea Salt to taste
1 to 2 pinches of paprika
1-2 pinches curry
1-2 pinches dried peppermint
Cayenne pepper as much as you can take
Chop the onion, but not too fine
Chop the garlic cloves
Chop the bacon or use scissors to slice it (I use scissors for many things in the kitchen)
Chunk the pumpkin and peel (if you want to get fancy,you may roast the seeds and the peel them and toss on the soup as a delish crunchy garnish
Start by heating up your French oven (or another thick bottomed deep pot)
Heat up a table spoon of olive oil
Throw in the bacon and turn your heat down to low
let the bacon get crunchy
Throw in the onions and garlic
Keep them sautéing for another couple of minutes until they get brownish but not burned
Throw in the chunked pumpkin keep stirring and sautéing
Next,throw in the sliced okra, and in a minute, the kale
Once the kale is in, it will look like there is no space…take 2wooden spoons and fold everything well. The volume will subside
After you have taken control of your pot, pour in the chicken stock, add your spices, and keep stirring
The important thing about this stew is, unlike Sandy, who is a b….ch, you need to show it some love, so keep stirring and sending it happy thoughts
When you see things are getting nice and incorporated, throw in these two cans of organic beans (if you had time to cook 2-4 cups of dry beans in your pressure cooker overnight until the are mushy, then by all means, keep the cans for another day and use the freshly cooked beans)
Fold the beans into the rest of oowey gooey goodness ( You should be seeing the okra and the other juices just become one..)
Turn the hear to ultra low, and get your bowls and spoons ready..
By the time you have all that set, the stew will be ready.
Now take your favorite crusty bread, or Melba toast and crumble itat bottom of the bowl, the pour generously the steamy Bad Sandy over it.
Dont forget to blow!
Now eat and let all your worries melt away …
A glass of merlot or Malbec makes that bowl worth its weight in gold!… Just suggesting.. 🙂
I may have left something out. In which case, you are on your own…which is a good thing, cause you will make my Bad Sandy, yours!
Love your body! Love your food!