I love the fall. It is my favorite season although it is always too short and sometimes disappointing– such as the year we had nothing but 75 degree days until December when the winter hit suddenly and was viciously unrelenting until late April. Or the year it rained for two months, taking the crispness out of the air and turning all the foliage heavy and quick to cover the ground. Fall is wholly unpredictable, yet we all know how we’d like it to be: sharp sunny days, bright colored leaves, and a slow but steady progression from the dense warmth of August into the brisk, clear cold of November, by which time we are somehow ready for the snow.
Over the years I have become more aware of my need to take full advantage of the autumn season in its entirety, and since this year we are having what appears thus far to be a most classic fall, I am not wasting any time getting straight to the pumpkin and squash recipes. So here goes:
I first made this recipe last fall and served it at a party where it disappeared so quickly, it was gone by the time half the guests arrived. Besides being delicious, it is also really fun and impressive looking (albeit in a not-so-sophisticated way). Yes, I suppose stew in a pumpkin might be considered a bit campy these days, especially in my world, where half the people I know own kitchen equipment that my mother and her friends surely would never have seen or heard of when I was growing up. Come to think of it, maybe that is what I like about this recipe — it’s comforting, tasty, seasonal…and a bit 1987. Enjoy.
Spicy Fall Stew Baked in a Pumpkin adapted from Vegetarian Times, October 2008
2 Tbs olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, diced (1 cup)
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch dice
3 cloves garlic, minced
generous tsp chili powder
generous tsp cumin
3/4 tsp oregano or epazote
about 10 medium tomatillos, husked, washed and quartered
1 28-oz can hominy, rinsed and drained (unless you live near a market with a good selection of latin american foods, hominy can be difficult to find. If you can’t find it, I suggest using about 3/4 cup fresh corn and 3/4 cup of cooked, firm white beans)
1 tsp salt
1 3 to 4 lb pumpkin
2 oz grated sharp cheddar (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Heat 1 Tbs oil in a wide, deep sauce pan over medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper and garlic. Saute about 7 minutes until softened. Stir in chili powder, cumin, and oregano and cook 3 minutes more, until spices darken.
Add tomatillos, hominy, and 1/2- 3/4 cup water and the salt. Cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, 10-12 minutes or until tomatillos soften. Uncover, and cook 5 minutes more to thicken the stew, if necessary.
Meanwhile, cut the top of pumpkin around the stem to make a lid. Scoop and scrape out the pumpkin seeds and strings (you can save the seeds, rinse them, toss with salt and roast them for 10 minutes or so. That way you’ll have something to snack on while the pumpkin bakes). Rub inside of pumpkin with remaining Tbs of oil and sprinkle generously with salt. Sprinkle grated cheese into the bottom of the pumpkin, if using.
Fill pumpkin with the stew, then top with pumpkin lid- it’s fine to fill it all the way to the top. Place on a parchment covered baking sheet (or greased foil) and bake 1 1/2-2 hours until pumpkin flesh is fork-tender, Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes.
Scoop stew, including slices of pumpkin into bowls and serve hot, topped with a squeeze of lime or:
Poblano Cucumber Salsa
1 poblano chile
1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into small dice
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
2 Tbs lime juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1 jalapeno chile, stemmed, seeded and minced
1/2 tsp salt
1 ripe avocado, diced
Preheat oven to broil. Roast poblano chile 15-20 minutes, or until skin is blackened, turning occasionally. Cool until easy to handle. Remove charred skin, discard seeds and stem and cut into small dice (one way to get the skin to come off more easily, is by placing the roasted peppers directly into a bowl and covering them for 10 minutes to allow the skins to steam off a bit, and separate from the flesh of the pepper. You can also place them inside a paper bag). Combine poblano, cucumber, cilantro, lime juice, jalapeno, and salt in a small bowl. Gently fold in avocado. Season with salt and pepper.
Note: if yo have left over roasted pumpkin, you can turn it into Pumpkin Soup with Thai Curry!