Stuffed Pumpkin

Joren and I signed up for the winter community sharing agriculture group which is organized by Community CROPS in Lincoln.  It is our first season participating and I am really enjoying our experience. Not only do we get locally grown seasonal produce but we also get cheese, eggs and this week… honey!  All items are from people/farms living Lincoln or neighboring communities that I have visited with over the years at our seasonal farmers markets.  Every Thursday I pick up a variety of seasonal produce from the Community CROPS office.  Some items we have enjoyed this season are turnips, radishes, basil, chard, greens, salad greens, sweet potatoes, sage, carrots, beets, and many types of squashes.  I don’t know if we will buy a share during the summer months because I looove going to the markets and there just wouldn’t be a need with the amount of produce we get each week.  I haven’t had the gumption to do anything with the larger, more unique squashes so I have a little fall collection. 

This week I was finally inspired!  Community CROPS sends me an email early each Thursday telling me what I will be picking up and they also helpfully include links to recipes featuring the items I will be receiving.  This one caught my eye because it is so unique and reminded me of the flair that a big turkey has during a holiday dinner.  Here is the big voilá for the vegetarian in my life!

Serves 12

The stuffing for this entrée can be made two days ahead.

  • 1 lb. wild rice blend
  • 2 lb. fresh spinach, stemmed
  • ¼ cup plus 2 Tbs. olive oil, divided
  • 6 cups sliced button mushrooms (1 ½ lb.)
  • 1 large onion, chopped (2 cups)
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 9 cloves garlic, minced, divided (3 Tbs.)
  • 3 Tbs. chopped fresh sage, divided
  • 4 tsp. chopped fresh thyme, divided
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • 1 ½ cups cooked kidney beans, or 1 15-oz. can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup chopped toasted pecans
  • 1 6- to 8-lb. cooking pumpkin

1. Prepare wild rice blend according to package directions. Transfer to bowl.

2. Bring 1/2 cup water to a boil in bottom of skillet. Add spinach, and cook 4 minutes, or until wilted. Drain, and cool, then squeeze dry, chop, and add to rice in bowl.

3. Heat 2 Tbs. oil in skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms, onion, celery, 4 tsp. garlic, 1 Tbs. sage, and 2 tsp. thyme; sauté 10 minutes, or until all liquid has evaporated. Stir in corn and kidney beans, and sauté 3 minutes. Stir mushroom mixture into rice mixture. Fold in pecans, and season with salt and pepper, if desired.

4. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line rimmed baking sheet with foil. Cut top from pumpkin, and scoop out seeds and pulp.

5. Combine remaining 1/4 cup oil, remaining 5 tsp. garlic, 2 Tbs. sage, and 2 tsp. thyme in bowl. Brush oil mixture over inside of pumpkin. Fill pumpkin with rice mixture, cover with top, and bake 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until pumpkin is tender when side is pierced with knife tip. Uncover, and bake 10 to 20 minutes more.

So here is the pumpkin.  It is an heirloom pumpkin, notice the pale outside color.  It is also a shorter shape which was perfect for baking whole, any taller and it may not fit.  Make sure to test the size of your pumpkin so you can place the rack in the right place before pre-heating the oven.  It isn’t included in the recipe but I rinsed the outside of the pumpkin to get all of the earth off.  If you buy yours in a store and it doesn’t have dirt on it you should rinse it to reduce the amount of possible chemicals or detergents.  Do this rinsing prior to cutting into it.  If you wait there is the risk of rinsing contaminants into the pumpkin!

The inside was much like spaghetti squash.  As I scooped out the seeds and continued to hollow out the pumpkin it began coming off in strings.  This is how it falls apart as you cut your pumpkin wedge on the plate, in strings almost like noodles.

Like the recipe suggests, I pre-made the stuffing but kept the toasted pecans separate and waited to add them right before I stuffed the pumpkin.  I love crunch so I didn’t want them to get too mushy.  I also combined all of the ingredients for the rub a few days ahead so the oil was very well infused with the garlic, thyme and sage.  It was soooo fragrant and delicious!  The bigger chunks of herbs wouldn’t stick to the sides of the pumpkin so make sure that they are evenly distributed along the bottom.  This is another good reason to pre-make your rub, so the oil will carry the flavor to all parts of the pumpkin.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the stuffing was a perfect fit!  On goes the lid and into the oven.  The pumpkin made sure I didn’t forget about it by making little popping and hissing noises.  Do not be alarmed, this turned out to be okay, our pumpkin browned a little but did not explode.

The pumpkin was in the oven for two hours so Joren made sure I didn’t go hungry.  Here he is making guacamole which we ate along-side some tasty roasted red salsa made by our friend Johnny.  Thinking that I would probably need some meat to sustain me through the cooking time I tried my hand at homemade paté.  I combined a Martha Stewart recipe with one from foodandwine.com.  After the paté was in few small dishes, covered in wax paper and in the fridge Joren and I plopped on the couch with our chips, dips and wine to watch a movie (53 more minutes on the pumpkin!)

Finally the two hours passed.  Be careful now.  The pumpkin is hot and heavy.  The recipe didn’t give guidance on how to cut and serve so I decided to cut like a pie or pizza, in wedges.  I just plopped it onto the plate with the skin.  The pumpkin turned out so tender I think it would be dangerous to try and peel it before serving.  I loved the way it looked, smelled and tasted. Great colors with the wild rice, beans, spinach, pecans and of course the pumpkin and it smelled just like the holidays.  The herbs used in this dish are the same as a traditional stuffing.  It was so good and hearty that we forgot about the paté in the fridge.  Oh well, I didn’t have a yummy French baguette to toast anyway.  Mañana mañana.

Basil Pesto

Tonight I made a pesto that I plan to freeze for later.  I found fresh basil at the Old Cheney farmers market Sunday and added a little parsley, three cloves of garlic, a few pumpkin seeds because I didn’t have any nuts, a tbsp. of feta, a squeeze of fresh lemon and of course olive oil.  Chopping everything up in the food processor then drizzling the oil in thru the top while it was running.  Basil and tomato has become my summer obsession and I can’t wait to spread this pesto on a cracker with a slice of garden tomato next week!

http://oldcheneyroadfarmersmarket.com/

Buttery Carrots

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I bought some carrots at the farmers market Saturday.  They were too small to peel and snack on raw so I decided to throw them in my cast iron skillet.  I poured a cup of water in to kinda “steam” them.  Then I added butter, brown sugar, fresh cracked pepper, garlic powder and dried tarragon for some flavor.  They simmered for about 15-20 minutes before the water was gone.  I let them stay a little longer to caramelize then turned of the medium flame.  Yum!