Friday, November 11, 2011

Google In The Kitchen

I butchered my crop of seven pumpkins a few days ago.  "Butcher" is the proper term for something that requires a strong stomach as well as strong muscles.

Mind you, my pumpkins are the medium-sized ones intended for eating rather than carving.  But cutting them open, even with my razor-sharp Chinese chopper, is by far the most strenuous thing I do in the kitchen.  It's kind of like sawing a tree:  the minute I get the chopper blade a couple of inches into the pumpkin, it gets stuck in the crack.  The only way to resolve this is to lift the chopper with the attached pumpkin as high as I can, and then crash it down onto the counter.  Eventually I win, and the pumpkin splits raggedly in two.

Then comes the gross part.  With my bare hands, I scoop out the innards--the slimy, sticky filaments, the flat, slippery seeds.  The only way to get it all is to scrape the inner walls with my fingernails.  Ugh.

I didn't have enough space in the oven to bake the fourteen pumpkin halves at once, so I had to make two batches.  While the first batch was baking, I took the pumpkin guts out to the hens.  I know, I know, I should have scrubbed those 1200 seeds clean, seasoned, and roasted them.  But I had, as the French say, other cats to whip that day.

When the pumpkins were done, I scooped out their flesh and rushed the still-warm rinds to the chickens, who loved them at first but soon turned up their noses at them.  I don't blame them:  fourteen pumpkin rinds for eleven hens is a lot. 

When the baking was over, I had several impressive mountains of orange pumpkin meat, which I divided into portions and froze.  Then I had to figure out a way to use it.  Sure, I could make pies, and if we ate a couple of pies a week we might empty our pumpkin stores by spring...by which time we'd be too obese to walk out the door to plant the new garden.  I could make pumpkin bread, which has more redeeming nutritional value than pies, but seven pumpkins would probably yield forty-nine loaves, which we also don't need.  I could make curried cream of pumpkin soup, which tastes great and would be good for us, but might lose its charm if we ate it every day.

Pies, bread and soup exhausted the resources of my modest cookbook library.  What I needed were recipes for pumpkin main dishes--concoctions that would use a lot of pumpkin and no sugar and would even taste good.  Can I sing enough praises of Google's recipe sites?  Like a helpful grandmother, Google comes to the rescue whenever I have too much of anything from the garden.

Although 90% of the pumpkin recipes were for bread or desserts, I found quite a few for main dishes, and a lot of those seemed to be of Italian provenance.  If they named green summer squashes zucchini (little pumpkins), Italians must grow a lot of zucca, and have come up with ways to use it.  I found a recipe for pumpkin gnocchi;  one for baked pumpkin, sausage and ziti;  and one, which I decided to make right away because I had all the ingredients, for pumpkin polenta with cheese.

It met all my requirements:  it used up a lot of pumpkin, was reasonably easy to make, and tasted good.  I'll make the gnocchi next.  Sure, one of these days I'll take out my 1977 Fannie Farmer and make a pie.  But until then, thank you, Google! 








16 comments :

  1. Pumpkin polenta with cheese sounds fantastic. I have some polenta, but I am not ambitious enough to wrestle pumpkins!

    ReplyDelete
  2. It would work just as well with canned pumpkin, I'm sure.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Mmmm...yummy, can we have the link?

    ReplyDelete
  4. "then comes the gross part". Indeed.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Whatever you bake, you can send to Nashville :-)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Jaimie, here it is:
    http://www.food.com/recipe/easy-oven-baked-pumpkin-polenta-399443
    I cooked the polenta separately on the stove, then added the rest of the ingredients and put the whole thing in the oven. And I didn't have sour cream, so used plain (100% fat) yoghurt instead. Worked o.k.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Bridgett, sounds like you've done this before?

    mrb, as long as it doesn't have any sugar, right?

    ReplyDelete
  8. Maple syrup is superior in anything to sugar!

    ReplyDelete
  9. mrb, I bet I could even find conversion ratios on Google!

    ReplyDelete
  10. 1. There's nothing that makes me shudder in the kitchen quite like scooping out the insides of a pumpkin.

    2. I'm puzzled why you did this all at once. Pumpkins can be stored for weeks or months. Then you can use them when you want or need them, and in the form you want them (ie not pre-cooked).

    3. Simple roast pumpkin is a favourite winter vegetable here. Diced pumpkin, bacon, stir-fried in olive oil, with walnuts, feta and sage is lovely with the little shell pasta (or any pasta). Pumpkin in a vegetarian lasagne with spinach and feta, or in a roast vegetable winter salad with kumara (sweet potato), parsnips, carrots, potatoes, our version of yams, etc etc. Pork and pumpkin Thai curry(mmm. Pumpkin risotto. Pumpkin muffins. Pumpkin scones. A pumpkin and sweet potato mash (no butter/sugar/oil necessary, just a bit of salt and pepper) as a side with a stew or lamb shanks. The possibilities are endless. Mmmm, I'm quite hungry now.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Mali, you pumpkin diva, thanks for the inspiration! Yum! As for storing pumpkins, mine sat outside until the hard frost, then on the dining room table for several weeks. But I needed the table for other purposes, and the only other choice is the basement, which is overrun at this season by adorable little field mice who eat everything in sight.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Aaah. Not so adorable little field mice then.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Field mice...such adorable little creatures that can make such big messes! I cured ourselves of these unwelcome visitors in our NC mountain home by plugging in rodent/bug repellants that I purchased at low discount price from Big Lots. My husband, who teased me for my wasteful purchase, was certainly pleased to find they actually DO work! A bonus is, we no longer are overrun by seasonal ladybugs.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Marty, thanks--didn't know you could repel mice, but will look for the stuff now. I hate to see them caught in traps. Beatrix Potter changed my world view.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I use Google quite a bit to find recipes.

    On The Splendid Table this past Saturday, the host (I forget her name) suggested you not use the first result but dig down and find recipes from professional chefs -- ones that have been tested. I didn't know that, but it makes sense.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Good point. I've had some weird results with untested recipes.

    ReplyDelete