Pumpkin Spice! All the Things!

It is now the official second day of Autumn, or as like to think of it, the absolute unarguable best season: the air is crisp and a bit chilly, the sky is often grey and rainy (I like that), I can wear all the cool sweaters, wool socks, and shawls I knit all year, and all the best seasonal produce comes in (apples, squash, hearty greens).  The best part of fall and early winter is the food because until at least Thanksgiving* it is time to pumpkin spice! all the things!  In the moderately quaint** town I went to college in they had a Pumpkin festival every year with 12 kinds of pumpkin pie, pumpkin walnut fudge (the best kind of fudge, no question), and everything else pumpkin flavored.  Since graduating I just have to make my own fun, pumpkin-wise.
Some Favorites:
Pumpkin Spice tea
Pumpkin Spice caffeinated hot chocolate (proof the god loves grad students)
Pumpkin Cinnamon rolls (still tweaking a gluten-free version, but just be sure to use cream cheese icing)
Chocolate Pumpkin cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting
Pumpkin Gnocchi with balsamic glaze and shavings of aged Parmesan.
And Pumpkin Beef stew (see below)

Accessing your Pumpkin:
While mostly canned pumpkin is fine, if you have something that needs chunks of pumpkin you are going to need to break open a pumpkin.  It is really laborious to cut into a whole pumpkin, but once cracked, easy to cut through. The solution to this vexing problem is really, the main reason to cook pumpkin from scratch because it is fun.  Take your pumpkin, rinse off the outside, place and firmly tie in two sturdy plastic bags, go find some cement or rock slab and try to find a spot some height above it, then hurl your pumpkin onto the cement slab, repeat as necessary until you have a few large cracks, and pull the pumpkin open.

Peel the pumpkin by cutting off the peel with a melon or bread knife, do not attempt to use a vegetable peeler.

Pumpkin Beef Stew (everything good about fall in a pot)
Note: a pretty good vegan stew can be made replacing the beef with chickpeas, and beef stock with veg
1 small-ish pie pumpkin (around 2 1/2- 3 pounds), scooped, peeled and cubed
2-3 lbs beef stew meat
1 large sweet onion, sliced into thin quarter moons
1/2 Tbs quatre epices (can be found at World Market or made by mixing equal parts: black pepper, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger)
3 Tbs Tomato paste
1 bottle hard cider, any variety but granny smith/green apple
About 2 cups good beef stock
1/2 bunch kale (optional), spine removed and cut into large-ish pieces

Sprinkle beef generously with salt and pepper than coat in flour (I use sweet rice for this).  Heat some oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat, then brown beef on all sides and remove from pan.  Lower heat to medium low and add onions, cook until beginning to caramelize, then add tomato paste and cook a few minutes more until caramelized and sticking to the pot, add spices and cook one minute more.  De-glaze with half a cup of cider, scraping pot bottom clean.  Add in the rest of the cider, beef, and pumpkin, then enough beef stock to cover and salt to taste.  Bring to a boil then lower to simmer.  Let simmer for about an hour or more, or until the beef and pumpkin are both tender.  15 minutes before it is finished (about) add kale.  Eat. It's really perfect with a nice smoky black tea like Russian Caravan or the more intense Lapsang Souchang.

*At which point peppermint flavored everything comes in, and, you know...
** On the one hand, it was the birthplace of Jimmy Stewart and had a Jimmy Stewart museum, located in the postcard-perfect main street, that played "It's a Wonderful Life" and "Mr. Kruger's Christmas" double features every weekend in December; but on the other hand was the particularly disgusting frat row, and all that entails.
Category: 2 comments


Anonymous said...

OOoooooo yummy, yummy, yummy! You are so killing me with all of this deliciousness!!! mmmm ... stew!

Sabayon said...

Ah, but pumpkin is so good for you (probably)!

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