Fall is the season for squash of all kinds – pumpkins, butternut, acorn and many other types, and I love them all. Sometimes there can be too much of a good thing however. After making the stuffed pumpkin from my previous post, we finished all the stuffing and some of the pumpkin flesh, but after three days, we were still left with a lot and were bored with eating buttered pumpkin again. Rather than continue to eat it all as a vegetable, I took some of it and whirred it in the food processor to use in these muffins.
I found the recipe on the internet from a website called Celebrating Sweets, and let me tell you, the muffin part was delicious and a great way to use up some of the leftover pumpkin, but that crumb topping — oh my. It just took the muffins to a new level. I think I’m going to keep cooking up more pumpkins just to have the leftover for these muffins. Or maybe I’ll just buy a can of pureed pumpkin instead and make it easy on myself. I may pour the batter into a cake tin and make this as a cake next time.
Hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
Click here to connect with me on Instagram and find out what Ciao Chow Linda is up to in the kitchen (and other places too.)
I had to update this post to let you know that as much as I loved this recipe the first time I made it, with a “traditional” pumpkin that cropped up in my son’s garden totally by accident (a so-called “volunteer” plant), I made it again for my book group with a purchased “cheese pumpkin,” and it was a game changer. The squat, tan-colored cheese pumpkin doesn’t taste anything like cheese, but is named that because of its resemblance to a wheel of cheese.
The interior is brightly colored orange, and is related to butternut squash. It has a sweet flesh that tastes much like butternut squash and is superior over traditional pumpkins for both savory or sweet dishes, including pumpkin pie.
I filled it with the same recipe I used in the original post, even though the cheese pumpkin weighed twice as much as the pumpkin in the original post. The filling came only about 2/3 of the way up the pumpkin rather than all the way up to the top. No matter, the filling rises somewhat after baking because of the eggs. It’s actually better not to fill the pumpkin all the way to the top anyway, since otherwise, there won’t be room for the lid to fit securely.
Here’s what the pumpkin looked like about about 2 1/2 hours in the oven. Be sure to remove the lid after about two hours of cooking because the pumpkin contained a lot of water. I actually drained away the water from the pan after removing the lid, then placed it back in the oven without the lid to “brown” the stuffing.
Another tip is to cube the bread and toss with the melted butter in a cookie sheet, rather than brown the bread cubes in a skillet as I did originally. Toast the bread cubes with melted butter in a 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes, stirring them a few times to brown them evenly. Also, after the pumpkin has been roasting for a couple of hours, you may want to cover the sides so that they don’t burn (but keep the top uncovered in order to promote browning of the stuffing).
I just love it when Mother Nature gives you some of her bounty without your even trying. It happened recently when a butternut squash grew in my garden as a “volunteer” plant among my rose bushes, and again when my son discovered a long vine with several pumpkins he hadn’t planted growing in his front yard. Either the birds or the wind carried seeds to these new places that provided fertile ground for the welcome plants.
We weren’t sure at first what kind of squash or pumpkin we were dealing with, since it was green for so long.
But as the cold weather progressed, the pumpkin started to turn orange on the bottom.
And the interior certainly looked like the typical orange jack o’lantern. I decided to use my lagniappe in a recipe I’d read about long ago in a memoir called “A Thousand Days in Venice” by Marlena De Blasi. I made several adjustments however, since I felt the amount of cheese in it was excessive (believe me, there’s still a lot of cheese in it). It would also make a spectacular showstopper dish at the Thanksgiving table.
Start by carving out the lid, and scooping out all the stringy stuff and seeds from inside.
Take some good bread (I used ciabatta) and cube it, tossing it in butter until browned.
Saute some mushrooms and onions in butter, adding some fresh sage leaves to give a bit more flavor.
Mix the mushrooms and onions with eggs and three different kinds of cheese – mascarpone, Emmanthaler and Parmesan. Marlena’s recipe calls for three cups of mascarpone, but I cut that way back to one cup and it was just fine. I cut back the amounts on the other cheeses too, and the dish was still plenty cheese flavored.
Layer the cheese mixture into the pumpkin with the bread, making several layers and ending with the cheese mixture.
Place the lid on top and bake in the oven for about 1 1/2 – 2 hours, removing the lid for the final 20 minutes to brown the top. Pierce the flesh with a knife to see if it’s soft and if it’s not, leave it in the oven a bit longer.
Remove from the oven and bring to the table amid oohs and aahs. Scoop out some of the flesh and some of the pumpkin for each person. We had lots of leftover pumpkin after the stuffing was all gone, and it was great for leftovers one night. But I blitzed the rest in a food processor and used it to make the best pumpkin muffins I’ve ever eaten. Stay tuned in the next blog post for that recipe.
By the way, if your pumpkin was too small to hold all the stuffing, place the rest in small buttered ramekins and bake them another night. They make a great side dish — a kind of mushroom bread pudding.
Click here to connect with me on Instagram and find out what Ciao Chow Linda is up to in the kitchen (and other places too.)
Looking for an alternative to the pumpkin pie that’s ubiquitous on everyone’s Thanksgiving table? Or maybe you just want a delicious dessert to serve at your next Sunday supper. This moist cake has all the right autumn flavors going for it – from pumpkin to cinnamon, allspice, cardamom and a touch of black pepper too. Plus it’s topped with a luscious glaze made with browned butter that adds a nutty taste, in addition to the maple syrup and confectioner’s sugar.
The recipe comes from the New York Times, and it included toasted pepita seeds on top. I took it a step further and candied them. Just make sure you use either a Silpat mat or a piece of buttered aluminum foil. Otherwise you’ll have a hard time prying the candy from the pan.
Be careful not to touch it until it cools. Once the candy cools and hardens, you can break it up with your hands, then sprinkle it across the top of the cake. The candy is also delicious as a topping on ice cream too.
1 to 2 Tablespoons lightly toasted pepita seeds (optional)
or candied pepita seeds
Heat oven to 350 degrees and lightly butter and flour a 12 cup or larger bundt pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, allspice and black pepper until well combined.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine brown sugar, butter and olive oil. Beat on medium high until light and fluffy, about three minutes.
Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing for about 20 seconds between each egg.
Add the pumpkin puree and the sour cream, and mix until well combined, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl.
Remove the bowl from the mixer, and use a rubber spatula to fold in the dry ingredients until well combined.
Make sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl to ensure an evenly mixed batter.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top and firmly tap on the countertop a few times to release any large air bubbles.
Bake the cake until golden and puffed, and a tester in the center comes out clean, about 55 to 65 minutes.
Set the cake, still in the pan, on a rack to cool, about 20 minutes, then use the tip of a knife to loosen the edges and invert the cake onto the rack to cool completely before glasing.
TO MAKE THE GLAZE:
Once the cake is cool, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook the butter, occasionally scraping the bottom and sides of the pan with a rubber spatula, until it turns a deep golden brown and smells nutty. Don't walk away from the pan during this process. The butter can go from brown and nutty to acrid and burnt in mere moments.
Transfer butter and brown bits to a bowl to a heat safe bowl and let it cool slightly. Whisk in the confectioner's sugar, maple syrup and salt until smooth. The glaze should be thick but pourable. If it's too thin, add more confectioner's sugar. If it's too thick, add water. (I added some milk to thin it down a bit.)
Transfer the cake to a serving platter and pour the glaze over the top. Sprinkle with pepitas if desired.
TO MAKE CANDIED PEPITAS:
Place about ¼ cup sugar into a saucepan and heat at medium until the sugar melts and starts to turn a light golden color. Pour in some pepitas (1/4 cup or so) and stir for a few seconds to coat. Then pour the mixture onto a Silpat mat or a piece of aluminum foil that has been greased with butter. Careful not to burn your fingers. The melted sugar will be extremely hot. Let it cool, then break into bits.
Before I begin, let me say this is a project for the patient and the committed. There’s no squirming out midway because you’re tired or your pilates class is starting and you have to run to the gym.
But be not afraid for you shall be rewarded.
After traveling to Bologna together (the pasta heartland where pasta filled with squash is on every menu) my friend Ellen wanted to learn how to make these. So I invited her over to spend time in the kitchen rolling out pasta. It’s a lot more fun and takes a lot less time with someone else helping. We didn’t cook the pasta while she was at my house, since I wanted to freeze mine for later. She was planning to cook hers at home with a simple butter, sage and parmesan cheese sauce. Wonderful.
But sinfully sublime is what I would call the walnut cream sauce. The photo of the finished pasta in sauce is from a pasta party we had at our home a couple of years ago, when we gathered some relatives and friends for an evening of pasta-making and eating. The kitchen was a mess when we were finished, but we had a lot of fun and our tummies were grateful.
To make the pasta you need a pasta machine or you’ll need very strong arms to roll out all the dough. This recipe for pasta and for the filling makes enough for about 110 ravioli.
3 cups flour
4 jumbo eggs
If you want to be authentic, you can make a “volcano” of the flour on a wooden board, then crack the eggs into the center and start to incorporate them into the flour until the liquid is all absorbed. Otherwise, put everything into a food processor and blend until it starts to hold together. Pull it out of the food processor and knead it on a floured board until it becomes smooth.
Let it rest under a covered bowl for at least a half hour, which will help the dough to become even more smooth and elastic and easy to work.
Flour your board or counter and cut off a quarter of the pasta. Keep the rest under the bowl. Flatten the piece with your hands, flour it a little then pass it through the thickest setting on your pasta machine. Keep changing the setting until you get to the penultimate one — not the thinnest one. Now you should have a long strip about three to four inches wide. If it’s too long and cumbersome to work with, cut it in half. Lay it on your board and place little spoonfuls of filling all across the strip, leaving a small space in between each spoonful.
Dab a little bit of water between the filling and across the top and bottom of the filling. Take one edge of the long strip of dough and carefully fold it over the filling, pressing down in between each one to take out any air bubbles. Run a decorative crimper along the edges to separate the ravioli. If you don’t have a crimper, a knife will do.
Lay the ravioli on cookie sheets that have been covered with floured, linen dishtowels. Refrigerate if serving that day, or place in the freezer. After a few hours, remove from the cookie sheets and store the ravioli in plastic freezer bags.
For the filling (adapted from “The Splendid Table” by Lynne Rossetto Kasper):
I don’t use the typical Halloween-style pumpkin, since it doesn’t have as much flavor as squash. This recipe gives you the closest approximation to what you’ll find in Italy. Some recipes call for the addition of crushed amaretti cookies, but I find that a little too sweet. The squash itself provides adequate sweetness. I also do this ahead of time and drain the cooked squash in a cheesecloth-lined sieve overnight. Otherwise, you risk having a filling that is too watery.
1 large butternut squash
1 1/2 large sweet potatoes, or two small ones
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
nutmeg, black pepper
Roast the potatoes in a 375 degree oven. Roast the squash at the same time. Cut the squash, remove seeds and place on an oil baking sheet. Roast for about an hour to an hour and a half, or until it is easily pierced with a fork. Remove the flesh from the squash and puree it in a food processor, then place in a sieve that is lined with cheesecloth or paper towels. Place a bowl under it to catch the water that is released and put the bowl in the refrigerator overnight, along with the potatoes.
The next day, remove the skin from the potatoes, puree them in a food processor, and put in a bowl. Add the pureed squash, the cheese and a grating of nutmeg and black pepper.
Make and fill the ravioli.
When you are ready to cook, bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the ravioli but do not let the pot to continue at a rolling boil or you may burst the ravioli. Boil for four or five minutes until cooked.
Cover with sauce and parmesan cheese.
Walnut cream sauce
(This is enough sauce for about four dozen ravioli.)
1 1/2 cup walnuts, roasted in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
a few grindings of nutmeg
dash salt, freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sweet wine such as vin santo or moscato
freshly grated parmesan cheese
Roast the walnuts in the oven. If you have the patience, remove some of the outer skins of the walnuts. This is easier to do if you put them in a linen dishcloth, fold in half and rub back and forth. Grind the walnuts in a food processor until they are coarse – not fine. Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the heavy cream and wine. Cook for a few minutes on high heat until the
sauce reduces and emulsifies. Add the nuts, cinnamon, nutmeg salt, and pepper. Take off the heat and add a generous amount of parmesan – at least 1/2 cup or more. Pour over the ravioli and serve with additional parmesan.