Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Pumpkin harvest

You say "tis" not the season for pumpkin harvest? Well, I did not know it was, either, so I was acting like a total moron when Andres came on Monday morning, climbing the mountain to the casita with his jeep (the only thing, other than legs, to get you there), delivering some of my heavy (cat litter, cat food, canned goods, etc) and nonperishable purchases.

He inspected the property briefly to see if something needed doing and bent over a vine which originated in the tall grass by the slope and started spreading over the grass.

'Do you want to take it out?' he asked.

'Take out what?' I answered with a question.

'The pumpkin' said Andres.

Silly me, I thought he asked if I wanted to kill the plant and said ' no, please, I think it is going to bear fruit some day'.

'It already has' laughed Andres 'and it is big'.

And he lifted that tremendous pumpkin. Which awed me and then scared me, since I had no idea what to do with it and started imagining all the work I would have to do to learn how to cook it and then to eat it. Would it take weeks? Months? After all the thing was as big as a Thanksgiving turkey.

'Please, take it to Las Casas' I offered "generously". 'There are a lot more of you there'.

'Ok, I take half of it' he agreed and cut the pumpkin with a machete, but refused to take any more, so I was left with half of the pumpkin to cook and eat.

The problem is, I did not like any of the American pumpkin dished I ate - like pumpkin pie or anything else involving a heavy dose of sugar.

I remembered that in Poland I liked marinated pumpkin - sort of a pickle, but I never made it myself and did not the recipe.

But there is internet, so I googled "dynia" (pumpkin in Polish) and chose a recipe that used the least amount of sugar. Here goes:

Polish marinated pumpkin

1 medium pumpkin, skin and soft parts from the inside removed, cut up in 1 cm (or about half an inch) squares.

Boil 1 liter of water with 10 tea spoons of brown sugar, 1 teaspoon of salt, cloves and allspice. When sugar dissolved add pumpkin and bring to boil again. Add a cup of vinegar and remove from the stove. Spoon immediately into clean glass jars. Ready to eat after a day, but can keep a lot longer, if you pasteurize the jars. It is yummy. So yoummy, in fact, that even Andres, who does not like pumpkin ate it with gusto and asked for more.

The next day I was having lunch at Las Casas and they treated me to some of my pumpkin made by 3t.

3t's baked pumpkin

She used the entire half of this huge pumpkin, removed seeds and the soft stuff from the middle, poured soy sauce over the meat, added pepper and sesame seeds, turned the pumpkin skin up and baked.

It was great! But I did not want the heat from the oven, so I tried a quick and dirty version of it:

Sliced some pumpkin wedges, marinated them in soy sauce, and put into a heavy iron skillet, over a bed of onion and olive oil and sauteed. It was surprisingly good for being a quick and dirty version. And took the same amount of time as the steak I made to go with it.

But I still had more pumpkin and my pumpkin culinary ambitions increased so I googled some "gourmet" and "pumpkin" and found a southern (US southern that is) recipe for a gourmet pumpkin soup, which might have tons of calories, but is to die for.

Here is this recipe, adapted, because I used diced raw pumpkin instead of cooked and mashed.

Gourmet pumpkin soup

In a generous amount of butter saute 1 large onion, 4 large carrots and 3 sticks of celery + a large bowl of diced pumpkin. When soft, add vegetable broth and let it cook slowly for about 20 minutes. Add 2 cups of half and half, 2 tablespoons of curry, some pepper and parsley. Heat briefly and process (in batches, as needed) in a food processor. Serve with fresh parsley and chives. Aah, heaven in your mouth!

I am afraid I might get addicted to pumpkin, which I did not know was so versatile and should never be ruined by making a pumpkin pie of it, brrr.

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