Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Coming toYour Table

We've got a pumpkin explosion going on in Wednesday's Anniston Star. We're rescuing pumpkins from the prison that has become the Halloween-Jack-o-lantern-Thanksgiving centerpiece triangle. We're actually turning them into real -- REAL -- food.

I often rant about under-appreciated vegetables, and pumpkins are up there. They're loaded with vitamins and minerals, and they're super simple to prepare. Our recipes are a little more elaborate, but Monday night, I pureed some pumpkin with a little butter, a pinch of salt, a good dusting of pumpkin pie spice and whipped it with my hand blender. No finer sauce could have accompanied the fried pork chops I served.

Here's a taste of what's in Wednesday's paper, along with Prudence Hilburn's Gourmet Touch and Pat Kettles's wine picks of the week. Enjoy. Life's too short to eat bad food.

Makes 8 servings
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 vanilla bean (or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract)
4 large eggs
4 egg yolks
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
1 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch of salt (or more for taste)
1 (2-pound loaf) egg bread, cut into 3/4-inch slices (about 20 slices)
1/4 cup brown sugar
Whipped cream and raw sugar or confectioners’ sugar, for garnish
Butter a 10-inch springform pan and wrap the outside with aluminum foil.
Combine the milk, cream and vanilla bean in a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until warm but do not boil; remove from the heat and let mixture sit about 20 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean and pour mixture into a large bowl. With a knife, carefully slit open the bean and scrape in the seeds. (Save the pod for future use. Barden pats it dry and puts it in superfine granulated sugar and uses that to flavor coffee.)
In a separate mixing bowl, lightly beat the eggs and yolks until light and frothy. Add the granulated sugar and whisk eggs until pale and fluffy. Slowly stir a small amount of egg mixture into the cooled milk mixture; do not rush the process or the eggs will curdle. Whisk in the pumpkin, ginger and salt.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Dunk each slice of bread into the egg custard and then, slice by slice, arrange slices in the springform pan, overlapping the layers. Slowly pour the remainder of the mixture into pan. You should have at least 1/3 to 1/2 of the egg mixture left. Let sit30 minutes.
Place the springform pan inside a roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with hot tap water until it reaches about halfway up pan sides. Bake about 90 minutes until the center is firm but not hard. During the last 10 or 15 minutes, sprinkle about 1/4 cup of brown sugar on the top and raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees. The finished product should have a consistency similar to a quiche. Use a toothpick to check for doneness. Allow the French toast to cool about 20 minutes before sliding a knife around the edge of the pan to unmold. Garnish with whipped cream and a sprinkle of raw sugar or dusting of confectioners’ sugar.

Makes 18 large ravioli
3 1/2 cups canned pumpkin puree
1 (15-ounce) container whole ricotta cheese
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups mozzarella
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon minced fresh sage
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
Brown sugar to taste
20 small wonton wrappers, at room temperature
Sage butter:
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
16 small fresh sage leaves
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 cup chicken stock or reduced salt broth
Salt and pepper to taste
For the ravioli: In a large mixing bowl, combine pumpkin, ricotta, Parmesan, mozzarella, parsley, sage, nutmeg, salt, garlic powder, white pepper and brown sugar and mix well. Place 1 heaping tablespoon of the filling between two wonton wrappers, dampen edges by moistening fingers with water and running along the edges and seal well. Drop ravioli into salted, simmering water; remove when ravioli floats to top, about 3 minutes.
For the sage butter: Melt butter in a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add sage leaves and minced garlic; saute for about 30 seconds. Slowly add chicken stock. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Drizzle sage butter over ravioli and garnish with freshly grated Parmesan.

Makes 6 servings
12 chicken legs
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon allspice
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground cloves
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 red onions, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
2 to 3 cups chicken stock or reduced salt broth
1/2 cup honey
2 (15-ounce) cans pumpkin puree
24 pitted dates
4 large beets, peeled and quartered
6 parsnips, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
2 bay leaves
6 cups prepared couscous
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a small bowl, mix the cinnamon, allspice, ginger, cloves, salt and pepper together and rub chicken legs with spice mixture.
Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottom pan over medium-high heat until oil starts to shimmer, then sear chicken in two or three batches about 10 minutes on each side or until the skins are well browned. Remove chicken and place in an oiled, 8-quart covered casserole dish. Add the garlic and onion to the pan used for cooking chicken and saute until soft. Add the chicken stock, honey, pumpkin, dates, beets, parsnips and bay leaves to pan and bring to boil over medium-high heat. When the mixture comes to a boil, pour over the chicken legs. Cover the dish and braise in the oven 45 minutes or until chicken and root vegetables are tender. Season to taste and serve over the couscous.

Makes 10 to 12 servings
For the cake:
3 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 (6-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus extra for dusting
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick), softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 15- by 10- by 1-inch baking pan and line with wax paper. Grease and flour the paper and set pan aside.
For the cake: In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs on high speed with a hand mixer 5 minutes. Gradually beat in granulated sugar until batter is thick and lemon-colored. Stir in pumpkin and lemon juice.
In another bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. Gently fold dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture. Spread batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle evenly with walnuts. Bake 15 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched. Immediately turn sponge cake out onto linen towel dusted with confectioners’ sugar. Peel off wax paper and roll cake up in a clean kitchen towel, starting at the short end; allow to cool.
For the filling: In a mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, butter and vanilla on medium speed until fluffy. When cake is cooled, carefully unroll cake and spread filling to within 1 inch of the edges. Roll up again. Cover and chill until serving. Slice and dust with confectioners’ sugar to serve.

By Steve Petusevsky
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Pumpkins should be our national fruit. After all, they were served at our first communal dinner enjoyed by the American Indians and Pilgrims. Or maybe it was the second; history is a bit unclear.
There is something about pumpkins that is distinctly American. After all, Indians were eating pumpkins in a variety of ways years before the Pilgrims landed.
The original pumpkin pie was created by colonists when they cut the top off, removed the seeds for other purposes, and filled the pumpkin shell with honey, milk and spices before roasting it over an open fire. This, by the way, sounds fabulous and someday I will try it.

Chef Steve’s tip: You can use pumpkin, butternut squash or any favorite hard squash for this recipe. If you like a richer flavor, add a pat of butter while mashing.
6 cups pumpkin or hard squash, peeled and cut into chunks
2 granny smith, fuji or gala apples, peeled, cored and quartered
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 / 4 cup water
1 / 2 cup 2 percent milk or soy milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 / 2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 / 2 cup maple syrup
Salt and fresh-ground black pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Combine the squash, apples and olive oil in a large mixing bowl; toss to coat. Place in a baking dish. Add water, cover with foil and bake 45 minutes until tender.
In the meantime, combine the milk, vanilla, cinnamon and maple syrup in a saucepan. Heat over low and bring to a simmer; set aside.
Transfer the baked squash and apples to a mixing bowl. Slowly add the warm milk mixture as you mash with a potato masher or a fork. Mash until well combined. Season with salt and pepper. Makes 4 servings.

By Linda Cicero
McClatchy Newspapers
Dress these up if you wish with vanilla or cream cheese frosting or serve with whipped cream or ice cream. This recipe produces a cake-like texture. If you prefer a chewier bar, reduce eggs to 2.
2 cups (or a 15-ounce can) pumpkin puree
4 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup (packed) brown sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup raisins (optional)
1 cup chopped, toasted pecans (optional)
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch pan.
Beat the pumpkin, eggs, oil, brown sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves.
Gradually stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture, stirring just enough to combine evenly. Fold in the raisins and pecans. Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Serve warm or cool. Makes 32 squares.
1 small onion, chopped
1 tablespoon butter
2 cups Arborio rice
6 cups chicken stock
3 cups pumpkin puree
About 1/2 cup half-and-half
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Nutmeg, sage or adobo (optional)
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
In a 2-quart or larger saucepan with a lid, saute onion in butter until just golden. Add rice and cook 2 minutes, stirring to keep it from sticking. Stir in 1 cup of the stock.
Stir in the pumpkin puree and bring just to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring often, until all the liquid has been absorbed. Continue adding stock, 1/2 cup at a time, simmering and stirring, until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes.
Stir in the half and half (the consistency should be creamy but not soupy) and season to taste with salt and pepper and any optional seasonings. Just before serving, stir in the chives and Parmesan. Makes 8 servings.