When the sweltering, wilted summer gives way to turning leaves and a sharpness in the air, I always feel a quickening of sorts. My autumnal surge of energy may simply be a force of habit, a cellular tip of the hat to the “back-to-school” jitters that I felt every September as a kid. Or maybe the sense of urgency that suffuses every autumn has to do with something far more primal: provisions must be made in anticipation of winter’s chill.
Whatever the reason, I find myself pulled every autumn to all things pumpkin. The Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks, clocking in at about a million calories, is a surefire harbinger of fall. And my boyfriend and I recently enjoyed a six-pack of pumpkin beer, which one of my Facebook friends described as “awesome…just like pumpkin pie, only beer!”
Recently, I made a couple of pumpkin dishes that are elegant, simple, and the essence of autumn. The first is a pumpkin and apple soup. The recipe, which I got from Italy Today-the Beautiful Cookbook, couldn’t be easier:
1 small pumpkin (2 lbs.)
1/4 C unsalted butter
2 yellow onions, sliced
6 C chicken stock
2 apples, peeled, cored & sliced
salt & pepper
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
**Occasionally, I’ll add a touch of cream when I puree the soup. You can serve it as I did, with some toasted pumpkin seeds, or with crumbled amaretti cookies, or simply with croutons and grated Parmesan.
The other night, I made a dish adapted from a recipe in Marlena De Blasi’s book, A Thousand Days in Venice. As soon as I read about “Whole Roasted Pumpkin Stuffed with Porcini and Truffles,” I was sold. De Blasi’s recipe calls for a pumpkin or Hubbard squash, but I used a Kabocha squash and it worked well. I think this is one of those dishes that’s pretty tough to screw up.
1 pumpkin or Hubbard squash, 2-3 lbs. (cut stalk end around to form a cap & remove seeds and strings from the cavity…keep stalk end for later!)
1 & 1/2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 large yellow onion, peeled & minced
6 oz. fresh mushrooms (we used baby bellas)
1 & 1/2 oz. black truffle paste or 1 whole black diamond truffle (optional)
sea salt & white pepper
1 & 1/2 C mascarpone
6 oz. grated Emmenthaler cheese
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
4 slices firm, day-old white bread, crusts removed, cut into 1-inch squares
Melt the butter & saute the onion with the mushrooms until both soften. Add the thinly sliced truffle or truffle paste and combine well. Add salt and pepper. In a large bowl, combine the mascarpone, Emmenthaler, Parmesan, eggs & nutmeg until well combined. Season with salt & pepper. Stir in the onions, mushrooms, & truffles.Melt butter in a saute pan and brown the bread until crisp. Place pumpkin on a baking sheet and spoon a third of the mushroom-cheese mixture into the pumpkin, add half the crisped bread, another third of the mushroom-cheese mixture, the remaining bread, then add the remaining mushroom-cheese mixture. Top with pumpkin cap and roast at 375 degrees for 1 & 1/2 hours or until pumpkin’s flesh is very soft. Serve with a dry white wine; we served a white Rhone and it was fabulous.
Happy eating, and Happy Autumn!