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Entries in pumpkin (10)


A Halloween Message from The Box

The Real Purpose of Pumpkins

History buffs will recall the Wars of the Roses, which occurred in the mid to late 1400’s.
Basically, these were a series of civil wars fought for control of the English throne.
Henry IVHenry VHenry VI

*(The above depict historically good ideas for jack-o-lantern faces)

  Certainly, the Wars of the Roses should not be confused the “War of the Roses” a rather dark 1989 comedy about a bitter divorce, starting Danny DeVito, Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner. Neither of these “wars” can hold a candle to the “Pumpkin Wars” that were waged in our home from many years.

For the past week, readers of this site have been subject to a variety of different pumpkin uses and concoctions. While interesting and entertaining (although I, personally, don't like the taste of pumpkin in anything, except pumpkin pie) pumpkins were really put on earth for a sole purpose…to be carved up in to Jack-O-Lanterns.  

When Elana was very young she, like most young children, was relatively easy to entertain. When Halloween came around, I carved the “traditional” pumpkin with triangular eyes and nose, and the typical half-moon pumpkin grin complete with a choice of either pointy or squared-off teeth.

A typical "Box" pumpkin creation.

 For many years in succession the “traditional pumpkin” was the standard by which all neighborhood pumpkins were judged, and was always well received by Elana.  This blissful state of pumpkin admiration continued until Elana entered her teen years and decided that the Box’s pumpkin was the equivalent of a pre-historic cave drawing.   Bhimbetka rock painting. Thus, Elana embarked on a serious of “artsy” pumpkin carvings primarily designed to demonstrate that my own carvings were, most likely, the creation of cro magnon man.   For more years than I care to remember, we were forced to endure any number of Elana’s fanciful renderings which she, somehow, figured out how to etch into a pumpkin.  

For example...

Needless to say, each successive Halloween mandated a comparison between the Box’s traditional work and Elana’s latest creation. That process became like comparing Mount Rushmore to the Guggenheim. Readers will not be surprised that, each year, Elana declared herself the winner of this contest. In fact, I am absolutely convinced that, on one occasion, she paid off little kids to comment on how great her pumpkin was while it sat next to mine on the front steps of our home. Not surprising, I am sure, for anyone that has competed against Elana including the hundreds of triathletes who have felt footsteps up their backs just milliseconds after an aggravated shout of “move it!”.  

NYC 2011

The Great Pumpkin War had a hiatus for a time while Elana lived in Southern California. As we all know, that is because, in Southern California, pumpkins are celebrated as a religious objects, and the seeds are ground up and smoked to ward off evil spirits whenever there is a mudslide, earthquake, or forest fire (which can be most days).   Readers must know, however, that there will be no armistice. The forces of good, traditional (triangular nose, eyes, etc.), pumpkin carving will triumph over artsy-fartsy dalliance again this year because a pumpkin is not an art canvas. A pumpkin is a pumpkin, is a pumpkin.  

Happy Halloween!

Elana's note: I never paid off those trick or treating kids. They recognized genius on their own. Even if it was on a pumpkin.



Pumpkin Puree

I am trying to make use of every part of the pumpkin. And this next part - the pumpkin meat - is my favorite part.

Last week we roasted a wee little sugar pumpkin, remember?

That yielded some tasty-toasted pumpkin wedges. So let's start there.

What You Need:

Tasty-toasted roasted pumpkin wedges

water (about a cup)

a blender or food processor

What To Do:

Peel back the skin of the pumpkin and discard.

Chop the roasted pumpkin into chunks and pop them in the blender or food processor.

Add 1/4 cup of water to get things started and give it a whirl.

You may need a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl as it processes.

If things are looking a touch chunky, add some more water. As I said, you may need to add as much as a cup, but add it a little at a time, so you don't end up with watery puree. No one wants a water-logged puree.

That's it!

Scoop it out of your mixing device, and store it in a giant Ziploc baggie. You can even store it in the freezer if you would like to save some for later.

The things you can do with pumpkin puree are endless and include:

Filling for ravioli

Pumpkin butter

Crostini topping

Face mask (kidding)

Dinner table weaponry (poised on a spoon with good aim....)


Ice Cream and semi freddo

Pie filling

So if you'll just bear with me over the next few weeks or so, I will try to go through all these. Or at least some of them. Feel free to vote for your favorite, and I will try and push those toward the front of the list!


Roasted Spiced Pumpkin Seeds

I originally made this recipe here. I have to say, I really dug those nuts. So easy, and you can make your own mix of nuts, you don't even have to use the ones I recommend. Although you should. You should do everything I tell you to do.

For example, you should totally alter this recipe to include pumpkin seeds. Pumpkin seeds are a meaty seed. Large and puffy, almost like a bean, they provide a chewy contrast to the snappier nut. I hear opposites attract...

Now, you could buy some pumpkin seeds. OR you could get enthusiastic, break out a large, sharp knife and serving spoon and a pumpkin of your choosing and harvest the seeds yourself. Do this while you are carving up your Halloween Jack-O-Lantern. It's fun. It's a mess. You'll love it.

What You Need:

3 Tbsp sugar

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp ground cinnamon

Pinch of ground cloves

3/4 tsp salt

1 large egg white

Mixture of unsalted nuts. I used: pecans, cashews and almonds. You can use whatever you like, just make sure you have about 2 cups worth.

What To Do:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a 4-sided sheet pan. Whisk together the sugar, spices and salt in a small bowl. Whisk the egg white in a medium bowl until frothy, then stir in the nuts. Add the spice mixture and toss to coat evenly.

Spread the nut mixture on the sheet pan in one layer. Bake, stirring once or twice until dry and toasted, about 20 - 25 minutes. Loosen nuts from the pan and cool completely.

You can even make this one ahead and store in an air-tight container at room temperature for up to a week.

* Recipe adapted from Gourmet Magazine.


What To Do With a Pumpkin...We begin with roasting.

I would like a show of hands: How many of you walk by a pumpkin stand/farmer's market/any place they are selling pumpkins and get one for the sole purpose of carving it as a Jack-O-Lantern?

I'm not saying this is a bad thing – in fact The Box and I have a running yearly competition for the best carved pumpkin. Who do you think wins every year? I'll give you three guesses and the first two don't count.

But resigning the pumpkin to the realm of holiday decor really limits its capabilities in the edibility department. Because it is a very capable vegetable, people. I mean, look how robust it is! How....ORANGE!

So today, we begin with dissecting the pumpkin and pilfering its edible parts. We will eventually make stuff with these parts, but today we pilfer. Let it begin!

What You Need:

1 pumpkin (I like using the small sugar pumpkins. They are cute. Plus, I'm only one girl, how much pumpkin do you want me to eat?)

Roasting pan or baking sheet

A sharp knife

A large scooping spoon

A cutting board

What To Do:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Using a large knife and cutting board and being VERY CAREFUL, cut the top off your pumpkin like so:

Scoop out the seeds and pumpkin guts.

The seeds are one of the pumpkin's edible parts. Try to separate them from the stringy guts (not so tasty), rinse them and let them dry. Find a safe place to keep them for a little while, like an air-tight container. We'll be coming back to them.

Slice your pumpkin in half and then into wedges. Place it in your roasting pan, or on a baking sheet.

Bake in the oven for 45 minutes or until the meat of the pumpkin is fork-tender (like a cooked potato).

The skin will blister a bit, and once the pumpkin has cooled, you can peel back the skin and — violá — edible pumpkin meat!

Stick it in the fridge as is, or cube it up.

Next week: Things to do with roasted, toasted pumpkin meat!


Pumpkin Scones from Alice's Tea Cup

I've been trying to explore the Upper West Side as I've just moved in and I need to find things. Mostly things to eat. Luckily, my new neighborhood is very helpful in this regard, and it seems that I can just roll out the door and stumble onto something delicious. For this I am very grateful.

As we're talking pumpkin this week, I thought I would mention the Pumpkin Scones at Alice's Tea Cup. Alice's Tea Cup is a teeny tiny bakery with a counter in the front and a seating area in the back. I've never actually sat down to eat there, I could never get past the counter with the GIANT SCONES in the glass case.

Scones as big as my head! Or as big as Alice after she magically enlarges and causes serious damage to that cute little cottage, bringing property values down everywhere in Wonderland.

As large as these scones are, they are also huge in flavor. Particularly the pumpkin variety. The rich pumpkin flavor, gives the scones both a beautiful amber hue and a moist texture. No dry scones here!

They are topped with a caramel drizzle that is both sweet and slightly salted – a wonderful (pun intended) pair for its bready base.

As an added bonus, you have the option of taking your scone to go with a little vial of cream and jam. REAL cream, not just butter. Please accept this option, if only for the cream, as it has a bland richness that completes a trio of fantastic flavor combinations.

This is the kind of scone you can share (mostly because of its size), although you may not want to. In fact, I would recommend you didn't. It might get rowdy. And no one wants to lose a head. Or a scone.

Alice's Tea Cup
102 W 73rd St
(between Amsterdam Ave & Columbus Ave) 
New YorkNY 10023
Neighborhood: Upper West Side 

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