Sunday, November 7, 2010


Though we often associate pumpkins with Halloween, they are not just for carving into scary faces. Pumpkins offer loads of vitamins and nutrients, are low carb and high in fiber, and their seeds are considered anti-inflammatory. So this is just the right time of year to fill up on them both.

The large variety we carve are usually jack-o-lantern pumpkins which don't make for good eating because they tend to be too watery. There are other varieties that are far better to cook with, such as the Sugar Pumpkin and the Cinderella Pumpkin. The reason for that is that their flesh is denser and richer making them ideal for baking and roasting.

When selecting your pumpkin, you want one that is heavy for its size, weighing about 2-5 pounds. Anything larger is harder to handle and cut, and is usually less tasty. The little ones are loaded with flavor, and that's what we're after!

Despite its size, one way to avoid a watery result is to roast your pumpkin. In fact, if it's small enough, you can roast the thing whole, no joke. Just make a few slits in it with your knife and pop the thing whole in the oven. What relief, because it is far easier to take apart a pumpkin that's been roasted than to cut one up that's raw. For more information on how to prep and roast, click here.

I get a monthly email newsletter from a local chain called Sprouts, in which this recipe was listed last month. I just made it for dinner this evening and it was a tasty side for my roasted chicken. It calls for a unique combination of spices that are usually found in sweet recipes, but it's actually a savory dish.

The recipe calls for cutting up a raw pumpkin, so I advise buying a small one to make life easier. I actually cut mine in half and roasted it a bit first, making removing the flesh from the skin a bit easier, but you don't have to.

Pumpkin and Sweet Potato Mash

1 stick unsalted butter
3 shallots, peeled and sliced
4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
3 inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
2 cinnamon sticks
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
5 sprigs fresh thyme, stems removed, finely chopped
2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2 inch cubes
2 pound pumpkin, peeled, seeded, and cut into 2 inch cubes
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 cups milk (cow, soy, rice or almond)
pinch nutmeg
1 tsp. salt
chives, finely chopped

In a deep pot on medium heat, melt the butter. Add the shallots, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, sugar, thyme, and cook stirring, until  the sugar melts, about 3 minutes. Throw in the sweet potatoes, pumpkin, stock, and milk and bring them to a simmer. Reduce heat and cook until the potatoes and pumpkin yield to your fork, about 30-40 minutes.

Drain the pumpkin and sweet potato, saving 1 cup of the liquid. Throw away the ginger and cinnamon. In a large bowl, mash the sweet potato/pumpkin. Add nutmeg and salt. Taste. Season more, if necessary. Splash in a bit of the cooking liquid and stir, for an even texture. Before serving, sprinkle with the chives.

Serves 6.

NOTE: I cut the recipe quantities in half and it looks like I will have enough leftovers for 2 more meals (as a side dish), so unless you have an army to feed, or you want to freeze some for another time (which isn't a bad idea), I would advise making 1/2 the recipe. The seeds I removed and washed, and tomorrow night I will sprinkle them with a little olive oil and salt and roast them for a few minutes until they just turn a bit golden. They will be the perfect snack for the office the next day.

Recipe courtesy of the food blog, adapted from The Soul of a New Cuisine.

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