Just when you thought things were getting too quiet over here! I apologize for our prolonged vacation, but for the past month my crew and I have been developing and testing new winter goodies, which we will share with you over the coming months!
This holiday season is a bit goofy because tomorrow is both Thanksgiving and Hannukah, or as some prefer to call it, Thanksgivukkah. On top of that is my birthday…so here in my hometown in Wisconsin we are cooking and eating a lot over the next few days.
As you may remember from last fall, now is about the time when my skin starts to turn orange. What can I say, I am obsessed with pumpkins, butternut and acorn squashes, and sweet potatoes. Today’s recipes feature the empress of fall cuisine, the pumpkin. Visit my previous post for a refresher on the gourd’s history. Here are a few tasty tidbits:
– The largest pumpkin pie ever made was over five feet in diameter and weighed over 350 pounds. It used 80 pounds of cooked pumpkin, 36 pounds of sugar, 12 dozen eggs and took six hours to bake.
– In early colonial times, pumpkins were used as an ingredient for the crust of pies, not the filling.
-Pumpkins are technically fruits since they have seeds.
Nothing says Thanksgiving more than pumpkin, and today I offer you three pumpkin recipes: an appetizer, entrée, and dessert.
My first recipe for today is pumpkin hummus. The origin of hummus is one of the most elusive I have encountered; more than a dozen nations and cultures claim the dish as their own (and in many cases become quite defensive about which hummus is “authentic.”
We know from archaeological digs that chickpeas, the main ingredient in hummus, date back to at least 7,500 B.C.E. Some historians credit this tiny legume, along with other primary crops, for enabling people in the Fertile Crescent to develop agriculture and, eventually, civilization through cities, armies, taxation, and government.
Over time, chickpeas travelled across the globe. In Spain, they were called garbanzos. Indian dishes featured chana. In the Middle East, mashed chickpeas (called hummus in Arabic and Hebrew) were mixed with tahini (a sesame paste) to make hummus as we know it today. Hope you like this spin!
15 ounces (1 can) drained chickpeas
2/3 cup pureed pumpkin
½ teaspoon nutmeg
2 cloves minced garlic
1/8 teaspoon allspice
a dash of cumin
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Puree chickpeas in an immersion blender or food processer. Add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth and creamy. You may add more spices as desired. If hummus is too dense, add a splash of water.
Alrighty, let’s move on to our main or side dish, Pumpkin Kugel. Kugel ( literally “ball” in Yiddish) is a type of pudding, usually containing a starch such as noodles, rice, matzah, or potatoes. While you may be most familiar with sweet noodle kugel, the casserole originated as a savory dish. In fact, kugel originated as a savory bread and flour based dumpling that was served in or alongside soup (same idea as matzah balls, or “knaidel”). During the early 13th century, German Jews began adding noodles to the dish. Kugel became especially popular in Chasidic Jewish households and study centers, where it was often viewed as a spiritual food to eat on Shabbat. When kugel arrived to America in the mid-nineteenth century with the influx of German Jews, its transformation continued. Sweet kugels benefitted from the addition of ingredients like cream cheese and cereal topping. Kugels are served at all sorts of Jewish holiday meals, including Hannukkah.
One of my favorite kugels of all time is my mother’s savory spinach kugel, which I have used as the template for this pumpkin kugel. Hope you enjoy!
8 ounces wide egg or fusili noodles (I like to use whole wheat with savory kugels)
1 1/2 cups pumpkin
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/2 cup half and half, milk, or non-dairy creamer
1/4 teaspoon sage
1 packet French onion soup mix
1/4 cup whole cranberries (optional)
*Note: if you do not like onion or want to switch things up, you may also use 3/4 condensed cream of mushroom soup in place of milk and onion soup mix
Cook noodles according to directions, but leave al dente so noodles do not get mushy in oven. Strain and pour back into pot. Add butter, stir until melted. Add all remaining ingredients and mix. Pour into a greased 7×11 inch glass or casserole pan. Cook at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until kugel is golden and noodles at top are crunchy.
We are finally ready for dessert! These pumpkin brownies are a hybrid of the chocolate chip cookie (see previous post) and pumpkin bread. They are delicious for breakfast and dessert. I’ve also included a sauce to pour on top if you wish!
¾ cup pureed pumpkin
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon all spice
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon cloves
1 cup dark chocolate chips
1/3 cup brown sugar
(For the sauce)
1 cup whole cranberries, fresh or frozen
¼ cup water
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips
1 shot port wine
Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and set aside. Beat pumpkin, brown sugar, eggs, oil, and vanilla in another bowl. Gradually add the dry ingredients. Fold in chocolate chips.
Pour into a greased 7×11 baking pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean and top is golden. Allow to cool slightly before cutting into bars. Serve with vanilla ice cream and sauce (below).
For the sauce: In a small saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add cranberries, stirring occasionally. Once cranberries begin to liquefy, turn of heat and add the chocolate chips, which will melt. Add port and mix before serving.
Happy Thanksgiving and Hannukkah to everyone!
For further reading:
Diamond, Jared. Guns, Germs, And Steel. New York: Norton & Company, Inc, 1999.
Nathan, Joan. Cooking in American. New York: Knopf, 1998.
Smith, Andrew. “Pumpkins.” In The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink, ed. Andrew Smith, 483-484. New York, Oxford University Press, 2007.
Tuleja, Tad. “Pumpkins.” In Rooted in America: Foodlore of Popular Fruits and Vegetable, ed. David Scofield Wilson and Angus Kress Gillespie, 142-165. Nashville, University of Tennessee Press, 1999.
The History Channel. “Pumpkins.” http://www.history.com/topics/pumpkin-facts; http://www.history.com/topics/jack-olantern-history