Friday, October 11, 2013

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! and the Weekly Specials with Mary Anne

You’ve eaten pumpkin in pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread, and maybe in pumpkin cookies and those pumpkin latte things from places like Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts, but did you know it’s also great in savory, non-sweet dishes? I didn’t either, until a few years ago, when I happened to run across a recipe that sounded good. I’ve been cooking with pumpkin ever since.

There are two types of pumpkins – pie pumpkins and field or carving or Halloween pumpkins. (There are also white pumpkins, but that’s another story altogether.) There’s not a lot of difference between pie and field pumpkins. Pie pumpkins tend to be a bit sweeter, and they’re not as big as a lot of field pumpkins, and some people say that they are less stringy, but you can cook with field pumpkins and you can carve pie pumpkins.

Let’s assume for now that you got a big field pumpkin to carve into a Jack-o-Lantern. You get to use it three times. First, you save and roast the seeds. Then you carve it and put it out for Halloween. Then, if it’s only been a day or two since you carved it, you cut it up and either add it raw to soups and casseroles and so forth, or you cook it and mash it and use it like you would canned pumpkin. Or you can freeze it, if there’s more than you can use at one time.

Aldi has pumpkins for $1.99 each this week. The ad doesn’t say it’s a pie pumpkin, so assume it’s a field or carving pumpkin. Last weekend at the Farmers Market they ranged from $1 for little pie pumpkins to about $6 for great big field pumpkins.

First, some PUMPKIN BASICS, like how to store pumpkins whole, how to freeze the flesh (either as chunks of raw pumpkin or as cooked puree), and how to make pumpkin puree in case that's the way you want to go. 

Next, how to roast PUMPKIN SEEDS, or the seeds from any kind of winter squash. Or even watermelon and other melons. You might was well go ahead and eat the seeds, too, you know. You paid for them. Though I always figure they're free, since I'd be tossing them out otherwise.

And now a couple of recipes. The first savory pumpkin recipe I tried was from Jeff Smith (aka the Frugal Gourmet)’s cookbook, The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American. I played around with it and combined it with other recipes and came up with my own PUMPKIN, CABBAGE AND CHICKEN SOUP. (I agree – it sounds very strange, but don’t knock it till you’ve tried it!) I call it a soup, and it does need to be eaten out of a bowl, but it’s really thick. This recipe uses raw pumpkin.

Walmart usually has chicken leg quarters (drumstick and thigh with a piece of the back) in 10-pound bags for $5.90 a bag, or 59 cents a pound. The leg quarters average about a pound each. If you cut them up yourself into the drum, the thigh and the back, you get a great price for all of it. Use the thighs for this soup, bake the drumsticks to eat like fried chicken, and use the backs to make chicken stock. Using three pounds of thighs from a 10-bag from Walmart, and half a pumpkin, this whole batch costs about $5.00 for four servings, or about $1.25 per serving. I’ve made it with a can of pumpkin, too, when I didn’t have any fresh, and it worked. It’s better with fresh pumpkin, though.

Another good pumpkin recipe is PUMPKIN WITH PORK, also from The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American, by Jeff Smith. It’s kind of like a stir-fry, except the pumpkin is tender instead of crispy-tender and it doesn’t have any soy sauce or other Oriental flavors. So ok, maybe it isn’t much like a stir-fry after all! But I always think of it that way.

If you make this with pork loin (which is on sale this week at Kroger for $1.87 a pound), this should cost about $3.12 for the whole batch, and it makes about 3 servings. Four, if you serve something with it. Something green would be good – maybe some broccoli or kale. Walmart has one pound bags of frozen broccoli cuts for 99 cents. A batch of Pumpkin with Pork and a bag of frozen broccoli would come to a total of $4.11, and would serve three generously for about $1.40 per serving.

No comments:

Post a Comment