Beyond Pumpkin Pie

(originally published October 2002, in Co-options, the newsletter of Sevanada Natural Foods Cooperative in Atlanta, GA. http://www.sevananda.coop)

What’s big (or small) and orange (or green or yellow or blue or tan or white) and makes a delicious pie or cake or cookies or even lasagna? Pumpkins, of course!

Pumpkins are members of the squash family, along with their cousins, the cucumbers. Pumpkins and other “winter” squash differ from their “summer” brothers and sisters in the density of their flesh and the hardness of their shells. Actually, summer and winter squashes all grow in the summer months. It just takes a bit longer for the winter squashes to grow to full-sized fruits and the fruits store easily into the winter. As long as the skin of the pumpkin isn’t cut, they will last for a long time at room temperature, and even longer in a cool cellar.
Properly stored, a pumpkin can last for seven or eight months. You wouldn’t want to try that with a zucchini!

Pumpkins have been a staple food in the Americas for centuries. Related plants have grown in Mexico since at least 5500 B.C. We usually think of pumpkin as a dessert fruit, but in early times, American Indians and settlers ate pumpkin flowers and even used pumpkin leaves in salad. Pumpkin takes center stage in savory dishes very nicely.

Pumpkins are rich in beta-carotene, potassium, and fiber. The following recipes show that, while pumpkin pie is certainly delicious (I’m including my favorite version), there are many other uses for this versatile squash. With all of these recipes, feel free to substitute other winter squashes for pumpkin. The all have slightly different flavors, textures, and levels of sweetness. Feel free to experiment to find your personal favorite.

Here’s a fun project to do with some kids or a bunch of your grownup friends. Get some pie pumpkins (the small, round ones – about 1 lb. e
ach) to use as decorations for Halloween. Paint faces on them using non-toxic paint. After Halloween is over, wash off the paint and use the pumpkins in your favorite recipe! You can even stuff them for Thanksgiving and let everyone have his or her own personal entrée or side dish.

If you prefer having a centerpiece entrée to share, stuff one large pumpkin with just about anything you like and bake it. I’ve included a recipe for baked pumpkin stew. Use the basic directions to make any sort of entrée you like. One of my best Thanksgiving memories was having a bunch of my friends over one year when I was in grad school. When the baked stuffed pumpkin came out of the oven, it was so beautiful it was greeted with ooohs and aaaahs.

I’ve included a pumpkin pie recipe for the traditionalists, but the other recipes run the gamut from first course through dessert. Enjoy them! If you’d like more information about pumpkin history, growing pumpkins, or more (traditional) recipes, go to http://www.pumpkinnook.com.

Note: If a recipe calls for canned pumpkin puree, don’t try to substitute cooked “jack-o-lantern” style pumpkin meat. The large pumpkins we traditionally use as autumn decorations are too watery and stringy to make a good puree. If you want to cook your own pumpkin puree, start with small, round pie pumpkins. Organic canned pumpkin is available, however, and is much less messy and time consuming!

Baked Pumpkin Stew (with variations)

Recipe By: Lisa Bennett, adapted from recipe by Becky Hogle
Preparation Time: 3 hours
Serves 12

10-12 pound pumpkin
2 lbs. firm or extra-firm tofu (or 4 cups pre-soaked TVP chunks)
2 tbs. oil
1 bell pepper (red or green), large dice
1 onion, diced
4 medium potatoes
3 carrots, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
2 stalks celery, diced
1 can diced tomatoes (15 oz.)
2 cups water or vegetable broth (2 to 3)
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste

1. Carve a hole in the top of the pumpkin and remove seeds, and stringy insides.
2. Set pumpkin aside.
3. In a dutch oven brown 2 lbs of cubed tofu or soaked TVP in oil. (This step is optional, but will improve the texture and appearance of the tofu).
4. Add in 1 bell pepper (sliced into inch thick slices), 1 onion (sliced), 4 medium potatoes(cubed), 3 carrots(cubed), 2 cloves of garlic(diced), 2 stalks of celery(sliced), 1 – 15 oz can of diced tomatoes.
5. Add salt and pepper to taste.
6. Add 2 – 3 cups of water or vegetable broth.
7. Let simmer for 1 hour.
8. Place pumpkin in shallow pan, and place stew inside pumpkin.
9. Brush the outside of the pumpkin with a light coating of oil.
10. Bake pumpkin and stew at 350 for 2 hours, or until pumpkin is tender.
11. Serve while hot.
Cook’s notes: Be careful and don’t bake the pumpkin too long. It can collapse when removed from oven and spill hot stew. Also watch for splashing.

Be sure to scoop chunks of pumpkin flesh in your stew as you serve it. They enhance its flavor.

Variations:

Pumpkin Chili – Follow steps 1 & 2 above. Fill pumpkin with your favorite vegan chili recipe and proceed with recipe.

Stuffed Pumpkin – Follow steps 1 & 2 above. Pre-bake pumpkin for one hour (or steam it upside down in a steamer basket for 20 minutes), then stuff with your favorite rice pilau or cornbread stuffing mix. The mixture should be hot when put in pumpkin. Bake for another hour until the mixture is brown and crusty on top and the pumpkin is tender.
The pumpkin should be pre-cooked because the heavy stuffing slows softening of the pumpkin walls, unlike the stew, which steams it from inside. Serve as a main dish for holiday meals. Dried cranberries and toasted pecans are a nice addition to the stuffing for this vegan “bird”.

Whole Wheat Udon with Squash and Toasted Nori

Recipe By: Lorna Sass, _Complete Vegetarian Kitchen_
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Serves 2

This is one of my favorite cold-weather quick meals.

1 pound winter squash, peeled if necessary (see notes)
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
8 ounces whole wheat udon or buckwheat soba
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil (Asian style)
2 sheets toasted nori sea vegetable, shredded
tamari soy sauce or Bragg’s Aminos, to taste

1. Remove the seeds and cut the squash into 1-inch chunks. Place the squash in a saucepan, skin side down, in 1 inch of water. Add the ginger. Bring to the boil, cover, then lower the heat to medium, and cook the squash over medium heat until tender (but still firm), about 5-8 minutes. Check from time to time and replenish water as needed.
2. Meanwhile, cok the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente (see cook’s notes).
3. Drain and toss immediately with sesame oil, nori, cooked squash, and any remaining squash cooking liquid.
4. Add tamari soy sauce to taste.
5. Garnish with sesame salt (gomashio) or toasted pumpkin seeds if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Cook’s Notes:
If you can find a green-skinned, unwaxed squash (preferably organically grown), leave the skin on for a nice color contrast.

To shred the nori, teach each sheet into quarters, then eighths. Continue tearing until you have tiny pieces. When adding the nori, sprinkle it while stirring. If you add it all at once, it has a tendency to clump together.

Lisa’s additional notes:
To cook udon or soba noodles the traditional way: Bring water to a boil, add noodles. When the water returns to a boil, add a cup of cold water. Do this 3 or 4 more times, and the noodles will be done, but still chewy. If you just boil udon or soba like Italian-style pasta, they tend to be too soft and limp.

Pumpkin Lasagna
Recipe adapted from Veggies Unite! (www.vegweb.com)
Preparation Time: 30 minutes to make, 30-45 minutes to bake.
Serves 6

1 pound butternut squash or pie pumpkin, chopped
(or a one-pound can of pumpkin puree)
1 tsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic crushed
1 tsp. of unbleached sugar, optional
1 Tbsp. of wine or balsamic vinegar
9 – 12 uncooked lasagna sheets or home made noodles (see below)
1 lb. tofu ricotta
Soymage Vegan Parmesan
make your own tomato sauce with lots of garlic, fresh
tomatoes and Italian herbs or use two jars of canned organic sauce.

Directions:

If using fresh pumpkin, boil or steam pumpkin until soft. Drain and mash.

Heat oil in pan, add onion and garlic. Cook covered until
onion is soft.

Add sugar and wine. Cook, stirring until almost all the liquid
is evaporated. Stir onion mixture into pumpkin, mix well.

Place a small amount of tomato sauce, topped with three lasagna sheets in greased 9 x 13 inch (deep) tray.
Spread with half the pumpkin mix, then tofu ricotta,
then spread 1/3 of tomato sauce. Repeat layers ending with
remaining pasta sheets, remaining tomato sauce and sprinkle
of vegan parmesan. If you’re using uncooked pasta, add 1/2 cup of water to make sure noodles cook properly. You can pour it in the corner and let it soak down.

Bake in moderate oven for 30 minutes (for fresh pasta) or 45 minutes (until pasta is tender). Let stand for 10 – 15 minutes if you can wait that long!
This is a great recipe for when you’re having non-veggies to
dinner. They love it! So will you (and any kids in the house).

Tofu Ricotta

In a food processor, puree one lb firm or extra-firm Chinese-style tofu (the standard kind packed in water), along with your choice of the following: a couple of teaspoons of dried herbs, a couple of tablespoons of fresh herbs (oregano, basil, thyme), a teaspoon or so of garlic powder or onion powder, a couple of tablespoons of nutritional yeast flakes or Soymage Vegan Parmesan, a teaspoon or so of salt, and a teaspoon of toasted sesame oil and/or virgin olive oil. Puree it until the lumps are gone – it will become grainy-smooth like dairy ricotta. The flavor of the “ricotta” isn’t absolutely critical to the recipe – the texture is most important if you have a flavorful sauce. If you play around with the proportions of the flavorings, however, you can get a very nice flavor indeed!

Pumpkin Noodles
Recipe from Veggies Unite! (www.vegweb.com)

Ingredients:

* 2 cups whole wheat flour
* 1/4 cup soy flour
* 1/3 cup pumpkin puree
* water

Directions:

Combine flours. Stir in pumpkin and enough water to make a
sturdy dough. Knead for about 5 minutes. Place on a floured
counter and cover with a damp cloth for a half an hour. After
letting the dough rest, sprinkle some flour on the countertop
and roll the dough out thinly, sprinkling extra flour and
loosening dough from the counter as necessary. Cut into thin
strips and drape over a rack to dry completely for short term
storage, or allow to dry for at least half an hour, then cook
for 7 – 10 minutes in a large pot of barely salted water. (You
can also cut this dough into 3 – 4 inch squares and fill with
pressed sauerkraut or any other filling you can imagine.)

Tofu Pumpkin Mousse

This quick and easy recipe is a light departure from the usual pumpkin pie.

Recipe By: Patricia Greenberg, Soy Desserts
Serving Size: 6
Preparation Time: 5 minutes, plus 2 hrs chilling time

8 ounces soft or silken tofu (regular or low fat)
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup unbleached sugar or light granulated cane juice
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds, roasted

In a food processor, puree the tofu until smooth. Add the pumpkin and sugar; continue to puree until smooth.

Pour the mixture into an airtight container and chill for 2 hours. Serve in individual dessert dishes and garnish with pumpkin seeds.

Dairy-Free, Low-Fat Pumpkin Pie

Recipe By: adapted from Mori-Nu, Morinaga Foods
Preparation Time: 15 minutes to prepare, 1 hour to bake, 1 hour or more to chill
Serves 8

1 1/2 packages Mori-Nu Lite Organic Extra-Firm Tofu (see notes)
2 cups canned or cooked pumpkin
2/3 cup maple syrup (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or flavor
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice (or see notes)
1 9″ unbaked vegan pie shell (homemade or purchased)

Drain tofu and blend in a food processor or blender until smooth. Add remaining ingredients; blend well. Pour into a 9″ unbaked pie crust. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for approximately one hour. Filling will be soft, but will firm up as it chills. Chill and serve.
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Notes: For a lighter texture, use Mori-Nu Organic Firm Tofu.

Instead of pumpkin pie spice, use 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 3/4 teaspoon ginger, 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves.

Lisa’s favorite spice: Instead of pumpkin pie spice, use garam masala (Indian spice mix). This adds a subtle heat and an interesting depth to the flavor.