Sunday, November 22, 2009

Pumpkin Fondue!

Looking for a fabulous idea for a Thanksgiving appetizer? Try Pumpkin Foudue. I found this recipe in Gourmet Magazine last year and my Thanksgiving guests absolutely loved it and are already asking for it again this year. The pumpkin roasts to a beautiful golden brown and the filling if perfectly cheesy.

Pumpkin Fondue

1 french baguette (about 15 inches), cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 medium size pumpkin (about 7 pounds)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (preferably freshly grated)
2 1/2 cups coarsely grated Gruyère
2 1/2 cups coarsely grated Emmental
1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 450º with rack in lower third of oven.

Toast baguette slices in 1 layer on a baking sheet in oven until tops are crisp (bread will still be pale), about 7 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool.

Remove top of pumpkin by cutting a circle (3 inches in diameter) around stem with a small sharp knife. Scrape out seeds and any loose fibers from inside pumpkin with a spoon (including top of pumpkin; reserve seeds for another use if desired). Season inside of pumpkin with 1/2 tsp salt.

Whisk together cream, broth, nutmeg, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper in a bowl. Mix together cheeses in another bowl.

Put a layer of toasted bread in bottom of pumpkin, then cover with about 1 cup cheese and about 1/2 cup cream mixture. Continue layering bread, cheese, and cream mixture until pumpkin is filled to about 1/2 inch from top, using all of cream mixture. (You may have some bread and cheese left over.)

Cover pumpkin with top and put in an oiled small roasting pan. Brush outside of pumpkin all over with olive oil. Bake until pumpkin is tender and filling is puffed, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.

Pumpkin can be filled 2 hours before baking and chilled.

Source: Gourmet Magazine, November 2008

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Updated Pumpkin Spice Cake Recipe

I've made my Pumpkin Spice Cake a few more times since posting the recipe and have an update to fix the pumpkin/buttermilk ratio issue. I've been using Libby's Pumpkin which is a lot drier than the original organic canned pumpkin I used, so I upped the buttermilk as noted in this updated recipe.

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin*
2 cups low fat buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 light brown sugar
2 large eggs
canola oil spray

1/4 cup low fat buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 — 2 cups confectioners' sugar

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350ºF. Spray bundt pan lightly with canola spray and set aside.

Whisk flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, whisk together pumpkin*, 1 cup buttermilk and vanilla.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and sugars on high — until light in color and fluffy (about 3 – 5 minutes). Add eggs and beat another minute. Reduce speed to low and alternate adding flour and pumpkin mixtures (be sure to start and end with flour). Mix until just combined and smooth.

Pour batter into pan, smooth out the top and bake 50 — 55 minutes, until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool cake in the pan for about 15 minutes, then invert onto a rack and allow to cool completely.

While the cake cools, whisk together buttermilk, cinnamon and vanilla. Add enough powdered sugar to make the icing pourable, but not runny. Pour over cake and allow to harden slightly.

Serves 12

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Okra Gumbo

Rows of okra at Tierra Miguel Farm in Pauma Valley, CA

A few weeks ago, I saw an okra plant for the first time. I was stunned by it's beauty. Okra grows on a tall stalk and has blooms similar to a hibiscus. I was inspired to make a big pot of gumbo with the bag of okra I brought home with me that day. I pulled some ideas from a few of my favorite cookbooks and here is what I came up with. This gumbo is perfect for a cold fall or winter night. You can use frozen okra if fresh is not available.


4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
6 tablespoons canola oil
2 cups fresh okra, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
6 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow or orange bell pepper, chopped
4–5 cloves garlic, diced
1 can (14.5 ounce) diced tomatoes, with their juice
5 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 tablespoons Tony Chachere's Original Creole Seasoning
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried)
dash of cayenne pepper (optional)
1 pound andouille sausage, sliced into 1/4 inch discs
1 pound shrimp
Brown Rice

In a large heave pot over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add okra and sauté until golden brown and softened, stirring occasionally (about 15 minutes). Using a slotted spoon, remove okra and reserve in bowl.

Add 2 more tablespoons of olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add the chicken, sauté until lightly browned all over (3-5 minutes). Remove using a slotted spoon and reserve in another bowl.

Add the canola oil and heat for about 2 minutes over medium-high heat. Add the flour, stirring until incorporated to make the roux. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon, cooking the roux until it gets nice and golden brown (about 4–6 minutes). Reduce heat to medium and add onion and peppers. Cook until softened, stirring occasionally (8–10 minutes). Add the garlic and cook 1–2 minutes more.

Add the cooked okra, diced tomatoes with their juice, chicken stock, creole seasoning, smoked paprika, thyme and cayenne. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer until slightly thickened (about 20 minutes). Add the browned chicken and allow to cook through (about 10 minutes more).

Add the sausage and shrimp, cooking until sausage is heated and shrimp is pink and cooked through (about 3–4 minutes). Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Serve over steamed brown rice, topping each bowl with a couple cracks of fresh ground black pepper and a sprinkle of fresh thyme leaves.

Serves 6