Pumpkin Mousse

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Someone recently asked me what my favorite dessert is. Without hesitation, I responded chocolate mousse. Not the fluffy, creamy chocolate stuff, but the dark, rich, almost fudge-like chocolate mousse.

I was honestly surprised that I didn’t have to think about it, not being much of a dessert eater. If you’d asked me for my favorite meal, I’d still be thinking of an answer, although a course of foie gras would be part of it…

So after I thought about how much I really do love chocolate mousse, I realized that it’s not on my blog.

But because it is my favorite time of year, and I’m one of those pumpkin “freaks,” I decided to create a pumpkin mousse recipe instead of preparing my traditional chocolate favorite. I wanted it to taste like pumpkin spice, yet still be fluffy, without the use of gelatin.

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Here’s what I did.

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Pumpkin Mousse
Makes about 10 8-ounce servings

3 egg whites
Pinch of salt
1/2 can pumpkin purée
16 ounces marscapone, at room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2-3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon powdered vanilla
Pinch of ground cloves

Beat the egg whites and salt in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until firm peaks form. Set in the refrigerator.


In a larger bowl, beat the pumpkin, marscapone, and sugar until smooth.
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Add the spices and blend. Taste the pumpkin mixture for sweetness and flavor. The strength of cinnamon really varies based on the source, so adjust the flavor according to your personal taste.

Also, pumpkin by itself tastes like, well, squash. So the spices, especially the cinnamon, are quite important!

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Gently but carefully fold in the egg whites into the pumpkin mixture. Try not to over fold, so as not to deflate the egg whites.

When more or less combined, place the pumpkin mousse in individual serving dishes.

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Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight, well covered. Serve either chilled or at room temperature; I prefer room temperature.

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Add a little dollop of whipped cream or marscapone on top, and add some freshly grated nutmeg if desired. A little cookie doesn’t hurt!
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After I made the mousse, I realized I’d forgotten the vanilla powder. If you’ve never used it, I highly recommend it for situations when you want vanilla flavor without the extract liquid.
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Pumpkin Pasta Alfredo

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I am a sucker for unique pasta shapes. I just can’t help myself. Traditional varieties are also fun, like bucatini and radiatore, but if I come across pumpkin-shaped pasta, like I did recently at Trader Joe’s, I just have to grab it.
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I wasn’t sure how sturdy the little pumpkin pastas would be once cooked, so I didn’t want to make a really heavy sauce. Instead I decided on the recipe that first introduced me to fettuccine al burro, also known as alfredo sauce, from the Italian cookbook of the Time-Life Foods of the World Cookbook. The word burro reminds me of donkeys, so I prefer the term alfredo!

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The recipe is really straight-forward. It’s practically equal parts butter, cream, and Parmesan. Yes, it’s pretty rich. You’re welcome.
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Pumpkin Pasta Alfredo
Adapted from The Cooking of Italy

8 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup freshly and finely grated Parmesan
14 ounces dried pasta, cooked according to the package
Freshly grated Parmesan

Cream the softened butter by beating it vigorously against the sides of a large, heavy bowl with a wooden spoon until it is light and fluffy. Beat in the cream a little at a time, and then, a few tablespoonfuls at a time, beat in the grated cheese.


Cover the bowl and set it aside. It needs to stay at room temperature.
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Cook the pasta, test for bite, then drain in a colander.
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Place the hot pasta in the bowl with the creamed butter and cheese mixture and toss gently until the pasta is evenly coated.

Taste and season generously with salt and pepper; I used a little salt and white pepper.
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You can also add thinly-sliced white truffle, which is included in the original recipe.
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I instead added a few pinches of freshly grated nutmeg.
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Offer extra grated cheese because, you can never have too much cheese!

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Note: I came across pumpkin-shaped pasta at Williams-Sonoma a week or so after I purchased this package at Trader Joe’s. It was almost five times the price!

Pumpkin Pancakes

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Pumpkin is not only for Thanksgiving time, or for just making pumpkin pie. After all, it is a squash. It’s healthy, delicious, and really versatile.

I used to make pumpkin pancakes year-round for my daughters when they were growing up. They loved the pancakes and, unbeknownst to them, the pancakes were terribly healthy.

This is a version of what I made for them:
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Pumpkin Pancakes with Raisins and Walnuts

1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup milk – almond, soy, hemp, whatever you prefer
2 eggs
3/4 cup pumpkin purée
Ground walnuts, optional
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup whole-grain pancake mix
Butter
Maple syrup, or agave syrup

Place the raisins in a small bowl. Pour the milk over them and let them sit for about 15 minutes, or even overnight in the refrigerator. Warm the milk slightly if the raisins are hard.


In a separate larger bowl, add the eggs and pumpkin and whisk until smooth.

Stir in the walnuts, cinnamon, and the raisins with the milk.
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Gradually add the pancake mix, but don’t overstir. You might have to adjust the quantity.

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Place about one tablespoon of butter in a skillet or on a griddle. Heat it up over medium-high heat. I let my butter brown and even burn a little.
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When the butter is ready, make pancakes with the batter, spreading it evenly. Let cook for about a minute, then turn over, turn down the heat a little, and cook them for about 2 minutes. I like the outsides browned, but the insides need to be cooked through.
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When the pancakes have cooked, place them on a plate and continue with the remaining batter.
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Of course I add more butter to the warm pancakes.

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This recipe makes about one dozen pancakes, about 3″ round or so.
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Drizzle with maple syrup.

Enjoy!
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note: Children may not like the walnuts unless they’re more finely chopped. Oats that have been soaked in liquid are another option for added texture and nutrition.

Pumpkin Spazele

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My goal in the kitchen is not to be super creative and serve fancy food presentations. That’s just not me. I go to restaurants for that enjoyment. I’m just a self-trained home cook.

Spazele with pumpkin might seem like I’m trying to be creative, but my use of pumpkin began innocently enough, many years ago, for two different reasons. 1. I love pumpkin, and although a fall ingredient, can be used year round. 2. I always used canned pumpkin in my cooking as a way to enrich the food I prepared for my family. Sneaking in the pumpkin is perhaps a better term for what I did – sneaking it into stews, soups, chili, spaghetti sauce, meat loaf – you name it.

So my posting of spazele made with pumpkin is not meant to be show-offy or gourmet. It was just a natural thing for me to do because I became adept at sneaking in ingredients. And pumpkin, is fortunately pretty. Kids tend to be a little more suspicious of green ingredients.

I grew up with spazele because although my mother is French, her father was Alsatian. Spazele are German. They’re also spelled spaetzle. And perhaps even more ways than I realize.

I don’t think my mother ever put pumpkin in them, or anything else, because she always made them the traditional way. But they’re seriously fun to play with. You can add fresh herbs, pesto, tomato paste, cheeses, paprika crème, and just about anything that won’t ruin their cooking integrity. Because they all work.

If you’re not familiar with spazele, they’re kind of like gnocchi’s ugly cousin. I could also call them lazy man’s gnocchi. Either way, they’re simply made by adding spoonfuls of batter to boiling water, very similar to American dumplings.

There are spazele makers that turn out grated-looking “worms” of spazele, but I really like the rustic dumpling look. But taste and texture wise? Spazele are just as fabulous as gnocchi. They’re little puffy pillows of goodness. And simply tossed in brown butter? Dynamite.

With the beautiful orange color and that hint of pumpkin, they should be loved by every one of all ages. So here’s my recipe. Enjoy!
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Pumpkin Spazele

2 eggs
1 cup goat’s milk, heavy cream, milk, dairy or non-dairy
1 cup pumpkin purée


1 2/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick unsalted butter
Parmesan
see note below for seasoning options

Place a large pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, whisk the eggs and goat’s milk together with the pumpkin purée and salt.

Slowly incorporate the flour into the batter, adding just a little at a time. Whisk to remove any flour lumps, then switch to a spatula. Don’t overstir.

The resulting batter can’t be too thin because it will disintegrate in the boiling water. But you also don’t want too stiff of a batter from too much flour and over whisking because the spazele will be hard and tough. You want a soft, tender spazele.

When the water is boiling, test one spazele if you want to time them. It’s worth doing if you don’t trust yourself, but honestly dumplings like these are very straight forward to cook.

Place a teaspoon of batter into the boiling water. Notice it will fall to the bottom of the pan. After it rises to the surface, scoop it up and place it on a plate.

Cut the spazele in half and study the middle. It should be soft, but not raw or tough.

When you are ready to begin, place uniformly-sized spoonfuls of batter in the water – only about ten or so at a time. Again, they will eventually rise to the surface of the water, at which point I let them cook another 30 seconds.

When the first batch is done, remove them from the water using a spider sieve, and place them in a colander or on a paper towel-lined platter to drain excess water. Then continue with the remaining batter. When cool enough to handle, I also turn over each spazele to drain any water on the top.

When you’re all done, place the spazeles in a serving bowl.

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Brown the butter on the stove.

While still hot, pour over the spazele.


Look at those lovely browned butter bits on the pumpkin spazele.
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If desired, sprinkle with grated Parmesan.

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note: Regarding seasoning, I’ve used a few different ones over the years – Chinese 5 spice, nutmeg, white pepper, and thyme. If you’re serving the spazele as a side dish, season in complement to the protein. Also, I chose goat’s milk for today’s spazele, but cream, or any dairy and non-dairy liquid would work. It’s your choice.

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Pumpkin Polenta

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Over the years I’ve been asked quite frequently about the difference between polenta and grits. But they are the same thing – essentially, cornmeal. Polenta is the Italian name for the dish, and grits are well known in the states as a Southern staple. They are both a savory porridge of sorts, made with ground corn. The only thing that is different is the grind of the cornmeal. There are finer grinds and coarser ones.

The reason I love polenta (and grits) is that I can do wonderful things with it depending on my mood and the season. For example, with fall approaching, I’ve begun stocking up on one of my favorite canned ingredient – pumpkin puree. I add pumpkin to soups, stews, pastas, meat loaves, risottos, and today, polenta. Pumpkin not only complements the cornmeal flavor, but it creates a beautiful orange color as well. It just screams autumn!

When you go to cook your cornmeal as polenta, you need to read the package directions. Because polenta comes in various grinds, the cooking times vary. Just as with purchased pasta, read the directions. Also keep in mind that cornmeal nearly triples in volume when it cooks, so unless you’re cooking for an army, don’t be tempted to use more than 1 cup of polenta, which is perfect for 4-5 servings. Here’s what I did.

This post is also at The Not So Creative Cook today. Jhuls is the author of this blog, and she actually is very creative! She was kind enough to ask me for a guest post, and I chose this dish because of fall approaching, although not fast enough for me. She used the Pumpkin Polenta for Fiesta Friday, which is a weekly post created by Angie over at The Novice Gardener.

Pumpkin Polenta

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups chicken broth
1/2 can pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup medium-grind cornmeal

In a large pot, heat the butter and oil over medium-heat until the butter just browns. Add the onion and stir, lower the heat to medium low. Sauté the onion for about 3-4 minutes.

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Add the garlic and cook for just about 30 seconds, then stir in the broth, pumpkin, and salt.

Turn up the heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Using a whisk, slowly pour in the cornmeal. Lower the heat and simmer the polenta, whisking occasionally, until all of the liquid is incorporated.
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If it gets too thick, add a little more liquid. This process should only take about 8-10 minutes unless you’re using a coarser cornmeal.

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Serve with grated cheese, if desired, such as Parmesan, or, in my case, Monterey Jack!

If you want your polenta a little more decadent, substitute some heavy cream or even goat’s milk for some of the broth.

Just think of the ways you can make polenta! Add pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, both fresh and dried, ancho chile paste, achiote oil – you name it!

note: Just like oatmeal, polenta will keep thickening with time. If you need to refrigerate any leftover polenta, make it really soupy before you store it. Only then will you have a chance of not discovering a cornmeal frisbee in your frig the next day!

Stuffed Pumpkin

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As you can tell from the above photo, that is not a pumpkin. I set out to stuff a pumpkin, but they were nowhere to be found. It turns out that my local grocery store only sells pumpkins until Halloween. I was truly shocked. So, I bought a pretty acorn squash instead.

As I only feed two people in my household, with my daughters grown and gone, I decided it wasn’t such a terrible idea to just stuff an acorn squash. That way, we each got a nice serving of baked acorn squash stuffed with brilliant saffron rice studded with pistachios and cranberries for a more festive feel.

I baked the acorn squash separately, and made the rice separately, but warmed everything in the oven before serving. If you enjoy this kind of flavor profile, complete with the sweetness from the dried cranberries, I encourage you to follow this recipe, or create one similar. There are many different variations possible. Use what you have on hand and what you like.

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Saffron Rice-Stuffed Acorn Squash

1 acorn squash, or larger squash
1 – 0.5 ounce package dried chanterelles
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups saffron rice*
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, optional
Broth, see recipe
Pistachios
Dried Cranberries

Slice off the top of the acorn squash, making a “lid.” Scoop out the seeds using a spoon. Wrap the squash completely in foil, including the lid, and bake the squash in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour. Set aside.
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Place the dried mushrooms in a small bowl, and cover them with a generous amount of hot water. Set aside.
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Place the butter and oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat.
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Add the onion and sauté them for about 5 minutes.
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Stir in the rice and thyme, if using, and stir it around for about 1 minute.
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Meanwhile, drain the mushrooms in a sieve over a bowl. Pour the liquid into a measuring cup. Add chicken broth to make the total amount of broth/mushroom liquid equal 3 cups.
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Add the liquid to the rice. Bring the rice to a boil, then cover with a lid, reduce the heat to low, and let the rice cook for 30 minutes. All of the liquid should be absorbed.
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If necessary, remove the woodier stems from the chanterelles, then chop them up.
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Add the mushrooms to the rice and fold them in gently.
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When the acorn squash is cool enough to handle, scoop out a little bit of the squash to create a little more space for the rice stuffing.
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Spoon the rice into the acorn squash. Sprinkle with the cranberries and pistachios.
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Alternatively, add the cranberries and pistachios to the rice stuffing and stir to combine. I happen to feed someone who isn’t enamored by the combination of sweet and savory, and so I went the sprinkling route. It just depends how much of the accessory ingredients you wish to taste.
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* I used saffron rice from Marx Foods. It was part of a nine jar rice sampler that I purchased over a year ago, and I’m still playing with. I wouldn’t have purposely chosen saffron rice, since I own saffron, but I must admit this does come in handy, and holds the beautiful yellow color well. It also tastes good!
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Think about all the variations you can create mixing up the ingredients. You can use many different rices, even including wild rice if you love it. And include some lentils as well. And then there’s celery, leeks, and carrots, if you like. Pine nuts or pecans would be just as delicious, and if you don’t like the fruit addition, you can omit them. Curried rice stuffing would be fabulous as well – you just want the stuffed squash to go with the protein you’re serving it with. So many possibilities!

note: This recipe makes about 6 cups of stuffing, so if you did happen to have a good sized pumpkin it would be perfect. I am going to use the excess rice as a side dish, because it’s delicious on its own.