Wednesday, October 1, 2008
It's the Great Pumpkin! Or is it a squash....?
I learned a lot about pumpkins today. And other winter squash too, actually. They are both members of the gourd family, but have different characteristics. I had a very educational chat with Tim and Chrys from Tolstoy Farms at farmers market. Ever heard of a sugar wart? No, neither had I. These little surface blemishes indicate extra sugar content in the squash and make for good eating, if not funny looking, squash.
To really see the difference for myself, I bought a butter cup squash (left) and sugar pumpkin (right) shown above. You can see that the butter cup squash has darker flesh and a smaller seed cavity. The pumpkin has a large open cavity in the middle, with lots of seeds. After scooping out all of the "innards", there wasn't much of the pumpkin left for cooking.
I decided to do a taste test and cut small cubes of the pumpkin and butter cup squash and steamed them, plain, for about 15 minutes. The butter cup squash was markedly sweeter and denser than its pumkin cousin. The pumpkin flesh was a little more fibrous and watery, disappointingly lacking in flavor.
I had purchased these guys to try a recipe for Pumpkin Chickpea tagine, so I decided to use about a cup and a half of each in the recipe below. The result was delicious.
Recipe for Tagine of Pumpkin and Chickpeas:
Adapted from the cookbook "Vegetarian"
1 can of garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
2 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs butter
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
fresh ground pepper
1/4 tsp saffron threads, or subtitute tumeric
3 cups peeled pumpkin or winter squash, such as acorn or butter cup, peeled and cut in large cubes
2 potatoes, any kind, peeled and cut into 8 pieces each
1 can of diced tomatoes, Italian seasoned or plain
2 zucchinis, sliced into rounds
1/2 a preserved lemon, chopped (see note)
cooked rice or couscous to serve
1/2 cup plain yougurt
1/2 cup cilantro
In a large dutch oven or soup pot, heat the olive oil and butter and cook onion and garlic until soft and lightly golden, about 10-15 minutes. Add the spices (except saffron), cook on low heat 1-2 minutes and then add garbanzo beans, saffron, pumpkin/squash, potatoes, canned tomatoes and just enough water to cover. Add salt and simmer until potatoes and pumpkin are almost soft, about 30 minutes. Add zucchini and preserved lemon and cook for 5 more minutes. Add some fresh ground black pepper to taste.
Serve over rice or couscous and garnish with a dollop of yougurt and fresh chopped cilantro. Serves 6
Note on preserved lemons:
These are available in some ethnic markets but can be hard to find. You can make your own quick version of preserved lemons which have a deliciously authentic flavor and will make your kitchen smell amazing. Slice a lemon, saute in 2 Tbs olive oil with 2 tsp salt and a pinch of sugar (from the "Food Substition Bible"). Cook until very soft, about 20-30 minutes. Chop roughly before using. I used a whole lemon prepared in this manner for the above tagine. The lemon flavor was evident in the dish but not bitter.