Sunday, September 20, 2009

Pumpkin Puree, Two Ways

Happiness, for it is finally pumpkin season (well, practically)! I know, pumpkin comes in a can, and is available all year round, but I just feel funny using it when it's warm and sunny outside, and I could be going to the beach instead. Any cans of pumpkin that I buy in the fall and winter and don't end up using by the time spring rolls around are just destined to sit in the pantry until fall again. But now it's the fall (well, a few hours to go...), and so the pumpkin is out.

The whole reason I ended up using pumpkin today goes back to my post last weekend , when I gave you a recipe for a romaine salad with avocados and corn and a smoky dressing featuring chilies in
adobo. Ah yes, that ingredient that is no longer so elusive. Then this week hit, and Erik and I were out every night but one, and I never got around to using any more of that extra chili stuff. Tonight I was determined to use it in something, which is how I stumbled upon a Rachel Ray recipe for chicken with pumpkin polenta. Weird, right? Not only does the polenta have lots of pumpkin, it also uses chilies in adobo, so I figured hey, why not? Easy enough, and I had everything I needed (always an important factor to consider when the grocery store seems oh so far away. Hey, 5 miles is far, in my opinion. City girl here, accustomed to convenience...)

So here's my only gripe about canned pumpkin: the cans only come in two sizes (big and huge), and so recipes are formulated around those sizes, and they often yield a lot. Which isn't always desirable when you're cooking for 2. I never end up using extra polenta, so I wanted to halve the recipe, but it calls for a full can of pumpkin, so what is a girl to do? Well, what this girl did was recall that her favorite pumpkin bread recipe also calls for a full can of pumpkin but makes 2 loaves, which despite her deep, deep love for pumpkin bread, cannot be consumed before the second loaf gets stale and/or moldy. Solution: half recipes of each, using 1 can of pumpkin. Genius! (or at least, I like to think so).

Pumpkin polenta is an interesting thing. I
think I like it, but it's definitely a little odd at the same time. It's very well balanced, with smoky/spicy chili in adobo, savory pumpkin, sweet honey, and salty salt. Sorry, ran out of adjectives there. We served it with Rachel's BBQish chicken and hearty salad dressed with the remainder of the dressing from last week's salad, which tied the flavors together. I'd really be interested to know what others think of this recipe. It's quite easy (and you may already have the ingredients), so give it a whirl and let me know!

Pumpkin Polenta (from Rachel Ray)
Serves four, halve it for two, since it makes a lot

* 2 cups chicken stock
* 1 cup milk
* 1 chipotle chili in
adobo, finely chopped, and 2 teaspoons of adobo sauce
* 3/4 cup of cornmeal or quick cooking polenta
* 1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling--they are different!)
* 2 tablespoons butter
* 2 tablespoons honey

1. Combine the chicken stock and milk in a saucepan with the chili in adobo, and bring to a boil then lower the heat.

2. Slowly add the corn meal or polenta to the liquid, whisking as you do so to avoid lumps. Continue whisking until the polenta has thickened, about 3 or 4 minutes. Stir in the pumpkin and allow to heat through. Whisk in the butter and honey, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Obviously, I did half of this recipe for Erik and me, and then saved the second half of the can for pumpkin bread, which I whipped up after dinner. I love this pumpkin bread recipe because it is incredibly easy and comes together in a cinch. The bread is incredibly sweet, savory, and a little spicy, and can easily accommodate any little things you want to throw in (always chocolate chips in this household, but dried cranberries are good, and I have a suspicion that blueberries could be good too, although with Erik around, it's always chocolate chips!)

Pumpkin Bread (Better Homes & Gardens Red Plaid Cookbook, 12th Edition)
Makes 2 loaves

This is the full recipe, but it halves easily if you only use 1/2 a can of pumpkin

* 3 cups white sugar
* 1 cup cooking oil (corn or canola)
* 4 eggs
* 3 1/3 cups all purpose flour
* 2 teaspoons baking soda
* 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
* 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
* 2/3 cup of water
* 1 15-ounce can of pumpkin puree (not pie filling--they're different!)
* Optional: chocolate chips, dried cranberries, nuts, or any other additions you choose

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 2 loaf pans (9x5x3 inch) or the equivalent in mini loaf pans or muffin tins (yup, converts easily to muffins)

2. In a large mixing bowl beat together sugar and oil until combined. Add eggs and beat again until combined.

2. In a medium bowl combine dry ingredients.

3. Alternately add the dry ingredients and water to the egg mixture, beating together after each addition. Mix in pumpkin puree. Fold in any other additions, if desired. Divide between loaf pans and bake for 55 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Adjust baking time for small loaf pans or muffin tins.

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