The Plentiful Pumpkin

The Vegetarian Thanksgiving —  it’s a topic that’s coming up more often now.  Years ago, if a vegetarian came to Thanksgiving dinner, all he or she could hope for was to enjoy some of the meatless side dishes, salads and of course pumpkin pie.  In more recent years, folks are becoming more health-conscious and in general adopting a meat-free lifestyle.  A happy consequence:  dinner hosts are also becoming more conscientious and planning for more meatless options for the Thanksgiving Table.

I originally developed this for my sister, Alex.  I wanted to make something unforgettably special for her that was filling, delicious and healthy… something that would be so special, she wouldn’t miss having turkey at all.

As I heartily encourage you to make this recipe, I am obligated to warn you:  it’s not something that can be quickly thrown together.  This recipe is for a very special occasion, so please take the necessary time and steps to prepare.  Cook and season each component before it gets mixed together as the filling – by doing so, each component has its own flavor.  The whole thing will become greater than the sum of its parts!  (and consequently, that’s why it’s so darn complicated to make this dish).

I serve this pumpkin with onion gravy (it looks and tastes like turkey gravy but it’s vegan) and a side of cranberry sauce!

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Stuffed Thanksgiving Pumpkin

Serves 4

4 sugar pumpkins, about 6 to 8-inches in diameter

Olive oil

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 cups cooked Israeli couscous (or wild rice)

1 cup cooked quinoa (red looks better)

1 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped

1 cup hazelnuts, toasted and skinned

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Sub-recipes:

Sautéed Dino Kale w chopped garlic and red pepper flakes

Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with shallots and garlic (thinly slice the shallots and garlic)

Sautéed chickpeas with diced carrots, minced garlic and olive oil (optional)

Roast the pumpkins by first cutting their tops off and scooping out their seeds and strings.  Prick all over the inside of the pumpkins with a fork and brush with olive oil.  Season the insides with salt and pepper.  Place the pumpkins cut-side down on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast in the oven for 35 min at 350.  Remove and set aside to cool.

Prepare the filling:  In a large bowl mix together the cooked couscous, quinoa, cranberries, nuts, parsley and any of the prepared sub-recipe components (mix 1 – 1 ½ cups of each component).  Season with salt and pepper and moisten with vegetable stock.

Stuff each pumpkin with the filling – making sure you’ve firmly (but not compressed) packed it in.  Make sure it comes over the top.  Return the stuffed pumpkins to the foil-lined baking sheet and bake until heated through, about 45 minutes.  You can roast the tops of the pumpkins, too and place on top for presentation.  Bake any leftover filling in a baking dish to serve along side.

Serve hot with lots of onion gravy and cranberry sauce.

Onion gravy:

Makes 2 ½ cups

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

One large yellow onion, diced 

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 cups water

2 tablespoons Tamari sauce (or low-sodium soy sauce)

1 vegetable boullion cube

2 teaspoons cornstarch, mixed w cold water to create a slurry

In a medium-sized saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high flame and sauté the onions until soft, about 7 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add the water, tamari, and boullion cube.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to simmer and simmer for 25 minutes, or until the onion is clear.  Mix together the cornstarch slurry and pour in.  Bring to a boil, stir a few times until the gravy thickens and turn off the heat.  Set aside for a few minutes to cool slightly, then puree with a stick blender.  If you are using a traditional blender, cool the gravy down completely before blending (you’ll have to heat the gravy back up).  Strain the gravy into a clean saucepan, taste and season with salt and pepper if needed and keep warm until ready to use.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Sautéed Greens

Everything but the kitchen sink . . . La Cucina literally translates as ”the kitchen” in Italian.  It is also used in the Marche region as the colloquial name for a dish of mixed sautéed greens that includes whatever you have on hand.  This sautéing method works well for a wide variety of hearty greens.  The dish works best if you use a combination of mild and bitter greens.  Mild varieties include: beet greens, chard, kale, cabbage, and spinach.  Bitter varieties include: chicory, dandelion, and mustard.

Dinosaur Kale, or Tuscan Kale grows in abundance locally here.  The lush, dark green, bumpy leaves are super-nutritious: a cup provides more than 100% of the daily value of vitamins K and A, and 88%of the DV for vitamin C. Like other members of the cruciferous family (cabbage, collards and Brussels sprouts), kale is a rich source of organosulfur compounds that have been linked to cancer prevention.  Lucky for us, it’s easy to grow in our climate and can be found everywhere — green grocers, farmers markets and supermarket stores.  We like to pair this dish with a side garlicky beans for a satisfying, comforting supper.

*Be sure to hit the blue links to see the helpful videos we’ve made to guide you through the recipe.  As always, check us out on Vimeo or subscribe to our YouTube channel!

La Cucina — Sautéed Greens

Serves 4

1-1/4 pounds mixed leafy greens (such as Dino Kale or chard), washed

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 cloves garlic, peeled, and finely minced

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste!)

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Lemon wedges, for garnish

If the greens have thick hardy stems, remove the stems and slice the stems in ½-inch slices and the greens in 1-inch slices (place stems and greens in separate bowls.)

Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat and add the stems only. The stems will take the longest to cook, putting them in the pan first will ensure they are ready at the same time the leaves are.  Season with salt and pepper and cook covered for 5 minutes.  Add the leaves, as many as you can fit at a time, and turn them gently to wilt.  Continue adding greens and turning them over until you have added all the leaves.  Season leaves with salt and pepper and add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté for 3 minutes.  Add a couple of tablespoons of water, and cook covered for 10 minutes or until the liquid is gone and the greens are fully cooked.

Eat your leafy greens!