Adventures of the Bean #11
Use Your Bean in Stuffing a Pumpkin
Includes Recipe Below
Good grief, holiday time is nearly here! It seems like the end of the year always sneaks up on me and clobbers me in the head. I always dream of doing the Chevy Chase "Christmas Vacation" type of decorating, but somehow the end of December blindsides me and I'm lucky to get the tree up by Christmas Eve.
When my daughter became vegetarian several years ago, I was able to include her in the Thanksgiving festivities by stuffing a pumpkin and baking it alongside the traditional turkey. The first one I made, I wanted a smallish globe, and I found a suitably-sized WHITE pumpkin in the supermarket. The kid raved and raved about it, saying the dark orange flesh was sweeter than "regular" pumpkin. I've tried to find a white one every T-day since. Some years I succeed, others I don't.
I'd make a duplicate stuffing of what I planned to put into the carnivore-eaters' bird, and then I'd add a few more goodies to make the vegetarian-eaters' substitute special. Along with the typical sage seasoning, I would add a small amount of cinnamon, clove, and allspice. Then I'd include chopped dried fruits. The spices weren't overpowering, since I'd put just enough so that the taster would get a squinty look on his or her face and say, "This is familiar, what IS it?" And then the person would go on to snarf a second or third helping!
Stuffing = bread cubes, to most people. I've always made mine with bread. Last year, though, our family was invited out to Thanksgiving Dinner and I wanted to bring something more diabetic-friendly than a bread stuffing. I made a special trip to the market to cruise the "low-carb" aisle, and picked up a couple of loaves of the expensive bread that is targeted to the Atkins groupies. I brought the breads home, cut the slices into cubes, and toasted them in the oven. Boy, they smelled good! The cubes looked like traditional stuffing mix bread cubes, too! Into the mixing bowl they went, along with all my other stuffing mandatories, and I stirred the mess together. A few minutes later, the pumpkin was baking, and the house was filled with Thanksgiving aromas.
I proudly presented my vegetarian stuffed pumpkin at the table of our hosts. (This was a friend-of-a-friend type situation, and I'd never even MET the people before this moment!)
Oh, dear God...
For something that LOOKED good and SMELLED good, my lovely stuffing was horrible. Imagine chewing on sage and onion flavored art gum erasers. I wanted to crawl under the table and stay there for the rest of the meal.
Dear friends, save yourself from disaster! Do NOT attempt to make stuffing from any of the low-carb breads! Please! That fiasco was so terrible, I doubt it could even be successfully composted. Eons from now, archaeologists will uncover a landfill in Southern California and puzzle over this mysterious rubbery substance!
Pumpkin, however, is still on the menu! I've cured the latex problem with wholesome whole grains!
For this recipe, choose a white pumpkin. If you can't find white, feel free to substitute whatever is available. Keep it on the small side, though, unless you are feeding thirty people this year!
Cut the "lid" from the pumpkin, scoop out the seeds and stringy stuff, and rub the interior lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle the inside walls with a little bit of ground cinnamon, ground ginger, and ground allspice.
1/4 cup (60 ml) flaxseed
Blend the flaxseed in the broth until you have a slurry. Set it aside in a small cup, so that the mixture becomes gelatinous.
2 cups (.5 liter) Veggie Chicken Broth
Hulled barley is sometimes called "pot barley." It still has part of the bran attached to the grain so it is delicious, chewy, and has a low glycemic index! It's worth the hunt to find a place that sells it.
Rinse the barley and place it in a pot with the chicken broth. Bring it to a simmer, reduce heat to low, and cover with tight-fitting lid. Cook twenty to thirty minutes or so, until tender but still chewy. If you own a rice cooker, the barley can be prepared in that!
2 cups (.5 liter) Veggie Chicken Broth
Rinse lentils and place them in another pot with the broth. Bring it to a simmer, reduce heat to low, and also cover with a lid. Cook until lentils tender, but still having a shape, about 20 to 30 minutes. We're not looking for puree--we want the texture.
1 cup (240 ml) onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Put the veggies in a microwave-safe bowl, and nuke on high power for a minute or two. The veggies should be tender-crisp, because we're looking for texture.
Once everything has cooked, get out the biggest bowl in the house and dump in all the above ingredients, including the flaxseed "goo." To this add:
1/4 cup (60 ml) Zante dried currants
1/2 cup (120 ml) chopped dried cranberries
Add herbs to taste, such as sage, tarragon, thyme, rosemary, marjoram, whatever your typical "stuffing" seasonings are. Use a light hand here.
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp allspice
Plus whatever else sounds good to you. As with the herbs, though, use a light hand. The subtlety of the seasonings is one of the beauties of this dish.
Using your hands blend everything together into one nice, big, gloppy mess. If the mixture is too dry, add Veggie Chicken Broth until it holds together, but is not too soggy.
Depending on the size of your pumpkin, you may need to make more than one batch of stuffing. That's okay, it freezes nicely, and you can have wonderful leftovers while the carnivores are overdosing on turkey soup, turkey hash, turkey and dumplings, and turkey pot pie!
Spoon the stuffing into your prepared pumpkin. After filling, you can either put the little "hat" back on top, or cover the opening with a small piece of foil. Place the pumpkin on a cookie sheet or in a roasting pan, and bake in a 350 F. (Gas Mark 4) oven for at least an hour. After 45 minutes, start to test the doneness by trying to pierce pumpkin skin with a sharp knife. If it is hard to poke, bake another fifteen minutes and test again. The pumpkin is done when the flesh is tender and the knife slides in easily. This could take longer than an hour if the pumpkin is big or the flesh is especially tough.
When done, let the pumpkin sit on the counter for fifteen or twenty minutes to "set" the stuffing.
To serve, slice the pumpkin into wedges, and spoon the stuffing onto plates.
One batch of stuffing makes about sixteen 1/3-cup (80 ml) to 1/2-cup (120 ml) servings.
One serving of cooked pumpkin (1 cup):
Gobble Gobble Gobble!