For some people, autumn is a chilly season that has few redeeming qualities. It evokes the end of summer, gray skies, no more beach time on warm, sunny and sometimes sultry afternoons. And of course vacation has ended for many and school is back in session. I am not among those who dislike the yellow and orange season of fall where leaves change and eventually die off, only to return in the spring. In fact, I am a fan of the fall. It’s harvest time and some of the best of the best foods are back in season, like winter squash including pumpkin, cranberries and lobster. This is the ideal time of year to consume seafood as standard advice has been to only eat in months that contain an “r” in their names which would be September through April.
Each season has its special treats but the fall brings so many different culinary delights that it’s difficult to count them all. Squash in particular is a favorite and its family runs quite large. Known at the Cucurbit vegetable family, these squash include gourds, chayotes, cucumbers, melons, pumpkins, summer and winter squash—as elaborated upon by chef and author Deborah Madison in her wonderful book, Vegetable Literacy.
As a child, Halloween was one of my favorite fall holidays followed by Thanksgiving, which has virtually become a national American holiday. The problem I have with holidays in general however is how many of us bemoan family gatherings with the company of relatives we frankly don’t relish visiting that much anyway, and the sad memories of others who are no longer with us. Yet not surprisingly, I am among those who find that preparing and eating the bounty of the holiday fall season to be one of my favorite times of year which always trumps putting up with an uncle or aunt or cousin whose company isn’t appreciated.
Eating pumpkin pie was always a delight but as I have gotten older I have come to appreciate the joys of eating pumpkin and other winter squash in particular as a savory dish without sugar or baking spices. Soups are delicious examples of savory flavored squash such as butternut and delicata, buttercup, hubbard and kabocha- a Japanese squash whose flesh is dense, smooth and sometimes sweet. Of course I also enjoy a light dusting of brown sugar and an ounce or two of unsalted butter with butternut, acorn or pumpkin squash. But I enjoy steamed pumpkin or other winter squash roasted with epasote (with a fruit salsa on the side), rosemary, thyme, sage, or tahini. Here are two savory recipes that may appeal to your appetite.
Gruyere Pumpkin Sandwich
(Without Bread) Serves 4
2 tbsp butter
1 ½ lbs. pumpkin flesh cut into ½ inch slices
1 fresh marjoram sprig, chopped
12 ounces gruyere cheese, thinly sliced
½ cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
Lightly salted to taste
Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease an oven-proof dish with butter. Place the pumpkin slices on a large sheet of foil. Season with salt and sprinkle with marjoram. Enclose the pumpkin, fold over the foil and seal the edges. Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the pumpkin from the oven leaving oven on. Place a slice of gruyere between two slices of pumpkin and place in the prepared dish. Repeat with the remaining pumpkin and gruyere. Sprinkle with the parmesan, dot with the butter and bake in the already heated oven for about 10 minutes until cheese has melted.
Recipe # 2
Pumpkin With Sage, Millet And Yogurt - Serves 4
2 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1 cup millet with 1 cup boiling water
1 ½ lbs pumpkin, thinly sliced
½ cup dry white wine
½ cup Greek yogurt
1 ½ tsp finely chopped fresh sage
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a skillet, add the garlic and pumpkin and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the garlic begins to go brown. Then remove and discard it. Pour in the wine, water and millet. Heat at medium high until the liquid has evaporated and the millet and the pumpkin are soft. Season with salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle with the sage. Cook for a few more minutes, then remove from the oven and allow the pan to cool with the top on. Remove to a platter or directly serve each plate from the pan with the millet, pumpkin and sage, topping each plate with a dollop of yogurt. Enjoy!