Hola amigos, the season of the pumpkin has arrived! There’s nothing that reminds us more of the holidays than the smell of pumpkin pie or that turkey in the oven. Pumpkin is not only delicious, but it’s also very good for us, too! It’s full of vitamins, especially vitamin A, which gives pumpkin its rich orange color. So today, please allow me to introduce you to the Cucurbita maxima, squash.
In the New World, the pumpkin’s ancestors can be traced back 9,000 years to Mexico. C. moschata, represented by such varieties as Cushaw, Winter Crookneck Squashes, Japanese Pie and Large Cheese Pumpkins, is a long-vining plant native to Mexico and Central America. This species and C. pepo apparently originated in the same general area, Mexico and Central America. Both are important food plants of the natives, ranking next to maize and beans. Different squash types of this species were introduced into North America as early as the 16th century. By the American Revolution, the species was in cultivation by Native American tribes throughout the present-day United States. By the early 19th century, at least three varieties are known to have been commercially introduced in North America from seeds obtained from Native Americans.
This large, ungainly fruit was enthusiastically embraced by the new Americans and subsequently pumpkin pie became a national Thanksgiving tradition. It was so loved that one early Connecticut colony delayed Thanksgiving because the molasses needed to make this popular pie wasn’t readily available. Pumpkin seeds are commonly known as Pepitas. Fresh pumpkins are available in the fall and winter and some specimens have weighed in at well over 100 pounds. In general, however, the flesh from smaller sizes will be more tender and succulent. The maxima species also contains varieties that produce pumpkin-like fruit but the skin is usually more yellow than orange and the stems are soft and spongy or corky, without ridges and without an enlargement next to the fruit. They don’t really make good handles for jack-o’-lanterns. Having say that, let’s have dessert, shall we? Enjoy these great recipes I’ve found while searching the web for the very best pumpkin pies recipes. So get busy, and get chomping!
Pumpkin Pie Bites
2 refrigerated ready-to roll pie crusts
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
Pumpkin-shaped cookie cutter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use cookie cutter to cut 12 pumpkin shapes from each pie crust. You will need to roll the dough thinner than it comes out of the box. Press dough shapes into a 24 cup mini muffin tray. Then make stems with the scraps. Press each stem over the edge and down the side of the dough before filling. (Make 12 at a time, alternating cups to make sure pie crusts don’t overlap each other.) Apply egg whites from one egg to the top edges of each pie. Mix cream cheese, sugar, canned pumpkin, remaining 2 eggs, vanilla and pumpkin pie spice together until thoroughly combined. Spoon mixture into each pumpkin-shaped pie crust. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Remove pies to cool and repeat with second pie crust. Place the muffin tray in the freezer to cool it quickly for re-use. Makes 24 pies. Keep refrigerated.
1 ounce cacao nibs
1 chile guajillo
4 plum tomatoes (about 10 ounces), stemmed
1/2 white onion (about 3 1/2 ounces), peeled
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon aniseed
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon brown loaf sugar (preferably Colombian panela or Mexican piloncillo), grated or demerara natural brown cane sugar
5 cups fresh pumpkin purée
6 cups well-flavored chicken stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 ounce dark chocolate (preferably 58.5 percent or 60 percent cacao content)
1 cup Mexican cream or creme fraiche
1 cup cubed Manchego cheese
Heat a griddle, medium-sized cast-iron skillet, or Mexican comal over medium heat. Add the cacao nibs and dry-roast for 2 minutes, until fragrant, turning constantly with a wooden spoon or spatula. Turn out into another container and set aside.
Stem and seed the chile. Place on a hot comal, griddle or iron skillet and roast briefly turning with tongs, about 2 minutes. Place in a bowl with warm water to soften. Roast the tomatoes, onion, and garlic until blistered on all sides.
* Place in a food processor or blender together with the roasted cacao nibs and the spices and puree.
Heat the oil in a medium, heavy-bottomed pot. Add the puree and the brown sugar and saute for 5 minutes. Add the pumpkin puree and the stock. Correct seasoning. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Lower the heat and cover until the flavors are well blended, about 15 minutes. Puree in a food processor or blender, in batches. Strain the soup pushing the solids against the strainer with the back of a spoon. Put back in the pot and heat over medium heat. Add the chocolate and stir until dissolved, about 3 minutes.
Serve the soup hot garnished with a dollop of Mexican cream or creme fraiche and a tablespoon the cubed cheese. Pass the Kekchi Cacao-Chile balls and grate a pinch on the soup for extra heat and cacao flavor.
*Lightly drizzle tomatoes, garlic and onion with canola oil. Place under a broiler until lightly charred, about 6 minutes.