Thursday, October 30, 2008

Spicy Fall Stew Baked in a Pumpkin, Pepitos and an Announcement

Well, the calender says it's fall, but you wouldn't know it if you stepped outside. Here in San Diego, we've been having a heat wave. I mean.....a REAL heat wave! For someone who grew up on the east coast, this is unspeakable. To deprive me of fall - true fall - is criminal. I may be one of the few people here in San Diego who feels this way, but to me, fall is the very best season of the year. I used to love taking out my sweaters and adding another layer. The days were sunny but the air was crisp. I love crisp. What we've got here is tank top hot. Shorts and flip-flops hot. It's almost November, but it seems like perfect weather for a barbecue.

But I'm not going to let this crazy weather deprive me of my seasonal cooking. I went to the store and they had pumpkins stacked up outside in homage to the season. Everything from tiny orange and white pumpkins to the most ginormous pumpkins I've ever seen. I have friends with a 3 year old son who weighs less than some of those pumpkins. If I had a chain saw, I suppose I could carve one and make a small house for this child. Fortunately, there was a bin with pumpkins which weighed somewhere between 2 and 3 pounds. Perfect.

Periodically, new magazines show up in my clinic. I have no idea how they get there. I never order them, but sometimes they're inspirational. These days, it's the Vegetarian Times. They had a photo on the cover of their October issue which reinforced my decision to eat vegetarian meals a couple of times a week. It was of a beautiful pumpkin, stuffed with a yummy looking stew and topped with an interesting salsa. I looked at that photo and realized that I had never actually baked a pumpkin and eaten it. I've just used it in pies. I've used practically every other form of winter squash in various recipes, but for some reason the lowly pumpkin escaped my attention. Until I saw the photo.

Now, it's perfectly possible to make this stew in any number of squashes - kabocha, red kuri or buttercup are just some possibilities. The only thing which seems important is that you choose one with a skin which is firm enough to hold up. And the added bonus? You get to have some pepitos when you're done making the main dish. I'm amazed that they lasted long enough for me to photograph them!


2 TBS olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, diced (1 cup)
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch dice
2 cloves garlic, minced (2tsp)
1 tsp chili powder, preferably New Mexican
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 lb. tomatillos, husked and quartered (1 1/2 cups)
1 15oz can of hominy, rinsed and drained
1/4 tsp salt
1 3-4# pumpkin
2 oz grated sharp Cheddar cheese (1/2C packed)


1. Preheat oven to 350. Heat 1 TBS oil in pot over medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper and garlic. Saute 7 minutes or until softened. Stir in chili powder, cumin, and oregano, and cook 3 minutes more, or until spices darken.

2. Add tomatillos, hominy, 1/2 cup water, and salt. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, nad simmer, partially covered, 10 to 12 minutes or until tomatillos are softened. Uncover and cook 5 minutes more to thicken stew if necessary.

3. Meanwhile, cut the top of the pumpkin around the stem to make a lid. Scoop out pumpkin seeds and strings. Rub inside of pumpkin with remaining oil and sprinkle generously with salt. Sprinkle cheese on the bottom of pumpkin.

4. Fill pumpkin with stew, then top with pumpkin lid. Place on parchment covered baking sheet and bake 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until pumkin flesh is fork-tender. Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes. Scoop stew including pumpkin into bowls and serve hot, topped with Poblano-Cucumber Salsa.

Yes.......there's salsa......


1 poblano chile
1/2 cucumber peeled, seeded and cut into dice
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
2 TBS lime juice
1 clove garlic, minced (1 tsp)
1 jalapeno chile, stemmed, seeded and minced
1/2 tsp salt
1 ripe avocado, diced.

Preheat oven to broil. Roast poblano chile 15 to 20 minutes, or until skin is blackened, turning occasionally. Cool until easy to handle. Remove charred skin, discard seeds and stem, and cut into small dice. Combine with the rest of the ingredients, leaving the avocado for last. Genly fold in avocado and season with salt and pepper.

I didn't have a separate photo of this, but it's what you see on the top of the stew.

As for the pepitos, I rinsed the seeds of the pumpkin, sprinkled them on a baking sheet sprayed with oil, sprinkled sea salt over them and roasted them in the oven along with the pumpkin. Periodically I took them out, smooshed them around and put them back. When they looked toasty, they were done. These are some of the better snacks I've had in a long time!
And now for the announcement........................................
Drum roll, please....................................

My New Photo Website Is Finally Done!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Is this possible???? Can it be??? OMG! It seems to me that I've been working on this forever!!! I can now actually get out of this chair and move around and get back to my garden! For anyone interested in checking it out, here's the link: wanderingeye-photo

I just might have time to start posting more regularly now. I actually made something tonite which is post-worthy for more than one reason. I'll share the story with you next time.


anya said...

Toni, congratulations on your new site!! Needless to say, you've done a great job; apart from inspiring, you touch the spirits; and invite for a journey. Truly, a picture is worth a thousand words!

As it happens, I am on a 'pumpkin hook' for the time being, too. :)

And thank you so much for your comment: sincere and re-assuring.

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

This look fabulous Toni!
There may be hope for this pumpkin on my counter!

Unknown said...

Anya - Thanks! I think everyone is going pumpkin crazy these days.... And my comment on your blog was from the heart.

MKIHC - Oh, I have no doubt that you'll turn that pumpkin into something mouth-watering!

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

That's a beautiful thing -- I'm looking for a "wow" dish for a vegetarian dinner next weekend, and I think I've found it. Thanks!

Simply...Gluten-free said...

Gongrats on your new website - I know how much work they are.

This dish looks wonderful.

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Ha, ha Toni this is so really really good! Just posted it.

Toni said...

Lydia - Thanks! This dish seems to stir a lot of enthusiasm.

Carol - Thank you! Yes, they're a lot of work, but it feels so good when they're done!

Tanna - I love your photo much better than mine! Glad you liked the dish.

Cynthia said...

Toni dearest! I love the new site. Just had a quick run through and can't wait to explore fully.

Will email soon.

Mike of Mike's Table said...

That sounds like such an amazing stew.

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Dazy said...

This is a new one for me! Looks really yummy too..gearing up with recipes for the cold winter days
hopefully ahead!