Monday, November 11, 2013

Pumpkin season

Today was the last farmer's market for the season here in Stockholm. I must say it made me really sad to think that I have to wait 6 months until I see fresh vegetables again. But so it is. Lamenting doesn't help so what I can do is enjoy preserving, fermenting and freezing like people have been doing for centuries.

Pumpkins can be found all over Stockholm right now. They're in shop windows, supermarkets and of course farmer's markets. At university I was alerted to the fact that many people in the world, especially in underprivileged areas, vitamin A deficiency can lead to series of health problems. The body needs vitamin A for growth, maintenance and vision. Vitamin A comes in two main forms: retinol and beta-carotene. Retinol is found in meat and absorbed when ingested. Beta-carotene is found in vegetables and converted to retinol after consumption. Dandelion greens, carrots, sweet potatoes and pumpkins, are a few of many sources of beta-carotene.

I found a honey pumpkin calling my name yesterday so I had to bring it home. First I spooned out all the pulp and seeds. I discarded the stringy pulp off and scattered the seeds on a baking sheet and let them sit in a recently hot oven until they dried out. And that created pumpkin seeds! I was a little baffled at first that I couldn't eat the white outer shell of pumpkin seeds but now I know why they're so expensive. But these homemade seeds will go nicely as a snack when we have the time to peel through them.

Next I tackled the skin. I decided the quickest way to tackle this orange beast is by slicing into slabs and peeling 1/8 inch of the skin off and then cubing them. recommends steaming pumpkins (and sweet potatoes) instead of roasting as they retain more of their nutrients this way and as I've been using my oven too much this week, I decided that there was no harm in steaming.

After the pumpkin cubes were knife tender, I decided that I wanted to puree 450g for pumpkin pie and leave the rest for pumpkin bread and other goodies. I wanted to do something creative with it and then it hit me -- I could make pumpkin crostata! I imagine many could be pleased with devouring pumpkin in this way because it involves flakey pastry, creamy and salty feta and herbes de Provence. I've done a similar preparation with tomatoes and I think pumpkin works nicely in the autumn. Serve this at your next dinner party if you will and you'll surely be appreciated.

Pumpkin Crostata
Serves 2 - 4

2/3 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup whole spelt flour
A pinch of salt
3 1/2 tbs (33g) salted butter
1/4 cup cold water

1 cup of thinly sliced steamed pumpkin
1/4 tsp herbes de Provence
1/8 tsp chili powder
salt & pepper
1 tbs olive oil
About 100g feta

1. Make the crust: Mix the flours and salt and then rub in the butter until it resembles oatmeal. Add water gradually to bring it into a dough. Chill for one hour.

2. Make the filling: mix the pumpkin slices, herbes de Provence, chili powder, salt and pepper together with olive oil.

3. Roll the dough out into a 1/8 inch thick circle. Assemble the pumpkin slices neatly around the whole circle, leaving a 1 1/2 inch gap between the edge. Then simply fold the edges onto the pumpkin. Crumble the feta all over. Bake for 25 - 35 minutes until the pie crust and feta are golden. Cool for 5-10 minutes before slicing. Enjoy!

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