|So many possibilities with these pumpkins. The largest one is 22 inches long.|
Big enough to be sentient beasts are these pumpkins, from the huerta of friends who live in the Granada highlands. The squashes have served as objets d’art on my kitchen shelf for awhile. But their time has come to submit to the knife. It’s pumpkin-butchering time.
|Knife to the heart. Not the best way to cut squash.|
Hard-skinned varieties, known as winter squash, keep well during colder months. But, once broached, the flesh needs to be cooked off as soon as possible. I needed to come up with several pumpkin dishes in close succession.
Before butternut and other small varieties of squash became widely available, my local village market sold only huge pumpkins, hacked off into pieces and sold by weight. Home cooks use the pumpkin with vegetables, legumes and sausages in stews such as berza (recipe here).
I cut the middle-sized pumpkin into thirds. (The best way to cut it is not to plunge the knife in, but to place the blade on the surface and, exerting some pressure, roll the squash against the blade.)
Once emptied of seeds, the cavity of the thickest section seemed to beg to be stuffed. I once made a vegetarian version stuffed with grains, chickpeas and tofu (that recipe is here). This one would be stuffed with meat, without even bread crumbs, so it’s fairly low-carb.
Use ground meat of choice. I have ground chicken thighs, but turkey, pork, lamb or beef are equally good. The same mixture could be used to stuff peppers or baked like meatloaf, in a pan by itself. If you've got a bigger squash, increase the quantity of meat.
|The squash is stuffed with meat and cheese. It bakes in a cazuela with tomatoes, which make the sauce.|
|Carve the pumpkin into wedges. Serve sauce alongside.|
Pumpkin Stuffed with Meat
Calabaza Rellena con Carne
Serves 3 as a main dish.
2-pound whole pumpkin or squash
1 pound ground meat
3 tablespoons olive oil + additional for the baking dish
¼ cup pine nuts
¼ cup diced bacon (1 ounce)
1 cup chopped onion
½ cup diced red bell pepper
½ cup diced celery (2 stalks)
2 cloves garlic
½ teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon sweet pimentón (paprika)
1 teaspoon oregano
Pinch of cayenne
Grating of nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup chopped parsley
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup grated cheese (2 ½ ounces)
1 ½ cups canned crushed tomatoes
Cut the stem and top off the pumpkin. Scrape out and discard the seeds and stringy pulp in the center. Lightly salt the inside of the pumpkin and set it upside down in a colander to drain.
Heat the oil in a skillet and fry the pine nuts until they are golden. Skim them out and reserve them. Add the bacon, onion, red pepper, celery and garlic to the skillet and sauté them on moderate heat until onion is softened, 8 minutes. Season with 1 teaspoon salt, cumin, pimentón, oregano, cayenne, nutmeg, pepper and parsley. Stir in the pine nuts. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
Preheat oven to 400ºF.
|Heap stuffing in shell.|
Place the meat in a mixing bowl. Add the sautéed bacon and vegetables. Mix in the egg and cheese. Spoon the meat mixture into the cavity of the pumpkin. Don’t compact it. Set the stuffed pumpkin in an oiled baking dish. Pour the crushed tomatoes around it. Salt the tomatoes lightly. Drizzle additional oil over the pumpkin and tomatoes.
Bake the pumpkin 15 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 350ºF. Bake until the pumpkin is tender and meat is thoroughly cooked (it should register 150ºF on an instant-read thermometer), about 60 minutes.
|Squash baked with tomatoes.|
To serve, cut the pumpkin and stuffing in wedges or scoop the filling out of the shell. Accompany with the tomatoes and juices from the baking dish.
|This piece of pumpkin roasted alongside the stuffed one. It makes a good side dish with roast chicken or pork chop. Or, perhaps to be pureed for pumpkin pie filling.|
|A third of the squash, cubed, in a vegetarian curry with tofu, coconut milk and peanuts.|
Links to more pumpkin recipes here.
Another sort of meat loaf, Lamb Roll Wrapped in Chard.