We're finally having a bit of fall weather here. Fall means so many exciting things! Jeans and jackets and not feeling like an obese, asthmatic 90-year-old when I run!
It also means a whole new lineup of delicious ingredients are appropriate. I love berries and tomatoes, but I am ready for a change. I had a couple friends over and went a little nuts with the fall-themed cooking this weekend. I made last week's soup again (sans okra. Erik rebelled against "the weird wheels."). I also fell in love with a butternut squash at the farmer's market, and I got it back home before I realized I didn't know what to do with it.
After consulting the Internet and The Flavor Bible (which is amazing, by the way), I made a baked butternut squash dessert with a layer of crunchy, almost-burned brown sugar on top. Add a dollop of cinnamon-vanilla whipped cream, and you have the perfect fall dessert. Unfortunately, I was in a bit of a rush cooking, so I didn't measure anything or take any pictures. I promise to make it again and get it on here!
|Butternut is the most metal of the squashes.|
I didn't forget you, though: I was hoping the jelly lady at the market would have apple butter. No such luck, but she did have pumpkin butter. I tried it. It was amazing. I had to have it in my life. It was also six dollars, and I had exactly four left in my wallet.
I checked the ingredients (spoiler alert!): pumpkin, sugar, apple juice, spices, lemon juice. I can handle that. The spices are easy enough to figure out, and everything's really to taste anyway, right?
Turns out, the South doesn't have canned pumpkin yet this year. BUT. I came home a few days ago to discover that Erik had bought four tiny, perfect pumpkins for our front stoop. Our landlord told me they were pie pumpkins, and Erik told me they were 79 cents each. Perfect.
|Don't worry, I bought my own.|
My patio is still adorable.
Kind of. Theoretically, turning a pumpkin into pumpkin puree should be easy. Cut in half, scoop, cook, puree. The problem is, this is where I was after about five minutes (and after trying every knife in the block):
If you looked closely, you would see scratches and not much else. At this point, I was kind of excited. Minor disasters make for good blogging, yeah?
Five more minutes and little progress later, I googled "How to get into a pumpkin." The first step was, "Cut pumpkin in half." Great.
This is where I should share the magic secret for getting into the pumpkin. Could one of you fill it in for me? The bread knife helped (I guess it's reminiscent of the little saw you get in carving kits), but it was still slow going. I did learn one thing: There will come a point where you have it most of the way sawed in half, and you think you can just chop through the rest of it. You can't.
|That's both stuck AND dangerous.|
I did eventually get into the damn thing, and the rest of the process was pretty quick and painless. According to the internet (which I no longer trust), the next step is peeling the pumpkin. I don't even know what that means. I think maybe it's supposed to be a joke? I microwaved the thing in two halves, and then just scooped out the softened insides.
|This is what victory looks like.|
Goopy and a little sticky.
Having tried the final product and been out of the kitchen for a couple hours, I can't say that it wasn't worth it. But it was a close margin. The pumpkin butter in my fridge tastes perfectly like fall, with all the right seasonings and a bit of brightness from apple juice and lemon. I just had it with sweet potato wedges for lunch, and I'll have it on toast or in oatmeal for breakfast. It's delicious, and I could happily eat it with a spoon.
I'll tell you how I did it, in case you're much more comfortable with real pumpkins than I am. I'll also tell you that next time, I will for sure use canned pumpkin, and send you to smitten kitchen for a very similar recipe that I suspect will be just as delicious and much simpler:
Pumpkin Butter and Sweet Potato Wedges
Adapted from the back of a jar.
1 small pie pumpkin
5 tablespoons apple juice
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Cut pumpkin in half. Scrape out seeds and pulp (reserve seeds for roasting). Microwave halves on high for about 2 minutes, or until the flesh is slightly fork tender. Scoop flesh into microwave-safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high until very tender, about 7 minutes.
Puree pumpkin with potato masher, immersion blender, or food processor. Move to medium saucepan. Stir in all ingredients except lemon juice. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer until thickened, about 20 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add lemon juice and adjust spices to taste. Let cool, can be kept in fridge for about one week. Makes one jar.
Sweet Potato Wedges
I'm the only one in my house who eats sweet potatoes, and I will stand in the kitchen and eat as many sweet potato wedges as I make. Tiny batches just seem safer. Of course, you can easily double/quadruple this recipe.
You can do a million different things with these. Skip the cinnamon and eat them with aioli or even ketchup. Swap the salt for brown sugar. I like them plain with salt, or like this dipped in apple or pumpkin butter.
1/2 of a large sweet potato
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350. Cut sweet potato into fairly thin wedges. Toss in a bowl with other ingredients. Arrange in single layer on baking sheet.
Bake until crispy and tender, about 20 minutes, turning once. Serves one.
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