Ever looked at a great big pumpkin and scratch your head. It’s not one of those ingredients that jumps out and begs a home cook to be dinner. They come in all shapes and sizes, many of which are XXL. Of course those are hard to cut unless you have the proper knife, like Grand Cayman farmer Jennett Anson who uses her cleaver to break down the big round guys into customer-friendly portions at the farmers market in Camana Bay. Then there’s the calabaza’s density, making cook time longer than your garden variety vegetable.
So who wants to cook calabaza now? We do! And now that I’ve convinced you to never look a pumpkin in the eye in your own kitchen, let me allow TGHG special ops chef Thomas Tennant and Farm to Kitchen’s Chris Padin persuade you otherwise.
“It’s definitely more abundant right now as summer approaches, but pumpkin is one of those great crops that we get all year round down here,” Chris explained on the phone earlier this morning. “You’ll start to see more of the butternuts, the smooth tan ones shaped like a bell, coming in now in April and May, and the green and orange striped long necks are looking really nice, too. They have more meat than the big round ones which are hollow in the middle and filled with seeds.”
Over the years, I’ve seen some freakishly big pumpkins sitting pretty on our ingredient wall and atop the pastry station at Michael’s Genuine in Miami when local tomatoes are out of season (heirloom alert: a week more of Teena’s Pride, before we head up state until June!) We have Martha Corona and her u-pick farm to thank; she always makes sure to grow them, and customer demand is so high she brings them in from a farm upstate when her supply runs out. They grow up to 20 pounds each, even more. Chris’s weekly order averages about 50 pounds all day, give or take a few depending on what the kitchen wants on the menu. They can show up as a wood roasted side, shaved on pizza, cubed in hash at brunch… pretty much everywhere and anywhere. And Harry’s just added candied pumpkin seeds to its arugula salad.
Upon returning to the mainland from Grand Cayman’s Slow Food Day in March, Thomas not surprisingly received requests from afar for his pumpkin salad recipe. Sure, it was so delicious as a base for Caja China Local Goat, but better yet, a fresh, healthy, and vegetarian dish balanced and hearty enough to stand alone. When working with pumpkin at home, Thomas suggests choosing the longnecks if you can find them, peeling with a vegetable peeler and using a large, properly sharpened chef’s knife for cubing. The chunks don’t need to be perfect cubes, but do take care to cut with uniform thickness for uniform cook time. Enjoy with a Home Brew and toast to summertime!
Roasted Pumpkin Salad with quinoa, long beans, herbs, heart of palm and parsley vinaigrette
3 quarts fresh pumpkin, peeled and cut into 2-inch cubes
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste
3 cups cooked quinoa
1 pound long beans
½ cup fresh heart of palm, shaved
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 cup Parsley Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
½ cup scallion, sliced thinly
½ cup parsley leaves
½ cup cilantro leaves
Preheat an oven to 400 degrees. Place the cut pumpkin on a sheet pan, dress with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast the pumpkin until it becomes tender, about 12 minutes. Once tender, remove and allow to cool at room temperature.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and blanch the long beans for 15 seconds then shock into ice water to stop the cooking. Once the long beans are chilled, cut into 2 inch long pieces.
To assemble the salad, combine the warm pumpkin, cooked quinoa, long beans, and shaved heart of palm in a mixing bowl and season with salt and pepper. Toss with the vinaigrette and herbs. Serve while the salad is warm.
makes about 1 cup
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 cup parlsey leaves, picked
¼ cup oregano leaves, picked
1 small shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ cup sherry vinegar
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Add ½ cup of water to a saucepot over medium heat and add the salt. Once dissolved, set aside and allow to cool. Finely chop the parsley and oregano. Combine the herbs, shallots, garlic and sherry vinegar in a mixing bowl. Using a whisk, bruise the herbs with the vinegar and whisk in the salt water and finally the olive oil. Place in a plastic container until ready to use. You can allow the dressing to marinate for a day and the flavors will improve.