Mexican pumpkin and white bean casserole
1 pound bag of white kidney beans (cannellini/alubias)
or lima beans (butterbeans/pallares)
2 tablespoons olive or sunflower oil
1 large onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, sliced
2 stalks celery, diced
dried pequin or other whole, dried chile peppers, to taste
1 teaspoon whole cumin seed
1 heaping tablespoon sweet paprika, smoked if available
4 – 5 pound pumpkin, skinned, seeded, and cut into 1” cubes
(2 – 2-1/2 pounds net weight)
kosher or sea salt to taste
fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)
pumpkin seeds (pepitas) hulled, roasted (optional)
Inspect the beans for small stones, etc. Cover them over by 2 inches with cold water, and let them soak overnight. You can also use the quick soaking method of covering them with cold water, bringing them to a boil, then allowing them to sit for an hour, covered, before proceeding.
In a big soup pot, sauté the onions, garlic, celery, hot peppers and cumin seeds in the oil. When they have begun to soften, add the paprika, and taking care not to burn it, continue cooking another minute or two.
Add the soaked beans, and water sufficient to cover them over by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, cover loosely, lower the heat, and simmer about an hour, or until done.
Skin and seed the pumpkin as illustrated, and cut into 1” cubes. Add to the beans, and if it seems necessary, a little more water.
Cover and cook an additional 20 minutes, or until the pumpkin is tender. Add salt to taste. Garnish with the optional cilantro and pepitas, and bring to the table. Serve with whole wheat tortillas.
Hungarian Pumpkin Soup
When I have the time–and the pumpkins–I enjoy making my own fresh pumpkin purée. Nevertheless, the canned product is so good that many experienced cooks actually prefer it to fresh.
Be careful that you don’t accidentally pick up a can of pumpkin pie filling. There should be only one ingredient listed on the can: pumpkin. There shouldn’t be any salt, sugar, spices or preservatives.
In central European cooking, roux is often replaced by flour mixed with sour cream. In this recipe, I have replaced the sour cream with plain low fat or fat-free Greek yogurt. My taste buds don’t feel deprived in the least, and I like to think that my arteries will thank me one day. As always, read the ingredients, and avoid brands that add xanthan, guar gum, gelatin, or other thickeners, emulsifiers and stabilizers.
1 medium onion, about 1 cup, minced
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons sunflower, peanut or grape seed oil
2 quarts cold water
½ teaspoon black pepper
29-ounce can of pumpkin purée
1 cup Greek yogurt, low fat or fat free
¼ cup (4 tablespoons) flour, whole wheat preferred
6-ounce can tomato juice
kosher or sea salt to taste
In a 6 quart or larger soup pot, sauté the onion and bay leaves in the oil until golden. Add the water and pepper, bring to a boil, and simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes.
Add the pumpkin purée, whisking until incorporated. Combine the yogurt and flour in a bowl, blending until you have a smooth paste. Add a couple of tablespoons at a time to the simmering soup, whisking constantly to avoid lumps, or you’ll have spaetzle. When all the flour/yogurt mixture has been smoothly incorporated, add the tomato juice. If desired, add salt to taste.
If you have the time, simmer a while longer. It’s even better the next day. Serve with rye bread.
Scientists Don't Know Jack
In the British Isles, the legend of Jack O’Lantern goes back at least as far as the Celtic Church, and is told in many variations. The common thread gives us Jack, a rascally lad who strikes a bargain with the devil. And for a little while, Jack actually seems to hold the upper hand.
But as any student of folkloristics could have warned him, Old Scratch always finds a way to come out on top. Jack winds up alma non grata both in heaven and hell, doomed to walk the earth forever with only his lantern to light the way.
Accordingly, his name became associated with the eerie lights we sometimes see moving about in swamps and bogs. In these parts, this phenomenon is commonly called Will O’ the Wisp. In other venues, it's called fairy lights or corpse candles.
Killjoy scientists would have us believe that the ghostly glow is merely methane from decomposing mobsters and other organic detritus reacting with atmospheric oxygen. From time to time, we’d glimpse it from Route S3, my big brother and I holding our noses as my father gunned the family Fleetwood past the pig farms of old Secaucus.
Though the Celtic practice of carving scary faces in oversize turnips goes back to pagan times, carving a representation of Jack’s likeness into a pumpkin is a surprisingly recent innovation. The earliest literary reference is in the “The Great Carbuncle,” from the 1837 collection of short stories “Twice Told Tales” by every schoolchild's favorite author, Nathaniel Hawthorne. It wasn’t until 1866, however, that the Jack O’Lantern pumpkin became associated with Halloween.
When European folk artists immigrated to the United States and saw their first pumpkin, they must have felt the way Michelangelo did when he saw his first hunk of Carrara marble. Think I’m exaggerating? The next time fate hands you a turnip, just try carving Dale Carnegie’s face in it.