Wednesday, October 26, 2011

It's Pumpkin Day! Let's Take Pumpkin Global!

You say Pumpkin, I say Squash. You say Zucca, and some of you may even say Calabaza! How ever you mash it, Pumpkin rules the world! Please indulge me while I take Pumpkin Day a bit global. You see, I've done so many traditional pumpkin posts since beginning this blog in 2007, quite frankly, I'd like to explore "a far."

The stewing of this exploration began when I visited a luscious post by Lena titled Steamed Pumpkin Kuih. I don't know why, but it just never occurred to me that Pumpkins were accessible in Asia. Fact is, those big orange spheres of the squash family have been global for years!

Let's begin in England. There are eateries in the United Kingdom that serve Thanksgiving Dinner on the same day as we do. I didn't know that. And I thought Thanksgiving was exclusively an American Holiday, here! here! Many restaurants, especially in London, host an All American Thanksgiving Dinner. I'm not sure what that might include, however, it would make sense that pumpkin may appear on the menu. Citizens of England were eating pumpkins long before the colonists ever landed on Plymouth Rock. They were quite "fashionable" to dine on until the late 18th century when they were tossed to the side by way of the less fortunate. One of the easiest ways to enjoy pumpkin in the "English" fashion is to cube it and toss it in with your regular ingredients the next time you prepare a Corned Beef Dinner. I believe the following recipe for Pumpkin Corned Beef Dinner "arrived" from "across the pond."

Pumpkin Corned Beef Dinner

Food historians believe, the pumpkins introduced to the colonist by the Native Americans, arrived in North America via Central America. When the European explorers arrived in the New Wold they found Native Americans eating all kinds of squashes, but pumpkins were their favorite. The colonists thought the pumpkins were a sort of giant melon. In a way, they were right. Pumpkins with all their tasty Vitamin A, belong to the botanical family called Cucurbitaceae which also includes cucumbers, gherkins and melons. Not only were they plentiful, they were versatile too and could be preserved for use during long cold winters. I read that at times when the barley crop failed, the colonists even used pumpkin for brewing beer! Punkin Ale is now brewed in southern Delaware.

Pumpkin has been a part of traditional Mexican food for many centuries. In fact, pumpkin seeds have been found in Mexico, which may be nearly 9,000 years old! Mexican pumpkin recipes include the popular pumpkin candy dulce de Calabasas, Mexican pumpkin soups and dishes where it is braised, stewed and even mashed and used as a topping for tostadas and as a taco filling! Pumpkin seeds, pepitas, are very popular in Mexican cooking. Seeds saved from carving out a jack-o'-latern can also be substituted. It's best to hull them, clean them, and roast them first:) Or, you may be able to find the green hulled variety used in Mexican cooking in your local supermarket or health food store. When you're ready, I found this recipe for Chicken Braised in Pumpkin Seed Mole Verde at, dare I say, the Food Network. I'm in a generous Food TV mood tonight, a new Chopped is on and one of the competing chefs is from Teller's in Islip, New York. My old "stomping" ground. :) I also found this recipe for Green Pipian. I hear it goes GREAT with Catfish! My contribution for cooking pumpkin in the Mexican style is harvested from The Art of Mexican Cooking by Jan Aaron and Georgine Sachs Salom; copyright 1965. Boy would I love to see this cooked up. Pumpkin, oranges, pudding, oh my; Calabaza, Pumpkin Pudding:

Calabaza | Pumpkin Pudding

From The Cooking of South-West France by Paula Wolfert, © 1983, we have Fried Pumpkin Slices; "Chips" de Potiron. My apologize to Paula Wolfert, I got a little bent out of shape when Chef Cafariella got Chopped!

Pumpkin Chutney has a nice sound to it but have you ever heard of Pumpkin Chakee? I hadn't either until I spied this recipe in The Complete Book of Curries by Harvey Day. (1966)

Pumpkin Chakee | Complete Book of Curries

A few years back, for Columbus Day, I shared a book titled Columbus Menu: Italian Cuisine after the First Voyage of Christopher Columbus by Stefano Milioni. It was published by the Italian Trade Commission in 1992 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Columbus's first voyage. The book contains both the original Italian recipes and adapted recipes which utilize New World foods such as tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, corn, beans, squash, turkey and cacao (chocolate). The book is not only a collection of recipes, it also includes a short history of each of these ingredients.

Squashes: The introduction of the New World's zucche and zucchini created less of a stir in Europe than other types of unfamiliar vegetables from the Americas, because some of their relatives had already been cultivated and regularly consumed in Europe for centuries. However, the newcomers were more attractive and much tastier...It should be noted, however, that the exact origin of the pumpkin and some other squashes is much disputed. Some experts say Europe acquired them millennia ago from an Asian homeland, while others insist that they originated in the New World... Pumpkin and zucchini only entered Italian cuisine after the seeds of Cucurbitaceae (the gourds) were brought to Europe from the New World and the plants began to be cultivated in Italian gardens. In the 16th century, Sienese botanist Pietro Andrea Mattioli observed, in discussing the cooking of pumpkin, that "it is the practice to eat it either boiled or fried in the pan or roasted. Boiled, it has little appeal in itself. When roasted, or fried in the pan, it releases a great deal of its moisture. Nonetheless, because of its natural water, it should be eaten with oregano."(Columbus Menu Pg.79)

And that delicate dish of goodness pictured above, that was confiscated from La Cucina: The Complete Book of Italian Cooking edited and adapted by Myra Street ©1986.

The seaside resort town of Moneglia, population under three thousand, located about 35 miles (60 kilometers) southeast of Genoa, is home to one of the most unusual Carnevale in all of Italy. This event, known as the Carnevale della Zucca (Carnival of the Pumpkin), originated when two peasants argued over the ownership of a pumpkin that grew on the boundary separating their farms. I can’t promise you pumpkin pie but you should enjoy this Carnevale and the local food and wine. (source)

Thank you for joining me and my cookbooks on this pumpkin hop. I guess there is a whole lot more to pumpkin than just Pumpkin Pie. However, I just can't say Happy Pumpkin Day without leaving at least one more Pumpkin Pie recipe. This one is from none other than "Lady Thanksgiving" Sarah Hale:

The Honored Pumpkin Pie