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Two Winter Squash Dishes

Roasted-Garlic Pumpkin Bisque with Herb Potato Dumplings
Baked Stuffed Winter Squash

Don’t be fooled by the name into waiting until winter for the best, freshest "winter squash." The diverse collection of hard-shelled squash that bear the name "winter" are actually types of summer squash that simply take longer to mature than zucchini and their other soft-shelled brethren, so they stay on the vine into the fall when they are at their prime.

With winter rains, they deteriorate rapidly in the fields and from then on the market is supplied from storage, where the hearty fruits stay fresh for many months.

The following soup recipe calls for pumpkin, preferably not one of the varieties bred for use as a jack-o'-lantern. Stick with the smaller pumpkins that were grown for cooking. They have more and firmer flesh, a smaller seed cavity and better flavor.

Farmers' markets carry several varieties of cooking pumpkins, going under names such as New England Pie, Spirit Hybrid, Sugar Pie and Tricky Jack.

When true pumpkin is not available, substitute winter squash. One of the most pumpkin-like of winter squashes is the buttercup, followed by the golden nugget, carnival and butternut.

This recipe, attributed to the Inn at Ludlow Bay, in Port Ludlow, WA, is from Northwest Best Places Cookbook. 

Roasted-Garlic Pumpkin Bisque
with Herb Potato Dumplings

1 whole head of garlic
Two-and-one-half pounds fresh pumpkin, peeled and seeded
4 cups chicken stock
1 small onion, diced
One-half cup whipping cream
1 to 2 tbs packed brown sugar
One-quarter tsp ground nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Creme fraiche or sour cream, for serving

Herb Potato Dumplings

2 medium russet potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds)2 egg yolks
One-quarter cup chopped mixed herbs, such as flat-leaf (Italian) parsley, chives, thyme, and oregano
One-half cup all-purpose flour (more if needed).

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. Discard the loose, papery outer skin from the garlic head and wrap it in a piece of foil. Roast the garlic in the oven until tender, about 30 minutes. At the same time, bake the potatoes for the dumplings until tender, about 50 minutes.

3. While the garlic and potatoes are baking, cut the pumpkin into large chunks and put it in a large pot with the chicken stock and onion. Bring to a boil and simmer until the pumpkin is tender, 20 to 30 minutes.

4. Unwrap the garlic and let cool slightly, then peel the individual cloves. Lightly mash the garlic with a fork in a small bowl (you should have about 2 tbss); set aside.

5. Working in batches, puree the pumpkin mixture in a food processor or blender and return it to the pot. Stir in the cream, roasted garlic, brown sugar and nutmeg, with salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm over very low heat while making the dumplings.

6. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.

7. Halve the baked potatoes and peel away all the brown skin. Mash the potatoes. Stir in the egg yolks and herbs, along with a pinch each of salt and pepper. Stir in the flour, a little at a time, until a firm dough is formed.

8. Put the dough on a lightly floured work surface and roll it into a cylinder about three-quarters of an inch in diameter. Cut the cylinder into 1-inch slices to form the dumplings. Cook the dumplings in batches in the boiling water until they are tender and float to the surface, about 2 to 4 minutes. Scoop out with a slotted spoon and drain well.

9. To serve, ladle the hot pumpkin bisque into individual bowls and add the potato dumplings to the center of each bowl. Drizzle creme fraiche over the soup and serve.

Winter squash can be popped into the oven, in a pan of shallow water, with virtually nothing but butter. Or you can go to greater lengths to stuff and bake them, as suggested here in a recipe from Cooking Secrets of the CIA, the companion cookbook to the public television series featuring recipes from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y.

Baked Stuffed Winter Squash

1 butternut squash
8 tbs (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
1/4 tsp ground allspice
2 tbs plus 4 tsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg white, slightly whipped
About 1/4 cup milk
3 acorn squash
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/3 cup raisins
2 tbs sweet vermouth

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Peel and seed the butternut squash; cut it into eighths. Place in a steamer, cover, and steam until tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

2. In a large bowl, mash the squash and add 4 tablespoons of the butter, the allspice, the 2 tablespoons brown sugar, the salt, egg white and enough milk to make the mixture soft and fluffy. Set aside.

3. Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons butter.

4. Cut the acorn squash in half and scoop out seeds and fibers. Pierce the inside of each with a fork several times. Sprinkle each half with the nutmeg, salt, pepper, the 4 teaspoons brown sugar and about 2 tablespoons of the melted butter. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, soak the raisins in the sweet vermouth.

6. Remove the acorn squash from the oven and add one-sixth of the raisins to the cavity of each squash. Using a pastry bag, fill each cavity with one-sixth of the butternut squash mixture. Brush with the remaining melted butter and bake 15 to 20 minutes longer.

Copyright 1997 Seasonal Chef