Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve been here! What is it about the fall…? I remember posting this time last year after a too-long blog-hiatus, sharing the highlights of my busy-ness and the cooking and eating that accompanied it. But this fall is something else altogether. It had to happen that after I publicly delighted in living in one place for a whole year (long enough to start a little teensy tiny garden, the inspiration of this post) that we would move again. And not just any move: we have relocated from Atlanta to Los Angeles. It doesn’t get much further without moving to another country!
Dan got a great new job here and we had less than two months to sell or pack our stuff, find a new place, and make our way – with Piggy the cat and Sweet Pea the dog – cross-country. We arrived, amazingly, with our relationship, our sanity and our stuff in tact and settled into our new (rental) home in the Highland Park neighborhood of L.A. Because packing, moving, leaving our jobs, Dan starting a new job, me searching for a job, unpacking, and all the attendant concerns hadn’t been quite exciting enough, I had to go and have emergency surgery a few days after we landed in L.A. Sigh.
Luckily, we had tons of support from our families, friends and Dan’s new workplace – I am now fully recovered and the house is even starting to come together. Check out this harvest from our grapefruit tree, a gem that I didn’t even notice when we first saw this house on our whirlwind house-hunting trip:
Speaking of sweet and good, there’s this recipe. Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good. Have you heard of it? It was featured on NPR about 10 days ago, in an interview with Dorie Greenspan about her new cookbook. At the farmer’s market the next day (Oh, the farmer’s markets in California! I am sure I will be devoting post after post to them in future…absolutely amazing!), all around me I heard whispers and far-away utterances: “Pumpkin…stuffed…with everything good.” I wasn’t the only one who had been captivated by the NPR piece, coming to the market with dreams of soft, roasted winter squash, oozing a warm stuffing of breadcrumbs, cream, cheese, and herbs.
One of the most delightful moments of Dorie Greenspan’s telling of the story behind this recipe – and you really should listen to the whole thing yourself – is her description of her friend’s garden, where the family grew their own pumpkins for this dish. Parents and children selected their own pumpkins when they were small on the vine, and each carved his or her name into the squash. As the pumpkin grew, so did their carved names, and each knew exactly which steaming gourd of goodness was theirs when it finally came to the table.
It is too soon to start hoping that I’ll live in one place long enough to have another little garden, where I too might carve names – or drawings, or poems, or hieroglyphics – into my very own pumpkins? I certainly hope not.
Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good
Adapted from Epicurious.com
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 pound stale bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 pound cheese (I used Gruyère), cut into 1/2-inch chunks
4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
4 slices bacon, cooked until crisp, drained, and chopped
1/4 cup snipped fresh chives
About 1/2 cup whole milk
Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
Begin by opening your pumpkin as for a jack-o-lantern – cut a circle around the stem to create a kind of “lid” that you can pull off. Scrape out the insides of the pumpkin and discard (or, even better, save your seeds and roast them separately). Generously salt and pepper the inside of the pumpkin.
Mix together all the remaining ingredients except for milk, season with salt and pepper, and stuff into the pumpkin. Pour the milk over the top – you want the filling to be nice and moist, but not swimming in liquid, although I think it really is hard to do wrong here. Replace the “lid” and place the pumpkin onto or into the baking dish of your choice, either well-buttered or using a silicone baking mat. (I used a silicone mat on a rimmed cookie sheet, which was perfect.) Bake for about 2 hours. Remove from oven and let cool a few minutes. Slice into quarters and serve.
A few notes: Dorie Greenspan’s recipe calls for cream, not milk, and I have no doubt that it would be even richer and more wonderful than this version. She also suggests many different combinations for the filling. I stuck closely to her recipe, since this was my first time making this dish, but it is easy to see that this is a very forgiving and flexible recipe and that you could make this into anything you want. She suggests trying other cheeses and herbs, adding freshly grated nutmeg, using cooked rice instead of bread, omitting the bacon for a vegetarian dish or replacing it with sausage (I think vegetarian sausage, of which there are several good varieties, would be great in this, too). She also mentions adding in kale or other greens, and even frozen green peas. I think roasted chiles would be incredible, as well as apples or pears, mushrooms, caramelized onions, and even nuts. The possibilities are truly endless!