Last year, I purchased DeeDee Stovel’s Pumpkin, a wonderful and unique cookbook that takes this treasured vegetable beyond the realm of pies and breads. Many of the recipes call for fresh pumpkin, something new to me as I have only ever cooked with canned pumpkin puree. Unfortunately, I purchased this book past the short-lived pumpkin season, so I didn’t get a chance to experiment. Other winter squashes, such as butternut and acorn, work just as well in these recipes too, but I wanted to experience the real thing. I chose this one-pot meal with an interesting combination of flavors as my first attempt at cooking with fresh pumpkin. I did my reading and learned about what kinds of pumpkins are best for cooking (you want the smaller varieties, not the large jack-o-lantern type) and purchased a few small sugar pumpkins to keep on hand for autumn cooking. It turns out, pumpkin is actually pretty easy to work with; perhaps even easier than other winter squash varieties. I found it fairly soft and easy to cut, seed, and peel. Though slightly more time-consuming than most of our weeknight dinners, we found this dish to be very satisfying and interesting on the palette. I cut the amounts of rice and liquid in half, and used about 3/4 lb pumpkin and 3/4 lb shrimp for a hearty dinner for two. Unfortunately, my regular grocery store does not carry saffron, so I had to omit that. Although it was gratifying to finally work with fresh pumpkin, I actually found the taste quite mild. I’m not sure if that is the case with all fresh pumpkin or just the one I happened to choose, but I think a nuttier, more flavorful squash (such as butternut or buttercup) would be great in this recipe as well.
Creamy Shrimp and Rice, from DeeDee Stovel’s Pumpkin
1 tbsp canola oil
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp peeled and minced fresh ginger
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 cup brown basmati rice
1 pound fresh pumpkin, seeds and fibers removed, cut into chunks
1 medium red bell pepper, cut into 1/2″ chunks
1/2 medium yellow bell pepper, cut into 1/2″ chunks
1-2 jalapeno chiles or 1 hot red dried Chinese chile, seeded and minced
2 cups chicken broth
1 can (14oz) coconut milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp saffron threads
1 pound uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
Heat oil over medium eat in a Dutch oven. Cook shallots for 2 minutes, or until they begin to wilt. Add garlic, ginger, and cumin. Stir. Add the rice and continue cooking and stirring for several minutes.
Place the pumpkin chunks i a covered microwave-safe dish with 1 tbsp water and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Set aside to cool. When cool enough to handle, peel and cut into 1/2″ chunks.*
Meanwhile, add the peppers and chiles to the shallot mixture and cook for 1-2 minutes before adding the broth, coconut milk, salt and saffron. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 35 to 40 minutes, until rice is almost tender.
Add the shrimp and lime juice and cook 5 minutes longer or until shrimp are thoroughly cooked. Top each serving with a sprinkle of cilantro.
*The original recipe did not state where to add the pumpkin; I added it during the rice cooking.
In honor of cooking with fresh pumpkin for the first time, I am submitting this to the Weekend Cookbook Challenge, hosted this month by I Like to Cook. This book is a wonderful resource for those looking to broaden their pumpkin palette and repertoire; pick it for some very unique and interesting dishes sure to impress your family and friends and create some fun in the kitchen!