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The Great Pumpkin (Don't Have A Baby, Have A Market, Part 2): Roasted Vanilla-Mashed Squash, Butternut Soup, and Home-Made Pumpkin Pie

Posted by Amie / November 1, 2010

The Great PumpkinIf you missed part 1 of this series, you'll want to check out the picture of the baby-less, but squash-filled carriage. Markets may be over, but I had an enormous pumpkin to carve for Hallowe'en (yes, I know I wouldn't be carving it at all if everybody had a market instead of kids, I'd never have gotten this pumpkin home with a kid occupying the carriage. Tough call? Not for me...). So maybe when you were purchasing your pumpkin you were wondering what people do with all those other kinds of squash you can actually eat. You have options.

All the squash you'll see at markets don't taste the same, or work exactly the same in every recipe, and some aren't even meant to be eaten, like the ones you carve for Hallowe'en. Some of the really small ones are just decorative, and at $3 a piece, I have no idea who buys them. But the rest are delicious, and there are a few cooking techniques that work with them all: roasting and boiling. Roasting preserves more nutrients and intensifies the flavour by drying out the squash meat instead of watering it down.

To roast any squash:
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit
2. Wash the squash (it's spent a lot of time sitting on the ground) and slice it in half.
Scooping out the squash seeds3. Scoop out the seeds and any of the slimy, stringy bits with a spoon or ice cream scoop (either throw this all out or separate the seeds to roast on a baking sheet or i the toaster oven with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper for a few minutes. Or, try this recipe for Paul Simon's pumpkin seed pesto)
4. Place the squash halves cut side-down on a baking sheet and stick them in the preheated oven for about 40-45 minutes, or until the flesh is soft. Be careful not to burn yourself when you pick up a piece and poke the inside flesh with a fork to see if it's soft enough. Dropping half a squash on your floor is not how you want to end your roasting experience.
5. Scoop out the flesh and eat by the spoonful, or...

Vanilla-Infused Mashed Squash
...turn the whole thing into a better version of mashed potatoes.

The easy way to do this is just roast the squash, scoop out the flesh and mash it with a potato masher or slotted spoon with a bit of milk or cream, some butter and salt or pepper, but the extra 5 minutes of infusing the milk with vanilla will make your whole kitchen smell amazing, and add a little something extra to a simple side dish. You can also boil the squash, which takes substantially less time than roasting (15-20 minutes), but then you need to peel it and chop it into similarly-sized cubes which is just a pain and uses up that extra free time you thought you gained by not roasting.

1/2 cup cream or milk (almond milk works really well)
2 tbsp butter (or Earth Balance)
1/3 of a vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped out (or 1/4 tsp vanilla extract. You can get the beans at Épices de Cru in Jean-Talon market. Make sure you smell all the kinds they have before choosing because it's heavenly)
1 tsp grated orange zest (optional)
salt and pepper, to taste (start with a pinch and work your way up to deliciousness)

1. Take the flesh that you scooped out of the squash shell and get it into a large bowl or a food processor to mash it. Don't mash it yet.

2. Infuse the milk. Sounds fancy. It's not. Heat the cream or milk, the orange zest (optional) and the vanilla bean and seeds over medium in a saucepan. Bring it to just a simmer and let it cook for 5 minutes. Then take out the vanilla bean, wash it, let it dry thoroughly for the rest of the day, and store it for later use (or stick it in a bag of sugar and just leave it there).

3. Add the butter to the infused milk (off the heat) and stir it in until it's melted. Now add the infused milk to the squash in your large bowl or blender, and mash it or purée.

Simple as that. If you want to, top with toasted nuts (pecans, hazelnuts, walnuts).


Soup is easy.

1 squash of choice (butternut works really well because it's creamy and soft, but acorn and hubbard are other common varieties. Spaghetti squash is fibrous and doesn't really purée well. Still, any squash will taste good)
2 teaspoons - 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped roughly
1-4 cloves garlic, chopped roughly
3 cups vegetable or chicken stock
herb of choice (thyme, sage, marjoram...anything you'd find in a bouquet garni)

1. Roast the squash as above (then scoop out the flesh and set aside) or chop it into those annoying 1" chunks after peeling it and set aside to cook in step 3.
Onions2. Sauté some onion and garlic in a few teaspoons of olive oil over medium-low heat until they're translucent (10 minutes). Add the un-roasted squash cubes and cook a few more minutes before adding your herb(s) of choice and 3 cups of vegetable or chicken broth (approximately 3 cups. It depends how thick you like your soup and how big your squash is, but you can always dilute it after blending). If you roasted your squash, add the scooped out flesh and broth to the pot at the same time.

3. Bring to a boil (high heat) and if your squash is roasted transfer right away, in batches, to a blender or food processor and purée until smooth (I wish I had one of those handy immersion blenders that goes right into the soup pot. Spilling hot soup everywhere is a real problem. Just be glad this is squash and not beet. There is still a beet stain on the wall of my old apartment that looks like blood and will never come out. I apologize to the next nervous family of Hasidic Jews who move into my former kitchen in Outremont).

If you cubed your squash, bring the stock and squash to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until your squash are soft. Take out a piece, let it cool, and give it a bite. If it falls apart a little in your mouth it's ready. You shouldn't be gnawing this thing. If you have to gnaw, then your blender will have to gnaw, and you'll end up with a very unhappy blender.

4. Do the transferring and blending thing as described above or use your handy immersion blender to purée.
Squash Soup with Watercress4. Add salt and pepper to taste, and dilute with more broth if necessary. Garnish with more of your favourite bouquet herb, a dollop of thick, tangy yogurt, puréed watercress or (pictured above) or arugula with yogurt, or some toasted nuts. Ooh! Or some finely sliced or diced apples sautéed or roasted in butter (or earth balance). Maybe with a little demerara sugar to caramelize.

And, finally, Pumpkin Pie!
Who makes this from scratch? Nobody. Maybe crazy people. Me. Once.

a 6" - 8" diametre pie pumpkin (these are the small ones. Tell the person you're buying it from that you're making pie. You can also do it with with a butternut squash or other type of pumpkin but be careful since some squash are more watery than others. You want pie, not soup)
1 cup sugar (or maple syrup boiled down to 1/2 cup)
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
3 cups cooked pumpkin from your pie pumpkin (roasted or microwaved. Boiling and steaming are not ideal because they add more water)
1 1/2 cans (12oz each) evaporated milk. If you are lactose-intolerant, use lactose-free milk (almond, soy) and 'evaporate' it by simmering over medium-high heat until it reduces by about half. You'll need to start with 36oz (4 1/2 cups)

One pie pumpkin ended up giving me six cups of pumpkin purée, so I doubled the recipe, but I recommend just using a small pie pumpkin (6-8") instead. Or you can do like me and make double and freeze the extra pie(s!) for when they're needed most. You never know when you'll desperately want a piece of home-made pumpkin pie. Or when you won't have time to make dessert for a special occasion. Or perhaps, like the Montreal Gazette, it makes a great gift? Maybe not such a good Hallowe'en costume, though you would make a lot of friends by covering yourself in pie.
Pie ShellYou don't need a crust, since just baking the filling is delicious, but this is a pie recipe, so here's a crust recipe for two 9" pies (if you don't need them both, freeze the second one to use later):

2 cups flour (even a gluten-free flour blend has worked for me)
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup margarine or butter) at room temperature (1.5 margarine squares)
5-6 tbsp cold water

Blend flour, salt and shortening until particles are the size of small peas. Add water. Shape dough into a two balls with hands. Roll out one ball on a clean surface covered in flour. Turn the pastry as you roll so it forms a circle. Re-apply flour to rolling pin (or wine bottle, or water bottle, in my case) as you go. Lift from surface and place on pie plate. Repeat with second ball and place in second pie plate or on top of fillings of first pie. If your crust keeps crumbling, try rolling it out between two pieces of saran wrap.

Make the filling of the pie:
1. First evaporate your milk if you need to. Boil it down until it's reduced by half (about 2 1/4 cups)

2. Prepare your pumpkin (roast as above, or follow these instructions on microwaving or steaming). Mash the pumpkin and measure out 3 cups for the pie. If your pumpkin is really liquidy you can also let some of the water drain after cooking but setting it up in a cheesecloth or a coffee filter over a strainer overnight, but then you have to plan your pie in advance.

3. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

4. Add all the filling ingredients together and blend, maybe not using all the milk at once since if it's too liquidy, squash will go everywhere. I have a lot of experience with large squash messes.

5. Pour the filling into the crust until it reaches a 1/2 inch from the top. Pour the rest into more pie shells or into a greased baking dish or even small oven-proof mugs to make individual pumpkin flans.

6. Bake at 415 for 15 minutes, then turn the heat down to 325 Fahrenheit for 45 - 60 minutes, until the pie is set (until a toothpick or clean knife inserted in the centre comes out clean)

I'm a big believer in baking from scratch, but if you get through this recipe and never want to make another pumpkin pie, I completely understand. That's why Hallowe'en, Thanksgiving, and Christmas (the potential pumpkin pie holidays) only happen once a year each. It's intentional. I'm sure of it. Someone took pity on bakers.

Did you know you can dehydrate squash? I'm a bit nervous about it since it seems like something that needs to be cooked, but I found this recipe for 'raw' squash with sage cream and dehydrated this squash (only change to the recipe was puréeing the squash after draining it in the morning, so the liquid would evaporate faster in the oven with the door ajar, since I don't have a dehydrator):Oh, and I added thyme.

It ended up looking like this:Dehydrated Squashwhich was weird but surprisingly delicious, like squash jerky.

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