Saturday, November 7, 2009

Early Mornings, Thunderstorms, and Pumpkin Butter

 
I love early Fall mornings that look like 3 p.m. at 8 a.m., with rain pounding into every surface it can find, and a rumbling thunderstorm growling away at anyone who will listen. Looking out into the storm, I suddenly found myself inspired, and jumped into action. First thing's first, let's build a fire (by build, of course I mean turn up the thermostat until the gas kicks on, and a fire appears behind a pane of glass). After all that hard work, I dusted off my hands, and got down to business in the kitchen.

I have had two un-carved pumpkins staring at me in my kitchen since Halloween ... it seemed to me anyway, that they were looking at me in this sort of sad, "I didn't get to do my holiday duty" kind of way, because I never got around to carving them up. They didn't get to sit outside in the cold with glowing candles inside them, making onlooking children happy, and bringing a little magic to the season. I felt for them. With that thought I grabbed my big chopping knife and got to work. Sawing, hacking, scraping, peeling ... separating seeds from gooey entrails, and rind, from flesh, and putting them in the appropriate receptacles with the motions of an insane maestro furiously conducting his orchestra, I'm sure, until finally sitting before me were 8 cups of neatly diced pumpkin, and a tidy pile of seeds.

What to do now? A soup, a sauce, cookies, something traditional, or pumpkin enchiladas? My imagination ran wild with all of the possibilities! I had a whole universe of options at my finger tips, this pumpkin had opened me up to never before thought of ideas, an endless sea of gastronomic bliss could all be mine!!! I took a breath, and surveyed the fridge, and then a glimpse into the pantry, and watched my sea begin to recede and evaporate, once I realized the ingredients I actually had on hand ... hmm, pumpkin butter it is (which is not to be mistaken as some sort of consolation).

The truth is, this little concoction has revolutionized my life! Well, it at least made my mornings this week even cozier, and more delightful ... which can be more or less revolutionary depending on the day, I guess. And that is why you HAVE to have this recipe (I snagged it from the Martha Stewart website, but I made some adjustments, sacrilege I know, and it's delicious!).

PUMPKIN BUTTER WITH APPLE

4 cups diced pumpkin
1 cup diced apple
3/4 cups apple juice
1/4 cup sugar (turbinado sugar if you want to be fancy)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
Pinch of salt
(you can add other things like ground clove or allspice if you want to, you can't really mess this up, so experiment!)

Combine all ingredients in a stainless steel pot, and bring to a simmer (about 20-30 min) until pumpkin is soft (try to mash it with a wooden spoon).
Continue simmering until mixture begins to thicken, another 20 minutes.
Remove from heat, and transfer to blender; blend until smooth.
Transfer back to pot and heat for another 15 minutes or until it is your desired texture.
Remove, cool, and serve.
Then I realized I needed something to spread it on, sooo ...
ZUCCHINI BREAD
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup olive oil
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups zucchini, coarsely shredded
(I tossed in a handful of finely chopped walnuts at this stage)
Preheat oven to 375*, and butter the loaf pan.
In a large bowl, whisk the flour, cinnamon, salt, baking soda and baking powder. In a medium bowl, whisk the olive oil, with the eggs, sugar, and vanilla. Add the shredded zucchini. Stir zucchini batter into the dry ingredients.

Pour the zucchini batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 50 minutes, or until the toothpick comes out clean. Let the zucchini bread cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Then slice, slather, and munch away! I was pleasantly surprised how this turned out. It tastes just like Fall. Enjoy!