Monday, November 22, 2010

Hey Punkin'!

This time of year, it's all about pumpkins. First we carved our jack-o-lanterns for Halloween, and now, we're getting ready for my personal favorite form of pumpkin: pie! Nothing beats a slice of pumpkin pie topped with a dollop of whipped cream…for breakfast! This year, I'm hosting Thanksgiving for a dozen people and Wednesday I'm going to be baking pies—Polynesian pumpkin pies to be exact. I found this recipe several years ago when faced with the task of making dairy-free pumpkin pie (I have several friends--including Chef Brett--and family members who don't tolerate dairy and it really doesn't get along with me too well, either) and I prefer it to the pumpkin pie I used to make (the recipe on the back of Libby's canned pumpkin). Two years ago I won a pie contest with this pie—I served it topped with whipped cream flavored with a dash of spiked rum and some minced crystallized ginger. My other favorite way to enjoy pumpkin I discovered last year—a friend passed on a recipe for pumpkin pancakes that rapidly became a favorite: they taste like pumpkin pie and you get to smother them in maple syrup! I served them Christmas morning last year, with scrambled eggs and bacon on the side. I'll share both recipes at the end of this post.

Pumpkin is loaded with nutrition. The flesh is high in beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant and precursor to vitamin A, which is important for skin integrity and eye health, helps protect against cancer, heart disease, and respiratory diseases. Vitamin A is used to make secretory IgA, the major immune globulin on mucus membranes—basically, vitamin A can boosts our immune defenses on all the inner surfaces of our bodies. So, pumpkin is a great thing to be munching on this time of year! Pumpkin seeds are also great for us: they are high in protein and zinc. Zinc is an immune-boosting nutrient as well—it can shorten the symptoms and decrease the severity of cold symptoms. Zinc is necessary for collagen synthesis making it an important nutrient for skin health, wound healing, acne, eczema, and psoriasis. For men, zinc is essential for the production of fertile sperm and is protective to the prostate gland. Eating a handful of pumpkin seeds a day is all it takes! For more health benefits of pumpkin, see my post from last Thanksgiving.

So, enjoy your pumpkins this fall! Happy Thanksgiving!

Polynesian Pumpkin Pie

1 partially baked 9 ½ - 10" pie shell (see below for recipe or use whatever crust you like)
3 eggs
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup agave nectar
1 ½ cups coconut milk (do not use light or cream of coco)
1 ½ cups pumpkin puree (I use one 14 oz can)
1 Tbsp rum (I use either Meyer's dark rum or a spiced rum—substitute with 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract if preferred)
½ tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
dash ground cloves

Preheat oven to 350. Whisk together the eggs, brown sugar, and agave nectar. Stir in the coconut milk, pumpkin puree, and rum. Add salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves and mix until incorporated. Pour mixture into pie shell and bake for 1 hour or until a thin knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool to room temperature. Serve with whipped cream (flavored with rum if you like, or skip or use a non-dairy option for those who can't do dairy) and minced crystallized ginger, if desired.

Pat-in-the-Pan Crust (original and dairy-free)

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour (sub all or part with whole wheat pastry flour, or use a gluten-free flour mix)
½ tsp salt
10 Tbsp unfiltered coconut oil (original recipe: 10 Tbsp butter at room temperature)
3-4 Tbsp coconut milk (original recipe: 3-4 Tbsp heavy cream)

Preheat oven to 400. Whisk the flour and salt together in a bowl or process for 10 seconds. Add coconut oil divided into small pieces and mash with a fork or process until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Drizzle coconut milk over the top and stir or process until crumbs look damp and hold together when pinched. Transfer mixture to a 10 inch pie pan and pat evenly over bottom and sides with your fingers. Flute or crimp the crust edge. Prick bottom and sides of crust with a fork. Bake 10-22 minutes until golden brown, checking during cooking for bubbles (prick with a fork to pop or use pie weights). If you like a crispy crust, brush with a beaten egg and cook 1-2 minutes longer to set glaze.

Pumpkin Pancakes

2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour (the original recipe calls for cake flour, but I don't have any)
¾ cup cornmeal
2 Tbsp sugar (or other natural sweetener of choice)
4 ½ tsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground cloves (this isn't in the original recipe, but I love the flavor so I add it)
4 eggs
3 ¾ cups buttermilk
1 ½ cups canned pumpkin (I use one 14oz can)
½ cup melted butter (1 stick)

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. In another bowl, lightly beat the eggs then add the buttermilk, pumpkin, and melted butter—stir to combine. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir to mix thoroughly. Allow the batter to rest for 15-30 minutes. Heat a griddle over medium heat until a small amount of cold water dropped on its surface rolls off in drops. If necessary, lightly grease the griddle. Use a ½ or 1/3 cup measuring cup to ladle batter onto griddle. Cook until bubbles form on the surface and edges are dry. Turn and cook 2-3 minutes longer. Serve with butter, vanilla yogurt, maple syrup or other toppings of your choice. This recipe makes enough to feed a crowd!