Don’t Just Look At It…Eat It!!!!! Pumpkin Curry

Look at how cute and delicious I am. Eat me!

If I see one more recipe that calls for a can of pumpkin I’m going to lose it!!  Yes, of course, I know we are busy, but really, we know the difference in flavor from canned peaches to fresh peaches right?  Yes, we do, exactly my point.  And the last time someone sucked down a pumpkin spice latte or pumpkin flavored anything for that matter, did it actually taste like pumpkin?  My guess is probably not; most likely it tasted like cinnamon, cloves and ginger…no pumpkin to be found!  Did you know that pumpkin actually tastes amazing & not just in pie?!  Oh indeed it does.  And how about those seeds….all warm and salty and toasty.

Pure fall. Don’t waste a thing…eat those seeds!

What a gift to have pumpkins growing this time of year.  Eat them fresh & forget the can!

Pumpkin curry was the first meal I ate at my host family’s house in Fiji.  The pumpkin was familiar but done in a way that my palate had never experienced.  My host mom would always make it for me whenever I came home for visits and it will forever be a nostalgic food.

Pumpkins in Fiji! They are a kitchen staple.

Not in the mood to cook but want to try pumpkin?  Cut a cooking pumpkin (they call them “pie pumpkins”) into quarters, scoop out the seeds (toast ’em & eat ’em!), place the slices in a glass baking dish.  Bake them uncovered with cut side down at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes.  Pumpkin is finished when it is fork tender. Want savory? Sprinkle with sea salt and butter or olive oil.  Want sweet? Sprinkle with butter, honey & cinnamon.  Want curry?  See recipe below……

This recipe is exactly how my host mom made it except that neither of us measures anything so I did my best to note that.  I’ve made this recipe probably over 50 times and only ONCE did it actually taste just like hers (I actually called her rejoicing in my success).  This curry is warm, velvety and a gorgeous color.  In Fiji it was most often eaten with roti (unleavened flat bread) but here I made it with rice.

Prepped and ready to be curried…yummmm….

Eat it with your hands!!!

Kaddu ke Tarkari- Pumpkin Curry

(From the home of my Indo-Fijian host-mom, Sarojni Singh)

4 cups pumpkin, skin peeled, chopped into half inch cubes

1 medium white onion, chopped medium

2 cloves garlic

1 tbsp ginger root, peeled

2-3 small chilies, (adjust quantity according to your heat preference & the type of chilli)

½ tsp fennel seeds

1/2  tsp cumin seeds

½ tsp mustard seed

Sea salt

1 1/2 tblsp coconut or olive oil (I chose a healthier oil as they only use soy or canola)

Optional: 2 tblsp chopped cilantro (mom doesn’t use, but I like it)

Pound garlic, ginger and chilies in a mortar & pestle with a heavy pinch of salt or chop very finely.  In a very hot skillet or pot add oil, then onion, fennel, mustard seed & cumin.  Saute until onions are browned & spices are toasted, about 2-4 minutes. Add garlic-ginger mixture and sauté for another minute, ensuring the garlic does not burn, lower heat if necessary.   Add pumpkin and cook covered on medium high heat until pumpkin has softened, stirring often.   Water is drawn out from the pumpkin as it cooks, so do not add any unless it seems to be very dry even after 20 minutes of cooking. Smash the pumpkin as it begins to soften with the back of a spoon. It should be a thick chunky texture when complete.  Add cilantro if using, stir to combine and salt to taste.

Note: There are alot of variations of this recipe and some people  also use cinnamon, turmeric or masala powder to spice up their pumpkin curry.  Sadly the pumpkins in the US are a bit different then in Fiji & sometimes they just don’t have the same umph of flavor.  If you find your pumpkin to be slightly lackluster then substitute half of the pumpkin for butternut squash.

Cheers!

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Backseat Gourmet Series Continues….Did You Know Michigan Tasted So Good?

Here is how the conversation went:

Conor: “Hey Sara, how are you?”

Me: “Im cool, how are you?”

Conor: “I’m good. Do you want to come up to my parent’s beach house on….”

Me: (Excitedly & rudely interrupting) “Hell yes!  Whats the address?  And, are you near a farmers market?”

And so my back seat got packed up once again with my well loved hippie style back pack, a large bag  full of snacks (in the front seat) & several pages of directions thanks to Google maps.  And Conor’s beach house on Lake Michigan was not only near a farmers market it was surrounded by farms.  Acres and acres of apple and pear orchards, dairy farms and corn fields; nature at its finest.

The first morning there we awoke and hit the trail for a hearty 40 mile bike ride on an old railway turned bike path.  Our half way point was a dairy farm and restaurant called Country Dairy & Farm Store in New Era, MI.  The perfect place to re-fuel because with any food purchase you get a free bottomless glass of milk….there’s even a self serve dispenser!

Country Dairy & Farm Store…..they have bottomless glasses of fresh milk!!!

“Think you can handle the Brutus?”  Well with a taunting question like that I’m sure many try, I however still had 20 more miles to ride and wrestling with a 1/2 lb of beef topped with 2 kinds of pork and 3 kinds of cheese didn’t quite sound like it would sit nicely.  But Conor thought it would.

The Brutus Burger. Think you can handle it? 1/2 lbs beef, bacon, ham, cheddar, monterey and pepper jack cheeses.

The morning after an intense country bike ride one feels devoid of all calories & I personally feel the strong desire to consume everything that isn’t nailed down.  So thats pretty much exactly what I did, but consciously of course.  It was a delightful brunch, complete with a homemade gluten free oatmeal raisin muffin and cup of coffee – black.  Yes everything in that picture is all for me and truth be told I could’ve eaten more but I needed to save room for that nights dinner and dessert.  Especially dessert…who wants peach crisp spiked with cognac?

Ohio eggs, green beans, tomatoes and melon, homemade muffins, healthy avocado fats and a nice hot cup of black coffee. BLISS!

That evening Conor and I took a quick drive to get some provisions from a local farm stand.  I didn’t have a concrete plan in mind, more like a “cook what looks good” kind of plan.  And bless my eyes those Michigan peaches were ripe and ready and I seemed to recall an open bottle of booze that those peaches could go for a little swim in.

Putting it all together…don’t worry, the booze is in there, you just can’t see it.

This peach crisp is so simple and requires no cooking ability whatsoever.  And frankly if I wasn’t going to blog about it I wouldn’t have measured a thing.  The outcome is a crusty, crumbly, gooey, tangy dessert that will please everyone who takes a bite.  Good luck waiting for it to cool before you eat it…its almost worth the scalded tongue, correction, its definitely worth the scalded tongue.

The gooey, sticky, crusty final product. Ooohhh yeahhhh….

I realize that in most parts of the US peach season has just ended and my apologies for a late peach dessert, however this can also be made with apples which are beginning to flow in with abundance.

Enjoy!!

Michigan Peach Crisp with Cognac

Filling:

6-8 ripe, but slightly firm peaches, sliced medium

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp nutmeg

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 tblsp flour ( I prefer spelt)

1/3 cup cognac

Topping:

1 cup oats

1 tblsp flour (again with the spelt)

1/2 tsp cinnamon

2 tblsp brown sugar

1/2 stick cold butter, cut into small pieces

Pre-heat oven to 350 degree fahrenheit.  In a medium bowl combine peaches through flour and toss to coat.  Add cognac and combine gently.  Spray a 9×9 baking pan with non stick cooking spray or rub with butter.  Pour peach mixture into dish.

In a medium bowl combine oats through sugar.  Add butter cutting cross wise with 2 knives to break it into small pieces.  Pour oat mixture over peaches spreading evenly.

Bake for 25-35 minutes until oats are browned and peaches are soft.  Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.  This is killer with some whole milk vanilla ice cream…let it get melty on your dish..and then lick it up!

The Backseat Gourmet-Roadtrip Through The N.E. 7 States in 7 Days!- Part 2 of 2

Oh Vermont.  If you have not been to this tiny state yet, GO!  Its gorgeous and green and they have bottles & bottles of maple syrup!  And if thats not enough to sell you, the Ben & Jerry’s factory is a short driving distance from the Cabot cheese factory.  So pack your Lactaid folks, lets get in the car and go East!

My family and I stopped at a small road side shop called Stowe Maple Products that sold pure Vermont maple syrup and other mapley delicious delights.  The owner was on hand to give us samples and educate me with my 14,000 questions.  What I learned & found to be quite helpful: Maple syrup is like a narcotic.

Besides that:

  • Grade A Maple Syrup has a light, medium and dark variety.  What makes their color differ is from the time they were harvested.
  • The harvesting season is only about 4-5 weeks, the earlier its harvested the lighter it is in color.
  • Grade B Maple Syrup is harvested very late in the season and is best used in baking or cooking as it has a hardier and more robust flavor.  While the Grade A variety is best used for drowing your pancakes (and yourself) in.
  • The nutrient content in Grade A and Grade B are the same.

Grade A fancy Vermont Maple Syrup…..its like a drug.

Mini Recipe:

Maple Mustard Salad Dressing

Whisk together 1 tsp dijon mustard, a heavy splash of apple cider vinegar and 2 tblsp maple syrup.  Whisk in 2 tblsp olive oil.  Add a pinch of sea salt & pepper. Toss over a fresh spinach salad with blueberries and thinly sliced red onion.

Our next stop the Ben & Jerry’s Factory.  Of course we HAD to take the tour, however campy & brief, it was quite educational and with the promise of an exclusive flavor sample (strawberry with white chocolate chunks) one would gladly wait in a tourist shop with walls painted like a the posterior of a black and white cow.  Post tour we move on to the ice cream store.  Still full from my early morning shots of maple syrup I decide how many scoops (thats right plural) I should order.  I go with a scoop of my all time fave Chunky Monkey and a scoop of the 7 Layer Coconut.  A genius tropical pairing!  You can take the girl out of the island but you can’t take the ……..

The difficult decision…..chunky monkey & 7 layer coconut bar. Divine!

This place is like Disney World of the north.  Who wouldn’t want to take a photo in this thing?!  Our flavor…….Szunyogh-Murphy Swirl.  A creamy vanilla base , with Hungarian paprika, coconut flakes and and Irish Creme Swirl.  What’s your family flavor??

We were definitely feeling euphoric after our ice cream!

With our blood sugars at full throttle we speed onto Maine and hit up a tucked away lobster shack right on the water.     Harraseeket Lunch & Lobster Company in South Freeport, Maine  is THE  place to get your whole lobster lunches and lobster rolls.  They have been featured on Rachel Ray and were voted one of the top 10 lobster shacks in Maine.  Fishing boats lazily bobbing and birds searching for fall out accompany us on our lobster eating adventure. The vibe is laid back and with no silverware given (the way I like it!)  we dig into this seaside bounty.

Tasty lil out-of-the-way lobster shack right on the water.

Before this trip I had never eaten a lobster roll in my life.  And truth be told this was actually the main reason I packed my bags & left my house.  A lobster roll aficionado and friend said “Don’t even bother unless the bun is toasted!”  And indeed this was.  A toasty roll, layered with lettuce and as you can see, very large, succulent pieces of lobster bathed in a light mayo dressing.  As you can imagine this was well worth leaving the house for!

Missions eat a lobster roll complete!!

This guys life was not taken in vain, oh no, every bit of him was enjoyed.  And never mind the butter dripping down my chin onto my t-shirt, it can stay there….I’m going in for more.

Dig in, no silverware required!

Lessons learned or confirmed from this trip:

  • Even though people seem to be in romantic relationships with their Iphones it proved to be very helpful in directional assistance.
  • Eating local is where its at!  Maple syrup, ice cream, blueberries and lobster…need I say more?
  • My family is pretty functional!  We enjoyed each others company.
  • Hot tubs are awesome.
  • I still don’t need silverware.

The Backseat Gourmet-Roadtrip Through The N.E. 7 States in 7 Days!- Part 1 of 2

Let the driving begin- 7 states in 7 days!  I was graciously invited to travel with my step-mom and sisters to journey to uncharted territories.  With ipods charged, the Prius packed and several bags of eat-with-your-hands snacks, our expedition to the north east began.  We had no reservations and no real plan…except to eat.

Road trip snacks! All to be eaten with your hands!  A little bit salty, a little bit sweet and mostly healthy.

Our first stop was on the US side of Niagara Falls in New York.  Of course the main parking area was next to a multi-level mall with (shudder) a food court.  Tourist trap food courts?!…..NEVER!!!  We passed a corner restaurant that looked suitable to our hunger needs and decided the Red Coach Inn would be our dining destination for lunch.

Our first stop in Niagara, New York.

Now I know in my About Me page it says that you will find, clean, fresh, local, organic foods and 99% of the time that will be true.  BUT I just got back from living in Fiji for over 2 years and there are certain things that I have been craving with inexplicable fervor.  One of these things was a reuben sandwich.  And behold on this blessed menu was just such dish.  Yes, I know, you are right.  It’s not local and it’s not really all that healthy either, but they are my rules and if I make ’em then I can break ’em.  Plus,  I’m on vacation in my own country, everything is new again!!  The toasted rye bread is crunchy, the meat is salty, cheese gooey, kraut tangy and the light shmear of thousand island dressing makes my eyes roll back in reuben bliss.

Gooey goodness.

With the weight of the reuben reminding me the next day of why I don’t usually eat that way, on day 2 I suggest a picnic lunch.  Of course I love gourmet, innovative menus, exotic food pairings and layered desserts dripping in syrup.  But honestly I’m even more happy with a good old fashioned picnic.  We ran into the supermarket picked up some fruit, veggies, hummus, olives, avocado and bread and built ourselves a lovely little picnic in the woods of upstate New York.  I like indulging, but not everyday and especially not when I’m sitting on my rear end in a car for hours on end. Keeping it light and local makes me happier.

Picnic lunch in the woods. Fruits and build your own sandwiches. Yum!

On to our next spot, Lake Placid, New York.  The remnants of the Olympic rings still hang and vacationers saunter up and down the main thoroughfare of small boutiques, cafes and shops filled with outdoor gear for the weekend warrior.  My step-mom is an iphone aficionado and was on the ready to look up the latest trip adviser ratings.  And in Lake Placid, Alegria Garden Cafe was the place to be.   The food was inventive, service attentive and ambiance quiet and relaxed.  I ordered the suggested crab cakes with an orange beurre blanc.  They were indeed amazing as our hostess had said.  The crusty cakes were FILLED with shredded crab from edge to edge and the sauce they were nestled in was a creamy, citrusy delight.  Prior to my crab cakes arriving I perused the drink menu and made a tough decision: I narrowed it down to the Ginger Fizz.   Whew!! A punch to the taste buds, the fresh ginger gave my mouth a wallop and the fizz from the Prosecco nearly made me sneeze.  Calling this drink vibrant would be an understatement.  I also tried the Pisco Sour….its a good thing I wasn’t driving….there was no shortage of liquor there.  Check out the ingenuity of this drink menu, make them at home (but call me up to taste test first!)

Make it yourself!!

After New york we moved on to Vermont, Maine and Massachusetts!  Check out where we went and what we ate on my next post.  I’ll give you a hint…..maple syrup, Ben and Jerry’s factory, wild blueberries and lobster!! (but not all mixed together : )