Note: You may know Carolyn Cope as Umami Girl. She stops by on Tuesdays to help us cook through seasonal surplus with ease.
In the Crisper
Featured Veg: Pumpkin
Prep: Wash well. Prick flesh deeply in several places with a small, sharp knife
Roast: Whole (pricked) at 400° F until tender inside, an hour or more
Purée: When cooled, cut in half, remove seeds and stringy flesh. Scoop out remaining flesh and purée in food processor until smooth
Store: Freeze purée for up to a year for use in a wide variety of recipes
This week I finally got around to patching a gaping hole in my food-literature education by reading M. F. K. Fisher's How to Cook a Wolf. Among other well-told strategies for enjoying the results of frugal cooking, Fisher advocates preparing and roasting a large variety of dishes at once, filling the oven with as many pans as it will hold to conserve energy and money. I love the efficiency of that approach but, to put it mildly, I'm not always organized enough to produce two weeks' worth of meals in one go. Like, ever.
What I can do, and have started doing as a matter of routine (and, to be honest, as a matter of free therapy) every fall, is to collect my weight in pumpkins and other orange-fleshed winter squash, poke the bejeezus out of them with a knife, pack them into a hot oven on sheet pans, and walk away for an hour. Kabochas, butternuts, buttercups, acorns, Red Kuris—they've all been victims of this savagery, sometimes all at once. When they're cooled, I purée the tender flesh, pack it into pint containers, and freeze it for up to a year for use in soups, baked goods, pasta or risotto, curries, you name it. It makes me feel like a slightly deranged Martha Stewart, which is a surprisingly good feeling.
One of the highest and best uses of pumpkin purée is my friend Vivian's ancient family recipe for pumpkin bread. It uses delicately flavored olive oil and plenty of warm winter spices and has a truly exceptional flavor and texture. I've been wanting to share this recipe with you since before The Crisper Whisperer was a reality. I'm so glad it's time.
Olive Oil Pumpkin Bread
Adapted from Vivian Hasbrouk's Gibson-family recipe.
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 cup delicately flavored olive oil (such as Bertolli Classico)
- 2/3 cup water
- 2 cups pureed pumpkin (fresh or canned)
- 3 cups sugar
- 3 1/3 cups sifted all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 cup golden raisins or dried cranberries (optional)
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease three 1-pound loaf pans (8.5-by-4.25-by-2.75 inches) with olive oil or spray with cooking spray (or bake in batches).
In a large mixing bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Add the olive oil, water, pumpkin purée, and sugar and whisk with a fork to combine thoroughly.
Sift some flour into a small bowl. Measure out 3 1/3 cups of sifted flour by spooning the flour into a measuring cup and leveling off the top with a knife. Then sift the measured flour again together with the salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, and baking soda into the mixing bowl. Stir into the wet ingredients until just combined. Stir in raisins, cranberries, or nuts, if using.
Pour into prepared loaf pans, nudging batter into corners. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes before removing from pan to cool completely. The bread will keep at room temperature for more than a week if tightly wrapped in plastic. It also freezes beautifully.