After surviving a harsh cold winter that seemed to instantly turn into a blistering hot summer, Autumn balances out the seasons with warm days and cool nights. The air becomes brisk and crisp and the sun is rising later and setting earlier. Shorter daylight lends itself for family and friends to enjoy backyard fire pits and perhaps an occasional bon fire. (City and County permitting of course.) Here in Colorado, it is traditionally the last weekend in September when the Aspen leaves turn gold in which shortly after they flutter down to blanket the ground for the Winter.
Autumn is my favorite season. The hustle and bustle of Summer is coming to a close and it reminds me of a James Taylor lyrics: *“The frost is on the pumpkin and the hay is in the barn.” I spontaneously think of jack-o-lanterns, pumpkin pies and hay rides. So many pumpkins, so little time!
Pumpkin and Wild Mushroom Risotto
3 TBS Olive Oil
1 LG Shallot (finely diced)
3 Cups Risotto (Arborio rice)
1 Cup Dry White Wine
2 Qts. Chicken or Veggie Stock (hot)
1 Can Pumpkin
3 LG. Portabello Mushrooms
1/3 Stick Unsalted Butter
3/4 Cup Fresh Grated Parmesan
to taste Salt and Pepper (S&P)
Fresh Italian Parsley to garnish
Pre-heat oven to 400f. Remove black gills from Portabello mushrooms and slice into strips. Coat with a little bit of olive and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast till tender (about 10-12 min.) Remove from oven and hold. Dice the roasted mushrooms when cool. Coat bottom of casserole pan with 2 TBS. Olive oil and heat to medium high. Add shallots and sauté till clear. Add risotto and roast in pan for approx. 2-3 min. Deglaze with wine. Add hot stock a ladle full at a time when all the liquid is absorbed by the risotto. Stir frequently with wooden spoon. Repeat this till the risotto still has the slightest crunch in the middle of the grains (Al Dente).
When risotto is al dente:
Add the butter, Portabello Mushrooms, pumpkin and parmesan. Stir just till mixed and creamy. Add S&P to taste remembering that the parmesan is salty already.
Garnish and serve.
(Calabaza en Dulce)
2 1/2 Lbs. Pie Pumpkin –NOT Jack-O-Lantern (after peeled and seeded and cut into strips)
4 Cinnamon Sticks
8 Cloves (whole)
1 Orange (Zest and juice)
4 TBS Butter
3 –4 Cones Piloncillo (brown sugar cones available in Mexican section of grocery store or Mexican
Markets) or substitute with: 1 3/4cup dark brown sugar and 1/4 cup molasses.
8 Cups Fresh Cold Water
Cut pumpkin in half, remove stem and scoop out seeds and stringy parts on the inside. Wash the seeds and dry on a sheet pan for roasting later. Don’t dry them on a paper towel, they will stick to the towel and will be a mess to deal with.
With a sharp knife, lay the pumpkin cut side down on a cutting board and carefully cut off the outer skin. (Save the skin, stem and stringy part for your compost pile.) Now cut the raw pumpkin into bite size pieces and hold.
Put all other ingredients in a deep heavy pot and bring to a boil. I use a cast iron Dutch Oven. You could also use something like a Le Creuset, or any deep casserole dish that you can put on the stovetop.
After the piloncillos (or brown sugar and molasses) have dissolved, slowly add the pumpkin pieces and simmer for around 2 – 2-1/2 hours or until the pumpkin is tender and the sugar mixture has reduced to a thick glaze. You might have to add more water if it evaporates before the pumpkin is tender. You can bob the pumpkin pieces a bit at first to coat them, but do not stir, that will make the pumpkin all mushy.
Let cool then place each piece (with tongs) on a wire rack that is suspended over a bowl so the excess sugary glaze drips off.
Repeat until all the pumpkin slices are as goo free as possible.
Refrigerate or bring to room temperature and serve.
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Olive Oil Enough to coat seeds.
Fresh Ground Pepper
Pre-heat oven to 250f.
Wash the seeds and dry on a sheet pan. You can place the sheet pan in a low oven, say 250f, turning them occasionally till they are dry. Don’t dry them on a paper towel, they will stick to the towel and will be a mess to deal with.
Up the temperature on the oven to 375f.
When they are dry, place in a bowl and coat thoroughly with olive oil. Then sprinkle with seasoning. I chose salt, pepper and cayenne, but you can use any seasoning of your choice.
Spread evenly on a dry sheet pan and place in a 375f oven for about 7 – 8 min. With a spatula, turn the seeds and continue roasting for another 7 – 8 min. or until golden brown.
Let cool and enjoy!
* Lyrics from the title track of James Taylor’s 1975 album “Walking Man”