Before waxing rhapsodic about tomatoes and pumpkins, I first want to say thank you to all who wrote here, on Facebook, via email and via text in response to yesterday's post, Time's Determined March. Any writer who feels her words resonate with and impact others is fulfilled, and my heart is full and appreciative today.
Now, food. I was en fuego yesterday, y'all. Pumpkin puree, roasted pumpkin seeds, tomato and white bean soup, roasted tomato jam, chocolate chip banana bread...and scene.
Let's begin with the pumpkin puree and seeds as those are both shockingly simple, and pumpkins are just showing their happy autumnal selves at area markets.
I like to make pumpkin puree -for cheesecakes, breads, pies, ice cream, muffins; anything you'd otherwise use canned pumpkin for- from sugar pie pumpkins. These are exceedingly round, bright orange squash that are much smaller than those you'd use to carve jack-o-lanterns from.
Simply wash each pumpkin, cut it in half and remove the seeds. Rinse the seeds and remove any chunks of pumpkin flesh. Set them aside if you want to roast them, or discard/compost. Place the pumpkin halves cut-side down on a rimmed baking sheet and roasted in a 385° or 400° Fahrenheit oven until the flesh is soft and easily pierced with a knife; there should be NO resistance.
Once cooked, let the pumpkin cool before scooping out the flesh and putting it through a food mill. This will remove any seeds you didn't remove before as well as any overly fibrous flesh. I then portion out and freeze the puree in one-cup increments.
Later, I roasted the seeds I'd cleaned and reserved but learned something new as I prepped. Boil the seeds in salted water before roasting them in the oven. This ensures that the salt seasons both the interior seed as well as the exterior shell. Thank you, Elise Bauer, for sharing your mother's wisdom.
Tomatoes fresh, tomatoes canned
Before tomato season calls it quits, I wanted to make one last batch of roasted tomato jam, so I bought three pounds of beefsteaks and got busy. This recipe, from Amanda Hesser, is really spectacular. I love the slight pepper kick and the cinnamon and fennel seed undertones, all of which deliciously buttress the sweet tomato base.
Meanwhile, I was in the mood for tomato soup and so used some wonderful canned tomatoes that I put up over the summer to make the tomato-white bean soup that my whole family loves. It's a recipe I've developed over time, and I think it's now pretty perfect. Saffron, basil, peperoncino, shallots, garlic, lemon zest and an all-important Pecorino (or Parmesan) rind stew together magically with tomatoes and white beans. The recipe is now posted in Soups.
It's a one-pot vegetarian meal that won't take more than forty-five minutes. Make some grilled cheese sandwiches or toast some bread for the side, and you'll be in heaven.