I can tell it is starting to get cooler out when I start wearing a blanket like an elongated tube top around the house. I guess the shorter daylight hours just doesn’t give the sun enough time during the day to warm things up in here. It’s still not cold enough to turn the heat on, (I believe it was after Thanksgiving when that happened last year if I remember correctly), but still a slight chill in need of a blanket.
I was in touch with some friends back in North Dakota over the weekend and they filled me in on their recent snowfall. Comparatively I have nothing to complain about, just an observation that subtle seasonal changes do occur, even here in Southern California.
Aside from snowy, long distance texts, this past weekend was filled with eating up our Halloween Jack-O-Lantern before it got too old and moldy to do something with. It goes without saying that my spirit-decade is the Great Depression and I can’t bear to throw anything remotely edible and I remembered this idea from when I was the Pastry Chef at Firefly Restaurant in San Francisco. These grilled pumpkin steaks were a staple on their fall menu and I always thought it was such a genius idea.
They are good with any type of winter squash— kabocha, butternut, sugar pie pumpkin—but in my opinion if you are going to eat a big, honkin’ Jack-O-Lantern, there’s no other way. You see, normally, those bigger pumpkins are super stringy and watery and really not that good to eat, but throwing them straight on the grill, uses that extra water to their advantage. As it cooks over the hot, direct heat the water bubbles up inside the flesh of the pumpkin, evaporating from the surface as it cooks and intensifying its flavor, while making it tender at the same time.
Dealing with a big pumpkin is a tad bit cumbersome, but we’ve all carved one at some point and this is much easier than that. You need a sharp, heavy knife and just slice it open. Scoop out the seeds and use a Y peeler to peel off as much skin as you can. I find it’s easier to cut the pumpkin into 4-inch “steaks” first, then peel. Don’t worry if every bit of skin doesn’t come off. Pumpkin skin is actually pretty thin and edible.
Then on the grill it goes. Thirty minutes is all it takes for a delicious vegan main or the pumpkin with the pesto sauce would make a lovely Thanksgiving side dish. Give it a try!
For the pesto:
- 3 jalapeños
- 3/4 cup packed mint leaves, plus more for garnish
- 1/2 cup packed cilantro leaves
- 1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- juice from 1 lemon
For the pumpkin steaks:
- 4 pounds pumpkin, peeled, seeded, and cut into 4-inch pieces
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds, for garnish
- salt and pepper
For the black beans:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion, chopped
- 1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander
- 1/4 teaspoon ground arbol chile
- 2 (14.5 ounce) cans black beans
For the pesto:
- Heat a dry skillet over high heat. Add jalapeños and char, turning occasionally, until blackened on all sides, about 10 minutes. Let cool, then remove stem, seeds, and charred skin. Chop and transfer to a food processor fitted with the blade attachment.
- Add mint, cilantro, pumpkin seeds, garlic, salt, and blend. With the processor running add olive oil and lemon juice. Stop blade a few times to scrape down the sides. Blend until very smooth, about 1-2 minutes. Taste and add more salt if needed. If pesto is very thick add a tablespoon or two of hot water to thin out. You want to be able to spoon it over the pumpkin.
For the pumpkin:
- Heat a gas or charcoal grill to medium-high. Remove as much peel as you can from the pumpkin with a Y-style vegetable peeler. It's okay if not all of it comes off, pumpkin skin is actually pretty thin and edible. Rub with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
- Grill about 30 minutes or until pumpkin is easily pierced with a fork and is charred on the outside. Turn pumpkin about every 10 minutes or so.
- Meanwhile, cook the beans. Heat oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and jalapeño. Season with salt and let cook until tender, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add garlic, cumin, coriander, and ground arbol chile, and cook a minute more. Add black beans, juices and all and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to a simmer and let cook until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Mash with a potato masher until about 1/2 of the beans are broken up. Taste and add more salt if needed.
To Serve: Spoon black beans on plates and top with a pumpkin steak. Drizzle pesto over the top and sprinkle with more toasted pumpkin seeds and mint. Dig in!
To toast your own pumpkin seeds, heat a generous teaspoon of oil in a hot frying pan. Add raw pumpkin seeds and toss in the oil. Cook until starting to pop and golden, stirring often. Season with salt and remove from heat.
La Bruja Cocktails (aka Tamarind Margaritas)
Pumpkin Steaks with Black Beans and Jalapeño Pesto
One More Thing
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