Kansas City, the City of Fountains, is also known as the Paris of the Plains.
As a transplant, I thought this was a bit pretentious. But I’ve lived here for four years now, and I must say that it does have certain Parisian qualities. For example, the snobbery of the different kinds of barbecue. The Plaza may as well be the Midwestern Champs-Elysees. There’s a coffee shop/cafe on just about every corner, and the culture of art and food is thriving like no other. It really is a fantastic city. And this fantastic city is proud of its strong agricultural roots. Speaking of agriculture, let’s talk about pumpkins.
The Kansas City Pumpkin Patch Guide is a great place to check out where to take your kids, or your friends, or your date. I mean, come on. Taking your lady to the pumpkin patch where you go pick out pumpkins, take pictures, and get messy carving them together?
Come on, nobody else thinks that would be totally romantic? Hello? Bueller?
But if you don’t want to go all the way out to the pumpkin patch, many grocery stores are carrying pumpkins, and not just the Jack-o-Lantern varieties anymore…
These are called Lunch Lady Gourds. Slightly offensive to lunch ladies everywhere.
I live in Westwood Hills, a great little area south of the river, and the closest store to me is the Price Chopper in Roeland Park(and most others), which has an amazing selection of pumpkins sitting right outside the store. These Lunch Lady Gourds(seen above) are warty and fun for decoration, but I have never used them for cooking before. The ones I have used for cooking, however, are just as fun to look at as they are to eat. And the whole point of pumpkins is, pretty much, to eat them. They’re vegetables! They’re squash! Let’s eat!
Courtesy of DelightfulDelicacies.Blogspot.com!
This variety is called the Australian Blue. It’s more of a grayish-green, but these are fantastic as decorations. Imagine a ghostly, goulish gray theme for your Halloween party…a table set with lacy antique linens and these suckers, all aglow. But the point is you can also keep them out on your front porch for decoration. And what you don’t want to use, you can eat. Because the weather in Kansas City right now is perfect for storing these veggies for later consumption. Or just until you’re ready to carve them. Because who wants to be that house with just the boring old Jack-o-Lantern pumpkins on the front door? Just imagine how great the more colorful varieties will look, all carved and lit up at night!
From top going clockwise: One Too Many Squash(the speckled squash), Long Island Cheese Pumpkin(the pretty white squash), Rumbo Squash(the squashed-squash)
The One Too Many Squash and the Rumbo Squash are both available to buy right now, and some of the Price Choppers in Kansas City are using locally grown pumpkins from right around this area.The Long Island Cheese pumpkin is not, however, because that’s one that I grew myself. I’ve wanted a pumpkin patch since I was a little girl, and that was the pumpkin of my choosing! How do they taste? Well, it just so happens that I’ve made my favorite vegetarian recipe using the Rumbo Squash: Pumpkin Soup.
Don’t scoff at the vegetarian stuff: October is, in fact, National Vegetarian Awareness Month. But that’s neither here nor there.
Make sure you scrape out the guts and bury it somewhere in your backyard for a never-ending supply of Rumbo Squash come next year.
1 Rumbo Squash, cut in half( you can also use 1 large butternut squash, or any other pumpkin of a similar size)
12 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 generous bouquet of fresh thyme, plus one sprig
1/2 black peppercorns, crushed
1 small white onion, diced
1/2 pt baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 bottle hard apple cider
2 cups heavy cream
Salt & Pepper to taste
Time: 2 hours Yield: A big pot of love
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F, or 350 with high fan if you have a convection oven. Cut your squash in half and remove the seeds. Since the squash are rather large, wrap one half of the squash in plastic wrap to save for later; or you can just double the recipe and freeze what you don’t eat in Tupperware containers! They make a great go-to quick dinner.
Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil and apply a tablespoon of canola oil to keep the pumpkin from sticking. Place your pumpkin, cut side facing up, on the tray and score using a knife. Make nice big hash marks, cutting in but not completely through the outer rind. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Arrange your pepper corns, half the garlic, and thyme sprigs onto the cut and scored surface. You can also take the garlic and rub it onto the pumpkin’s flesh for a bit of extra flavor, but that’s up to you.
Roast the pumpkin for about an hour, or until the flesh is easily pierced with a knife. Meanwhile, prepare your other ingredients. This practice is called mise-en-place, which is French for “things in place.” It makes cooking a billion times more stress free and cleaning your kitchen as you go like this makes for an exponentially faster cleanup.
Once your pumpkin is ready, remove from the oven and gently scrape out the flesh into a bowl. Your garlic, thyme, and peppercorns should be well on their way to broken down by this point, so just lump them into the bowl with the pumpkin puree. Discard the rind, unless you have a compost heap in the back. In which case, dump the rind in the compost.
In a heavy-bottomed sauce pot(a big soup kettle is ideal, the bigger the better), take about a Tbsp of canola oil(or another neutral oil, such as grape seed) and warm to medium heat. Add in the diced onion and remaining garlic, with a sprig of fresh thyme, and sweat together over medium-low heat, until it becomes translucent. The garlic shouldn’t burn because it’s still in the big cloves. Make sure you press your garlic down using the back of a spoon while cooking to really release the yummy flavors. Add in your sliced mushrooms at this point and continue to sweat.
Once sweated, about fifteen minutes, add in the pumpkin puree with your garlic, thyme, and all. Raise your heat to medium-high and add the cider. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste for seasoning, then break out the blender.
I like to use an immersion blender for soups and sauces, usually, but you can use a regular counter-top blender if you like. But blitz the soup until it’s a smooth puree, adding in little knobs(just pieces that are about 1/2 a Tbsp each, cold, right from the fridge) of butter as you go. That’s a naughty little chef’s trick to help you get a super-smooth and yummy soup. Return the soup to the pot(if you took it out to blend it) and add the cream. Stir and taste for seasoning. You can serve on its own or garnish with some roasted mushroom slices. Up to you. But this yummy soup will warm you right to the bones on a chilly autumn night.
So, you see? Pumpkins aren’t just for Pumpkin Spice Lattes or Pumpkin Pies(although you can roast that other half of the Rumbo squash to MAKE yourself a pumpkin pie using the real puree yourself) or Pumpkin Muffins. They’re fantastic veggies to be used in many different ways. Boil the cubed pumpkin with your potatoes for a potato pumpkin puree as a side for your roasted chicken on Sunday! Saute pumpkin with shallots and arborio rice to create a wonderful risotto! Don’t be afraid. These pumpkins are just dying to be eaten.