Side Dishes

1 Comment

I've been thinking about stuffing a pumpkin for a while. Specifically, I was looking for a recipe where I could just cram some uncooked wild rice or quinoa in a pumpkin and have a meal after a couple of hours. I didn't find that, but I did find a simple recipe that's extremely customizable that was originally from Dorie Greenspan. It's a perfect vegetarian main dish or side dish for fall or Thanksgiving dinners. It's really easy, too. The short version is: get a pumpkin, remove the guts, stuff it with cheese and bread, and cook it for two hours. But the longer version may be a bit more helpful.

And please excuse my photos. I snapped these as I was cooking and serving, not sure how it would turn out and not up for a photo sesh. But they give you a good idea of sizing and doneness. I placed my pumpkin in a 7 qt Dutch oven.

All done! I forgot to remove the lid to brown the stuffing and it still tasted great.
All done! I forgot to remove the lid to brown the stuffing and it still tasted great.

Vegetarian Stuffed Pumpkin
serves 4-6
adapted from a recipe by Dorie Greenspan via PBS

  • 1 medium "pie" or "sugar" pumpkin, about 3 pounds (about the size of a basketball)
  • Smoked salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cups stale or refrigerated bread cubes (½-inch)
  • 8 - 12 ounces cheese, such as Gouda, Havarti, Gruyère, Emmenthal, cheddar, or a combination, cut into ½-inch chunks
  • 2–4 chopped garlic cloves (to taste) or 1-2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • About ¼ cup snipped fresh chives OR
  • 1 tablespoon of Wash Park seasoning blend from Savory Spice Shop
  • About ⅓ cup heavy cream or milk

Place the oven rack on the lower middle or lower setting and pre-heat the oven to 350F.

Scrub the outside of the pumpkin to clean. Then cut a hole in the top large enough to clean out and stuff the pumpkin, making sure to cut at a 45 degree angle so that the resulting lid will rest on top (like a jack-o-lantern). Scoop out the seeds and strings and remove them from the lid as well. Discard or keep the seeds for roasting later. Sprinkle salt and pepper inside the pumpkin (and around the edges) to taste.

Combine the bread, cheese, garlic, and seasoning in a large bowl and toss together to mix. Place the stuffing in the pumpkin and pour the cream or milk on top to moisten.

Pumpkin ready for roasting. Note how the top was cut at an angle to keep the lid secure.
Pumpkin ready for roasting. Note how the top was cut at an angle to keep the lid secure.

Place the lid on top and put the pumpkin in a large oven-proof casserole or Dutch oven or on a large baking sheet (contents may bubble over or pumpkin may lose shape). Cook for two hours or until the stuffing is bubbling (check after 90 minutes for doneness). Remove the lid for the last 15 minutes or so to brown the stuffing, if desired. The pumpkin is ready when the skin can be easily pierced with a fork.

To serve, scoop contents and cut portions of the side of the pumpkin.

Notes: I used Gouda and Havarti, which tasted great. A Gruyère or Emmenthal would have made a creamier filling, though (think fondue). For a heartier meal, reduce the salt and seasoning and add veggie sausage. I served mine topped with arugula and with a side of rice pilaf (with golden raisins and walnuts).


Now that my kitchen is functional (and I’m getting deliveries from Green Bean Delivery every other week), I’ve been busy in the kitchen. I have several great recipes with mediocre photos to share, but I thought I’d do a round-up of others’ recipes I’ve either made or tasted recently and really liked.

romanescoRoasted Romanesco. The romanesco is a broccoli/cauliflower hybrid that is milder and tastier than either of the two. I got one in a Green Bean Delivery box and cooked it up using this simple recipe from The Kitchen Snob and it was great! This is a particularly good recipe to try when having guests since the vegetable looks so great on a plate. And they were definitely better than roasted cauliflower steaks. I just can’t seem to roast them at home so they taste like the cauliflower at Etch.

Baguettes. During the recent snow/ice storms, we were stuck in our house for nearly a week. Our driveway was covered in a thick sheet of ice. The steepness was great for sledding, but not so much for getting out without possibly careening into a tree. So I decided to make some bread in anticipation of actually running out! My friend, Amy at Fearless Homemaker has made these baguettes often and loves them.

Eh, I didn’t love them. But it’s not the fault of the recipe. Somehow (perhaps the arid conditions in our house because of the heat being on all the time), the dough was too dry, so we had to add water. I also had trouble mixing the dough initially (almost burned up my mixer’s motor). My husband swears he did not measure inaccurately, but anyway, the result was a bread with overworked dough that resulted in a tight crumb (like sandwich bread). So I wasn’t blown away. But if made properly, I can see how this bread would be really great. It’s a huge recipe, though (makes four loaves), so keep that in mind.

Freekeh with Brussels Sprouts, Apples, Cranberries, Cherries and Pecans. This is the dish that Beth of Eat. Drink. Smile. brought to our Nashville Foodbloggers post-holiday potluck. I loved this dish. I’ve got to skeedaddilydoo over to the store and get some freekeh, though. I’ve never had it before and certainly never bought it. But it is fantastic. Plus, I’m always up for a new way to use Brussels sprouts.

Butternut Squash and Goat Cheese Empanadas. My favorite dish from the foodblogger potluck was Tracey of Single Grrl in the Kitchen’s empanadas. Oh, man, these things were good. I snagged several to take home afterward, too.

Also at our potluck, Angela of Spinach Tiger brought some of her famous biscuits as well as this triple layer chocolate fudge cake and Phillip of Southern Fatty brought these delicious ginger beer cupcakes.

I’ve also made a really great Brussels sprouts salad (several times), some fantastic waffles, and a “cookie salad” (my contribution to the foodblogger potluck). Those are the recipes I plan to post soon (I hope).


sesameoilI don’t consider myself a good cook, but I have spent some time around good cooks while they’re doing their thing, so I’ve picked up some really great tips over the years. One of the best things I’ve learned is to always have roasted sesame oil on hand. It can make some really ordinary foods really great and is helpful when you're in a time crunch for dinner because so much of what you can do with it is quick and easy. I will give you examples!

First, baby bok choy. You just add a little sesame oil and a dash of soy sauce into a bowl of baby bok choy, toss, and put on a baking sheet to roast at 400F. Cook until the leaves are crispy and brown and you have a great, tasty side dish. You can also do this with broccoli.

Next, green beans. This is a two-step process because you need to blanch your green beans before sauteeing. Bring a big pot of salted water to a boil, add a pound of green beans (stem ends removed) and boil for about two minutes, or until bright green. Then drain and immediately put them in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. While they’re cooling, add 1 tablespoon of sesame oil and 1 teaspoon of minced garlic to large saute pan and heat over medium until it becomes fragrant and hot (about 3-4 minutes). Add the beans and cook for about five minutes, stirring frequently. Add a splash of soy sauce at the end (or salt).

Finally, noodles. Get some thin udon or thing rice noodles or spaghetti (1/2 or 1 pound) and prepare as directed. Drain and remove to a bowl. Add 1-2 tablespoons (depending on the amount of noodles) and toss to spread evenly. Season with gomasio (sesame salt) or kosher salt and toasted sesame seeds plus garlic powder (use sparingly). I like using the gomasio because it adds some interest to the noodles.

I’m not ashamed to say that I could make a meal off these three things together (and maybe some dumplings). You can find toasted sesame oil (and gomasio) in the Asian section of the grocery or at the international market. Be sure the bottle indicates it’s toasted (should have an amber color, not gold). Sesame seeds should also be toasted (save the untoasted for buns). Sesame oil also great as a salad dressing by itself or in a vinaigrette.