My postdoctoral advisor, Carolyn Slayman, could strike fear into us by the deceptively mild statement..”Wouldn’t it be nice..?” We all knew what that meant. At least another couple of months of experiments, if we were lucky. Twenty years later, I will confess to pumping up science. Just when my lab folk think they have a story neatly wrapped up, topped with a colorful title and shiny journal to target, I have no qualms in raising the bar on expectations up another notch. It’s the same with recipes. Who can resist the urge to dress up a nice but bland sauce, sneak in more spices or fiddle with the fixings? So when a collection of 50 canned pumpkin recipes came my way, I considered it only the start of a culinary excursion.
Take for example, the Pumpkin Alfredo sauce: whisk together a cup each of pumpkin puree and light cream, season with salt, pepper and grated nutmeg, and heat through. Nice, but surely there’s more? It needed some tang: in went a quick puree of sundried tomatoes in olive oil, with a sparse bunch of rosemary and sage scavenged from my fast fading fall garden. The little specks of deep red and bright green were a lovely addition. What, no vegetables? I folded in roasted florets of cauliflower to the penne with the pumpkin sauce. Topped it with crushed red pepper and parmesan cheese. Next time, I might try layering the pumpkin cream with no boil lasagne, fresh mozzarella and something yet to be determined. Consumed before digital capture, this one is worth repeating.
Now that I was on a pumpkin quest, pie loomed on the next horizon. I am not a pie person, however. So I settled for prudence and a recipe on the can of Libby’s pumpkin puree. It sounded easy enough, besides it’s been on the label since 1950!
- For the filling, mix a can of pumpkin puree, a can of evaporated milk, half cup sugar and two eggs. Season with powdered cinnamon and cardamom, and a pinch of salt.
- For the crust, I turned to my trusty crusty Graham cracker base: crush about a dozen of them in a food processor, add half a stick of melted butter and half cup sugar. Pat into a 9″ pie pan and bake for 12 min in a 325F oven. Easy!
Now pour the filling into baked crust, and return to the oven, turning up the temperature to a sizzling 425F for 15 min. Then turn it back down to 350F for another 40 min. Poke to see if done. Confronted with a gash on the smooth and glistening pie surface, I devised some dressing: sprinkle walnut bits around the edge and arrange some pecan pieces strategically as covering. Return to oven for another 10 minutes so the nuts get lightly toasted.
Serve with a dusting of confectioner’s sugar and a scoop of your favorite ice cream. The creamy smoothness contrasted nicely with the crunchy cracker base and the nutty goodness on top. Although my prudency was rewarded with a perfectly pleasing pumpkin pie, I have a hankering to veer from the straight and narrow next time. How about adding a dash of smoked paprika?