From the Market — Cooking in the modern world

I’m spoiled. Terribly spoiled. I love the modern conveniences of my kitchen, but I feel vaguely guilty that cooking is now so easy. Cooking in ages past was entirely different from what it is today. Well, for one, many people hardly cook at all. I know one woman who has a state-of-the-art kitchen and is actually proud that the only thing she’s ever made there is a pot of coffee. I have an odd assortment of friends, don’t I?

I ponder these things when I’m in the kitchen gleefully stacking dirty dishes into my dishwasher and watching my veggies be chopped into tiny pieces by the food processor. Our ancestors ate whatever was local and in season. Not having any family history based in the south, there are some foods that I just don’t even think about cooking. Grits, for starters. The only good grits I’ve eaten are the kind loaded up with cheese and bacon — could’ve been served on cardboard mush and tasted the same to me. And okra! Heaven sakes, that is one nasty vegetable! I am pretty sure that you could gather up a bucket of our banana slugs, cook them up like okra, and no one could tell the difference. Evidently there is one nano second where okra retain some bit of texture, then it’s a nuclear implosion into goop. But I’ve never been fortunate enough to catch them during that fleeting moment of okay-ness.

I’ve been collating pumpkin recipes lately and I came across a startling recipe for Grabben Gullen Pie. This became a favorite of English settlers in both the American South and Australia, but it isn’t one that will be hitting our dinner table any time soon. First, you hollow out a pumpkin. Then you stuff it full of opossum meat and bake it over the hot coals. Oh yum. There are other things I’d rather be doing to a pumpkin. Our generation has become so accustomed to buying canned pumpkin from the supermarket shelves, not many people think to cook their own pumpkin puree. I fear that in the next 50 years no one will even bother to cook a simple acorn squash. There are a phenomenal variety of squashes, and the pumpkin is, of course a squash. Pumpkins are flavorful, chock full of excellent nutrition, and they are plentiful in the Fall. There are recipes for pumpkin filled pasta shells, pumpkin stir-fry, pumpkin desserts and pumpkin soups. One of the most simple and impressive uses of the little tiny pumpkins is to simply cut off the top, scoop out the inside, then fill it with your favorite pumpkin pie filling, then bake. Serving just about any good soup in a hollowed out pumpkin creates a great buffet centerpiece, and I just happen to have a great one to serve, either from a tureen or from a pumpkin.

The BEST Autumn Soup Ever

2 cans of black beans, drained and rinsed

1 can diced tomatoes

1 can of pumpkin puree

one half cup chopped onion

2 minced garlic cloves

4 Tbsp. olive oil

4 cups of broth, chicken or veggie

1 Tbsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. each; sea salt, cinnamon, & allspice

1/2 tsp ground pepper

3 Tbsp. Balsamic vinegar

Saute onion, garlic and seasonings in oil and cook until the onions carmelize. Meanwhile, puree the beans and tomatoes with 2 cups of broth. Add the puree mix plus the pumpkin and everything else except the balsamic vinegar to the saute pot. Simmer until think, about 4-45 minutes. Right before serving, stir in the Balsamic Vinegar.

Find yourself a Pie Pumpkin (ours are from Chapman Farms in Brady) at the Farmers Market (they are darker than the other pumpkins) and make your own Pumpkin Puree. It’s so easy and you’ll be passing along another tradition to your family by making something else from scratch! Just wash the pumpkin, chunk it up into several large pieces, place on a jelly roll pan with the cut side down. Roast at 350 degrees for 30 minutes to one hour. When it softens and the flesh pulls away from the skin, it’s ready. Let it cool, then scrape away the seeds and stringy bits with a metal spoon. Scrape the flesh away from the rind and puree in the food processor or food mill. This is absolutely 100% guaranteed to put you into the mood for Thanksgiving preparations. I promise!

Barbara Bennett Parsons is the manager of the newly renovated Grays Harbor Farmers Market in Hoquiam, where pumpkins are held in high esteem. 538-9747.