Saturday, October 23, 2010

Pumpkin Party Menus

I love fall. It could be the self-absorbed only child in me (my birthday is mid-October). More likely it's the shortening of the days and chilling of the air, both signals that it's time to spend more time indoors... and what better way to spend time inside when it is cold, dark, and rainy out than to turn up the oven and create warm, soothing smells and tastes.

I had a birthday party every year until I was 17, far longer than any of my friends were sending out invitations, decorating cake, and planning party favors. Eventually as an adult, I was able to transition the "birthday party" into a party around the same time of year, where guests aren't informed that I am the reason for the celebration, but are still drawn into my home for a party. To be sure the center of attention remains on me, it's important to offer the most delectable and charming of refreshments to inspire [pumpkin] fields full of compliments.

I developed these two menus for what I called the "Pumpkin Party." Celebrating with food and friends all the beautiful colors, textures, warmth, and bounty that fall offers is plenty of reason for a party.

Mix and match recipes from these menus, or add and create your own, but don't wait to jump into fall with tempting tastes of tummy-warming treats!

Black Bean-Pumpkin Dip with Pita Chips
   1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin puree
   1 1/2 cups canned black beans
   2 cloves garlic
   1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
   1 teaspoon ground cumin
   2 tablespoons olive oil
   2 tablespoons lemon juice
   salt and pepper to taste

   In food processor, combine all ingredients and blend until smooth.  Season with salt and peppper to taste, and serve with pita chips.

Pumpkin Seed Flatbread

Mixed Greens with Apples, Dates, and Curried Pumpkin Seeds
   Use your favorite greens, such as mixed field greens, red leaf lettuce, or other combinations that include shades of bright green, dark green, and deep purple.
   Slice or cube a crisp, red-skinned eating apple such as Fuji, Braeburn, Honeycrisp, or Jonagold. Leave some skin on every chunk for color.
   Cut up about 1 date per serving - kitchen shears work best for cutting sticky dates.
   Toss above with a dressing of:
      1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
      3 tablespoons minced shallots
      2 teaspoons dijon mustard
      2 teaspoons honey
      1/2 cup olive oil
      (makes enough for 12)
   Sprinkle salad with curried pumpkin seeds.
Curried Pumpkin Soup with Yams and Cauliflower
Serves 8-12 as a side
1/2 head cauliflower broken into small bite-size pieces
1 15-oz can garbanzo beans mashed to a paste with a fork
2 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
1 small or medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons yellow curry powder
2 14-oz cans vegetable or chicken broth
1 10-oz package frozen cooked sqaush
2 large yams, chopped into bite-size pieces
yogurt and cilantro for garnish (optional)

In a large heavy-bottomed pot, heat olive oil with crushed red pepper and add
onion; saute until tender. Stir in curry powder to taste. Add broth and yams
and simmer until yams are easily pierced with a fork (20-30 minutes). Add
squash (does not need to be defrosted) and cauliflower and simmer/boil until
desired consistency (20-40 minutes). Stir in garbanzo paste. Ladel into bowls
and garnish as desired.

Farfalle with Roasted Butternut Squash & Sun-Dried Tomatoes
2 lb cubed butternut squash (this time of year, Trader Joes and Costco both sell refrigerated, pre-cubed butternut squash)
6 oz sundried tomatoes, packed in oil
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 lb Farfalle (bowtie) pasta
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup cream

Preheat oven to 425.  Toss all vegetables and rosemary in baking dish. There is probably enough of the seasoned oil from the tomatos, but if not, add a little extra olive oil. Sprinkle with salt. Bake, stirring gently every 10 minutes, approximately 30 minutes until squash is tender.  While roasting, cook farfalle according to package directions.

In separate pan, melt butter.  Stir in flour until smooth, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium, and stir in cream until smooth.  Return to a boil until sauce thickens slightly.  It will still be thin.  Season with white pepper and a dash of nutmeg. 

Toss squash mixture with pasta and sauce.  Serve with parmesan.

Smoked Salmon Pizzettas with Goat Cheese, Onion, and Dill
   Use Trader Joes whole wheat pizza dough or your favorite crust. Roll out dough as thinly as possible (about 1/8" thick.)
   I spread the raw dough with a very thin layer of parsley pesto (follow your favorite basil pesto recipe by substitute parsley for the basil).
   Crumble goat cheese atop the pesto.
   Sprinkle with freshly chopped dill to taste.
   Layer with flakes of smoked salmon and carmelized onions (put 3 pounds sliced white onions and 1/2 cup butter in your crock pot on low for 12-20 hours - you will melt at the amazing carmelized onions this produces).

This can be assembled to this stage early in the day, the cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate.  When ready to serve, bake for 10 minutes at 425. Cut into appetizer squares.

Pumpkin Spice Cake with Caramel Frosting and Whipped Chocolate Filling
Use Caramel Frosting from Joy of Cooking and Whipped Chocolate Ganache from The Cake Bible to assemble the pumpkin spice cake layers from the cake recipe linked in the title.
Peanut Butter cookies

Snickerdoodle Cookies (can be vegan)
1 cup margarine (I've never tried this recipe with butter, because I love the chewy center these cookies have.)
1 cup sugar
1 5/6 cup flour
1 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
3/4 tsp baking soda
dash salt

Cream sugar and margarine until fluffy. Add dry ingredients and mix. Roll balls of dough in cinnamon sugar, and bake 8-12 minutes at  350 degrees.  These cookies do not stay fresh for long.
Note that these do not contain eggs.

Pumpkin Sugar Cookies
Roll out dough and cut with pumpkin shaped cookie cutter.

Pumpkin Cheesecake
You can also bake your favorite cheesecake as bars in a 9x13 foil-lined pan and cut into squares. Increase your crust recipe by 1 1/2, and reduce baking time by about 1/3 - watch carefully.

Pumpkin Spice Bundt with Buttermilk Glaze

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