Shopping the Farmers Market: Why Blog

After years of frequenting the farmers markets in NYC, but only buying a few supplemental ingredients here or there, I decided to be experimental and work dishes around what is in season or looks particularly mouthwatering at the market that day. Green seems to be the buzz word these days from NYC to the White House, and the eat local movement is in full swing. My attempt here is to buy as many ingredients as possible from a the farmers market, and then occasionally supplement with locally produced ingredients from chain markets around the city. Most of the recipes I post (except for the baking recipes) are either things I created myself, or variations on recipes I've found elsewhere. I hope that you take the recipes and shopping tips here and they inspire you to do your own local cooking.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Sweet and Salty Pumpkin

The leaves are changing colors, there's a nip in the air, and most of the cafes and beer gardens in NY have closed their outdoor seating. Yes, it's that time again, we're officially in autumn. One of my favorite things to cook as the weather begins to chill is the most orange of gourds...pumpkin.

I attempted to go shopping at a little farmers market on the Upper East Side at 82nd St. and 1st Ave., but as you see from the picture, the pumpkin selection was pretty weak. I bought myself a peach danish and headed down to Union Square where I knew there would be a much better variety.

Sure enough, when I got there, there were bushels of all types of gourds: decorative pumpkins, sugar pie pumpkins, peanut pumpkins, spaghetti squash, acorn squash, butternut squash. All but the decorative pumpkins (AKA jack o' lanterns) are great to cook with. I was going to be experimental with a peanut pumpkin, but instead I thought I'd stick with an original and buy a 4lb. sugar pie pumpkin for $3.

I also picked up 1/2 dozen large brown eggs from a local egg vendor for $2.50

I continued to shop around for some ingredients to make my udon miso shiitake soup, this time with tatsoi instead of kale, but I've already blogged about that so I'll stick to the pumpkin.

Today I purchased:

At the farmers market:
A 4lb. sugar pie pumpkin
1/2 dozen eggs

At a supermarket:
Crystallized ginger

Supplementary Ingredients I already had at home:
All purpose flour
Ginger powder
All spice
Baking Powder
Baking Soda
Vegetable Oil
Olive Oil

I decided to technically make two recipes today, but one actually comes out of the other one. I made pumpkin ginger muffins with fresh pumpkin, but a pleasant bi-product is that I was also able to make roasted pumpkin seeds, one of my favorite fall snacks. Here are the two recipes below.

Recipe: Pumpkin Ginger Muffins with a Side of Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

1 4lb. sugar pie pumpkin (yields about 2 cups of pumpkin puree - only 1 cup needed for the muffins)
1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
1 tsp. of cinnamon
1 tsp. of ginger
1 tsp. of baking soda
1 tsp. of baking powder
1 tsp. of allspice
1 1/4 cups of sugar
1/2 cup of vegetable oil
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup of milk
3 tablespoons of crystallized ginger, chopped
Olive oil
Salt to taste

First start by creating the pumpkin puree. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut the stem out of the pumpkin, then slice it in half. Scoop out the seeds and stringy part of the pumpkin. You can do this with a spoon, but I like to get down and dirty and just do it with my hands. Put the seeds in a bowl and throw away the stringy pumpkin.

Once the pumpkin halves are emptied out, wrap them in a thin layer of tin foil and place them cut end down on a sheet pan. Place in the preheated oven and cook for about 1 1/2 hours.

After you put the pumpkin in the over, wash the seeds off, then pour a little olive oil over them. Salt to taste with kosher salt. Spread them out on a sheet pan so that they're all in a single layer. Place the pan on the other rack of the oven. Cook for about 20 minutes until the seeds are crispy without being burnt. Taste a couple too see if they're salty enough. If they're not, add a little more salt.

As I said above, these are some of my favorite things to snack on. Keep them in a container and you can eat them all week, or if you have no self control like me, you can eat them in one sitting.

Once the pumpkin is done test to make sure it's tender. If it's not, leave it in for another 10-15 minutes. Once it's soft enough to scoop, remove the halves from the oven and let cool. Scoop the pumpkin out into a bowl and mash up until there are no longer chunks, but a semi-smooth puree instead.

Now you can start the muffins. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. In a large bowl mix the oil, eggs, and milk. Stir in the pumpkin puree.

Combine the flour mixture into the pumpkin mixture. When blended, fold in the crystallized ginger. Scoop the batter into a muffin tin. I was all out of non-stick spray so I used paper cupcake cups. Bake for around 20 minutes, until a tester inserted into the center of one comes out clean. I baked mine for 22.

Remove from the oven, let cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove and place on a cooling rack. These came out different than most pumpkin muffins that I've made in the past. First, they were a lot less orange than muffins with store bought pumpkin puree. This didn't bother me at all, I'm always a fan of foods that don't look like someone put food dye in it. Second, they seemed a lot more cupcakey than other pumpkin muffins, but I did get the recipe out of my "500 Cupcakes" book, so I really can't complain. No matter what, they were very yummy. Sweet, light, and just the right amount of pumpkin flavor.

Feel free to experiment with other gourds. You can mix butternut squash in with the pumpkin to get a slightly sweeter taste, but if you do that, I'd recommend cutting back on some of the sugar. There are plenty of others out there, just make sure you don't try to cook your carving pumpkin, the flesh is not as soft or sweet and you'll be sorely disappointed in your muffins.

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