Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Cooking my niche pumpkin

In a long ago and far away post, I mentioned that I won a niche pumpkin at the Penn's Corner Farm Alliance CSA picnic. The gregarious giant was donated by Pam at Pucker Brush Farm in Shelocta, PA, less than fifty miles from my apartment!

So what is a niche pumpkin?

It's yellow and orange and covered in knobbly worts. When I got it almost 2 months ago, it was much greener - half of it was a dark green speckled with yellow worts. It was quite pretty and very mysterious so I let it decorate the table for a couple of months, but I assumed the absense of the green meant it was time to cook this sucker. 

Before starting out, I had been told only two things about the niche pumpkin:

1. It is a squash/pumpkin hybrid.
2. The more worts it has, the sweeter it is. 

I observed a few more:
1. It's heavy.
2. It has a hard rind.
3. It's weird looking, but I think it's kind of cute anyway.

I made several assumptions:

1. It will be delicious.
2. It will be the consistency of a pumpkin, butternut, or acorn squash.
3. It will be sweet since it has lots of worts.
4. It will take at least 2 hours to cook.

With only that to go on, I turned my oven to 350 degrees, sliced about a dozen vent holes in the gourd, put it in a casserole dish and stuck it in the oven. After about an hour, it was much more tender than I expected. Assumption #4 turned out wrong, it took just under an hour and a half until I deemed it ready to come out of the oven. 

I left it on the counter to cool for a couple of hours. It took longer to cool than it did to cook! And I didn't even let it cool completely. I was very inpatient and spent most of that time fidgeting around my apartment, doing a bit of cleaning, and repeatedly coming back to poke the pumpkin to test it's temperature.
I even cut the top off to speed the cooling process:

I was excited to cut it open. I was imagining loaves of pumpkin bread for the freezer, mashed squash with butter and pepper, maybe even some muffins or a coffee cake or a dessert of some sort. Perhaps a pie!

But when I finally got to hack it open I was a bit surprised:

It looked and tasted like a spaghetti squash!! Fibrous, stringy, like spaghetti, sweet, but not sugary just not savory...

At first, I was disappointed. So much for that pumpkin biscotti recipe I've been working on. But then I remembered that the spaghetti squash is one of my all-time favorite vegetables!  I immediately made a bowl with butter, salt, pepper, and a little grated cheese, just like Mom used to serve it. 

I've got to reevaluate my menu planning...but I have a feeling there's going to be some deliciousness coming from this niche pumpkin.

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