Hello Pumpkin

Did you know you can add pumpkin to cereal and oatmeal?

Pumpkins 311 (photo credit: Detroit Free Press/MCT)
Pumpkins 311
(photo credit: Detroit Free Press/MCT)
When a shopper at the market mentioned to me that she adds pumpkin to her oatmeal, it caught my attention. I had been adding bananas, cooked apples and dried fruit, and I’ve enjoyed sweetened chestnuts in my hot cereal too. It made perfect sense to try pumpkin, which has a delicate sweetness, or any other orangefleshed winter squash such as butternut, which can be used interchangeably with pumpkin.
Oatmeal is not the only breakfast grain that goes well with pumpkin. Cooks in Russia are particularly creative in their use of sweet squashes, cooking pumpkin with semolina and kasha (buckwheat groats). A Russian breakfast pumpkin porridge calls for simmering pureed cooked pumpkin with semolina, milk, butter and sugar, and serving the porridge with honey. Those who serve buckwheat for breakfast cook it in water and enrich it with milk like any hot cereal; they might heat it with cooked pumpkin, a little honey or sugar and a pinch of cinnamon.
Ukrainians vary the recipe by using millet. They puree milk-poached pumpkin, cook it with millet, sugar and salt, and top it with a pat of butter.
Pumpkin for breakfast does not sound unusual to Koreans either. In Growing Up in a Korean Kitchen, Hi Soo Shin Hepinstall wrote that pumpkins were often on the menu in her home and that “they make a very nutritious and tasty porridge.”
Her pumpkin porridge has sweet rice flour, rice dumplings and red beans. She sweetens the porridge generously with sugar and serves it sprinkled with cinnamon and pine nuts; breakfast eaters add salt and pepper at the table.
Although the porridge does not contain milk, its texture is creamy thanks to the rice flour.
A grain partner for pumpkin favored in North America is cornmeal. Kathleen Desmond Stang, author of Zucchini, Pumpkins and Squash, adds pumpkin puree to Indian pudding made of cornmeal cooked in milk and flavored with brown sugar, molasses, sweet spices and butter.
Bulgur wheat is another grain that marries well with pumpkin. I first tasted the combination in Jerusalem, in a Kurdish pumpkin and meat stew served over bulgur wheat. The delicate sweetness of the pumpkin was so good with the bulgur that I decided to cook them together. I added milk, raisins and nuts, and the result made a delicious alternative to our morning oatmeal.
Carol Gelles, author of 1,000 Vegetarian Recipes, pairs orange-fleshed winter squash with an ancient wheat variety called Kamut or khorasan wheat to make Thanksgiving Kamut. To the wheat berries she adds brown rice, diced butternut squash, dried apricots, cranberries, honey and toasted sliced almonds.
Pumpkin is good in barley soup, and so why not put them together for breakfast? I’ll try this combination one of these days, as well as pumpkin with quinoa. It may turn out that for breakfast, healthy, vitamin-A-rich pumpkin is as versatile as apples.
Faye Levy is the author of the award-winning Faye Levy’s International Vegetable Cookbook and Feast from the Mideast.
Cook the bulgur wheat with milk, soy milk, water or a mixture of the liquids. After you add the squash or pumpkin, adjust the consistency of the cereal to your taste by thinning it with water or milk, or by briefly simmering it uncovered to thicken it. You can cook the bulgur and pumpkin in advance, and keep them in separate containers; combine them at breakfast time and microwave them, adding more milk if you like.
Instead of cutting the cooked squash or pumpkin in cubes, you can mash it with a fork or coarsely chop it with a knife or in a food processor. If the squash has deep orange flesh, simmering it with the bulgur wheat will give the hot cereal a pale orange hue. Another option is to heat the cooked squash or pumpkin separately with sugar or honey, and serve it in a separate bowl for each person to add to taste to his or her cereal.
Cooked butternut squash or pumpkin (see recipe below)
11⁄2 cups water 1 cup bulgur wheat 3 cups milk, or more if needed Pinch of salt 1⁄2 cup raisins or diced dried apricots, or 1⁄4 cup of each 2 to 6 Tbsp. sugar or honey, or some of each Ground cinnamon (for sprinkling) 1⁄4 to 1⁄3 cup toasted almonds or other nuts, coarsely chopped Cut cooked squash or pumpkin in bite-size pieces and reserve; you will need 11⁄2 to 2 cups.
Bring water to a boil in a heavy, medium saucepan and add bulgur wheat. Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes or until water is absorbed. Stir in 2 cups milk, add salt and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring often. Cook uncovered over mediumlow heat, stirring often, for 10 minutes or until bulgur is tender and absorbs most of milk.
Stir in cubes of cooked squash or pumpkin, raisins, 2 tablespoons sugar or honey, and 1⁄2 to 1 cup milk, depending on desired thickness, and cook over low heat for 1 minute, stirring.
Taste, and add a little more salt or sugar if you like. Serve cereal hot, sprinkled with cinnamon and nuts.
Makes 4 or 5 servings.
You can cook these members of the hardshelled squash family in water or in the microwave or bake them in the oven. Baking gives the squash a richer, sweeter flavor, and is the best way to deal with large squashes or pumpkins. Microwaving is the fastest way to cook small squashes or small amounts of pumpkin. If the squash or pumpkin is easy to dice, simmering it in water is also convenient and gives the most delicate-tasting result.
Large squashes and pumpkins are usually cooked in big pieces in their skins, and then the cooked flesh is scooped out. If you are cutting the squash in cubes before cooking it, you can peel the squash in advance if you like. Some squash have a tender peel that is soft enough to eat after the squash is microwaved or cooked in water; scrub it well before cooking.
About 700 grams pumpkin (dla’at) or hardshelled squash such as butternut (dalorit) Cooked squash or pumpkin: Peel pumpkin or squash and remove any seeds or stringy flesh.
Cut pumpkin in 7.5-cm. cubes. Bring 11⁄2 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan and add pumpkin cubes and a pinch of salt. Return to a boil. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes or until cubes are tender when pierced with a knife. Remove pumpkin from water and drain well; save the cooking liquid for vegetable soups.
Microwaved squash: Halve squash lengthwise and remove the seeds. Put the halved squash cut side down in a baking dish containing about 6 mm. of water. Cover and microwave about 10 minutes or until just tender. Test with a fork. Microwave times vary with size of squash and how dense it is and on wattage of microwave.
Baked squash: Preheat oven to 190º. Lightly oil a heavy roasting pan. Add enough water to make about a 6-mm. layer. Halve squash lengthwise and remove the seeds. Place squash halves cut side down in pan. Bake about 45 minutes or until tender when pierced with fork.
Remove from oven.
Either cut the cooked squash or pumpkin in bite-size pieces, mash the squash with a fork or coarsely chop it with a knife or in a food processor.
Makes enough for about 4 servings.