I make you a solemn promise; this is the last of the Thanksgiving leftover posts – that is not to say it’s the last of the leftovers, but I’m too laden with guilt to post about them anymore. It’s just that one writes about what’s on their mind, and right now that’s Thanksgiving leftovers.
Actually, I thought I was done with this subject, and then as I was putting one of my turkey leftover ideas together last night, I went to the fridge and moved the candied sweets out of the way, and there it was – the rest of the half used big can of pumpkin! Whoa, I can’t let that sit there and mold its way into the trash. But what can I make that isn’t just like what we’ve already had with the Thanksgiving meal? Hummm?
Don’t know if you’ve thought about it, but pumpkin is one of those really common foods that are so loaded with nutrition that they deserve to be used far more than they are – they really are one of the vegetable world’s stars, yet they barely get a look except at Thanksgiving. However, I’ve noticed a renaissance of sorts recently, partly due to the fact that many restaurant dishes are titled as using pumpkin, when actually the pumpkin is standing in for some less attractive sounding things, like squash or sweet potatoes. Thai restaurants are famous for making this switch with their popular Pumpkin Curries, which I’m absolutely sure is a misnomer and a sub for sweet potatoes. They perhaps can be forgiven -maybe- since the word pumpkin in Thailand is commonly used to mean many different vegetables – all across Asia, similar semantic issues abound. But then, Pumpkin Curry does sound so much better that Sweet Potato Curry, does it not?
But in a way, all of this name-game stuff is simply a matter of consumers/eaters realizing that no matter how sexy a name is, it’s ultimately the taste that’s important – and the truth is that already there are many winter squashes, especially in Asia, that taste far better than do even the best of what we know as pumpkin. Even with my limited taste buds, I’d give butternut squash an equal billing with the best of the pumpkins – and I’ve never yet had a real pumpkin that could hold its own against Hubbard, Delicata, Kabocha, Buttercup or Sweet Meat, as well as many others.
I pulled the opened can of pumpkin puree and gauged it to contain about 1.5 cups (it later measured out exactly 1.5 cups – scary!). That amount would allow me to double the recipe, which we most often do with cookies, since making only the base recipe may not have lasted the rest of the day! (Why do they do this? If they don’t like cookies, why not let someone who does make the recipes!) As you can see from my pics, my doubling of the recipe did not make an outrageous amount – in my estimation, if it’s not enough to fill the cookie jar, it’s not enough!
Here’s what I liked about these – they are a Hermit type cookie, one of my favorites – but these had a very minimal amount of sugar (one of my current diabetic No-No’s), and NO shortening! OK, that’s a little scary, but then, pureed fruits are often used as subs for fats in baked goods, so let’s go with it and see what happens. I also added some raisins (to increase the Hermit like character) and some chopped candied ginger (I still have some candied ginger left over from a 5lb bag I bought about 3 years ago, and vacuum packed away – Yup, it’s still fine). So, we’ll see how those work when we taste ’em.
I was a little taken aback by the no-show of any salt in the recipe – first, I looked for another ingredient that might be loaded with salt, but I can’t find one. Now, my wife might disagree, but I’m not an over-user of salt – I simply realize its proper role in cooking and I try to get it balanced against the other tastes in a dish. Frankly, I consider cooks who insist on using no salt to be the fanatics – I’m just a realist looking for max taste.
I shall always remember the quote I recently read about a chef (sorry, can’t remember the name) who was making the rounds of his dining room at the end of the night, and a guest commented, “Why is it that you and I are cooking the exact same things, the exact same way, and yours are always so much better?” To which the chef responded, “I know exactly why – when I cook, I’m not afraid to use salt, and you are!”
As you’ll note, I’ve included a minimal amount of salt as an optional ingredient – for those of you who still doubt.
Pumpkin Gingerbread Bars
(adapted from The Seattle Times)
Makes 12 servings
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup solid pack pumpkin
2 tablespoons molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 tsp of salt (optional)
1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup of minced candied ginger (optional)
1/2 cup of dark raisins (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9-inch square pan with nonstick vegetable spray.
2. Beat eggs with electric mixer at high speed 2 minutes. Add brown sugar 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition.
3. Add pumpkin, molasses and vanilla. Beat at medium speed 2 minutes.
4. Combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon and ginger; stir to blend. Add to pumpkin mixture; stir well.
5. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.
6. Let cool 10 minutes in pan; invert onto platter. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar. Serve warm.
My Notes: A very runny batter – baked up very cake-like and moist, which is fine if you expect that. Not real spicy – if you like a good dose of spices, you may want to up them. I wanted them less cakey, and so I cut them in bars, and spread them out on a pan rack to go back in the oven at 300F for another 20 or 30 minutes. I’m not sure how well they’d keep, unless you re-baked them like a biscotti first. I liked the sweetness level – a good balance. Frankly, I couldn’t decide if the pumpkin or the ginger was pulling rank, so I guess they’re well balanced too.
Addendum: Yes, I liked the re-baked ones better than the cakey ones – they came out with a chewy, crunchy character, and I’m quite sure that they’ll store as a cookie much better that the original ones.
This is a great afternoon tea partner, or for that occasional sneak nosh when you just have to have a little something!