Indian Fusion Cuisine in Portland and Tucson
I guess I’m the Halloween Grinch, The Ebenezer Scrooge of spook, one big gigantic stick in the mud.
Who knows when it all began. As an adult Halloween just doesn’t have a lot in it for me. I think the pinnacle of Halloween excitement lied in my childhood self, those precious seconds of suspense waiting before a stranger’s door in anticipation of what lied on the other side. Did they have the good stuff? Will they leave the door open long enough for me to sneak a peek into their house? Were they one of those cool moms that dressed up as a crazy witch complete with press-on nails dropping Recess into my pillowcase? I’d be meticulously rehearsing the line in my head “Trick or treeeeeeeeat” What the hell did that mean anyway? I really didn’t seem to know or care to know, but it was ever so important to nail that line with some serious intensity and vigor. I gave it my all.
As an adult trick or treating just isn’t appropriate and I don’t know if I’m cool enough, or organized enough for Halloween parties. I miss the excitement of organizing my bounty, setting that candy schedule so I could stretch out the fruits my conquest, but I think one of the hardest things about being an adult (foodie) on Halloween, is pumpkins.
Oh man – I love pumpkins. They’re beautiful and ribbed for our pleasure. They’re a wonderfully silky and luscious delight yet every year our country produces millions of pounds of this gourd to be butchered (albeit artistically), left on top of porches to rot or become cheap thrills for nogoodnik scallywag rapscallions to smear their gourd hatred throughout the streets. While I am not advocating for boycotting the Jack o’ lantern ritual because, let’s face it, if I had a an creative artsy bone in my body I’d be be the complete opposite side of this argument I am However, perturbed by the fact that we’ve completely fooled ourselves into thinking that the pumpkin is not edible.
Oh never mind!
Of course it’s edible, because every year around this time is when people start tweeting about their pumpkin lattes, their frozen pumpkin pies, and other miscellaneous pumpkin blechity blech, all suspiciously absent of any real “pumpkin”and all the while ignoring that giant orange thing sitting in their front porch just waiting for some part of the action. Now it’s true that the Jack ‘o lantern you’re carving has a much lower sugar content than the cute little sugar pie pumpkins, but it doesn’t mean that it’s devoid of taste! You may want to be cautious if you’re buying your pumpkin at a large conventional grocery store, as many of them are pumped with pesticides to produce a shapely crop, but if you are one of those awesome Halloween adventure seekers who travels to your neighborhood farm for your bounty, odds are pretty good that your pumpkin is on the safer end for consumption. (Tucson CSA subscriber, I’m looking at you!) Local Harvest also has a GREAT little locator for finding healthy happy pumpkins so that you can double duty your Halloween pumpkining (fun AND food!).
Check out my pumpkin tutorial to learn how to process your Jack-o-lantern into a luscious pumpkin puree.
Now, obviously you wanna be smart about it. You don’t want to be pulling in your rotting carved pumpkin from last week into your kitchen, but if you set your pumpkin out for the trick or treaters with a little dish under your candle to catch the drips and pull him in safe and sound before the end of the night, chances are you’ve got a safe pumpkin. Use your best judgement (ps I watch you eat things off the floor all the time).
This is a turkey pumpkin chili that I make every year. The turkey is absolutely optional and can be be made entirely vegan which I do often. I have broken the recipe down to exclude the turkey – either way it’s pretty delicious.
Well truth be told and in all fairness I am now surrounded by awesome halloweeners that accept my kurmudgeny reluctance. They successfully throw an inoffensive halloween party without judging my bootleg getups. What will I be doing this year? Probably sitting with my face squished against the window in a half assed witch costume hoping some kiddos in Portland have a hankering for some fun-size recess. Hocus Pocus will surely be playing in the background and combing dried sharpie strand by strand out of my hair from my last Halloween costume failure. .
Mole-Inspired Pumpkin Chile
*Quick disclaimer – I abhor anything claiming to be “mole-inspired” or “curry inspired” because it ends up being such a catch all for bad quick and easy remditions of real faux-les and hack curries. This is not a true down home mole with all it’s heart stopping complexities, but there are flavors and notes that are reminsicent of a good mole, especially with the addition of the pumpkin seed oil.
2 large onions
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
2 padron peppers (but if you have hatch, those are preferred)
5 garlic cloves (finely minced)
1 pound ground turkey (optional)
3-4 tablespoons of chile spice mix
1/3 cup of red wine (semi dry, nothing fancy)
3 cups of fresh pumpkin puree
12 oz kidney beans
12 oz garbanzo beans
1 oz dark chocolate chopped
pumpkin seed oil (optional)
chives (garnish, optional)
cilantro (garnish, optional)
1) In a large dutch oven or heavy-bottomed stock pot, fry some onions with the bay leaves and cinnamon stick in a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil with a heavy pinch of salt and a few cracks of black pepper. The onion will sweat a bit and then start to lightly brown (5-7 minutes).
2) While the onions are frying, blacken the chilies directly over the fire of your range and then place them in a lidded container so they can steam. After about 10 minutes of steaming, peel and slice the chilies, removing the veins and seeds. I like the poblanos and hatch chilies in thin in strips and the jalapeños and pardons finely minced. (Note: If you have an electric range you can blacken the chilies in the oven under the broiler, turning them as they char, or you can just leave the chilies fresh and dice them up. Set aside.)
3) When the onions are brown add 3 tablespoons of the spice mix and the turkey (if using). Add another hearty pinch of salt and brown lightly. (5-7 minutes).
Add garlic and sauté for 2 minutes, then add the wine to deglaze the bottom of the pan. If you have reserved cooking liquid from the beans* add at this time and simmer on medium heat. When the water evaporates add the pumpkin puree and chilies. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add the chocolate and season to taste. If you would like a little extra heat – add another tablespoon of the chili powder mixture.
To serve, top with chives, minced cilantro and avocado and a thin drizzle of pumpkin seed oil if desired.
*Note: If you are using fresh beans and have a pressure cooker you’re familiar using, do it up!
Fresh beans in this recipe are fantastic and it just gives you another opportunity to impart some extra flavor into the dish.
I cook mine in separate vessels within the cooker, but they can definitely be cooked together. I threw an extra bay leaf into the mix with salt, pepper, a smashed garlic clove, olive oil, and extra water (I use a 1 to 5 ratio for this recipe). I like to strain out the water but set it aside to use in this recipe after the spices are added in.
4 tbsp coriander
2 tbsp cumin
1 tsp black peppercorn
1/4 tsp cloves
2 1/2 dried passilla chilis
1 dried chipotle chili
3 dried guajillo chilis
On low heat in a small pan roast each spice individually being careful not to burn any of the spices. Shake the pan often to get an even roast.
If you live anywhere other than the Sonoran Desert your chilies may actual have some moist life in them. While in every other instance this could be an exciting sign, grinding moist chilies is not fun in a spice grinder. Toast the chilies individually on medium heat in the same pan. About 20 seconds on the heat and the chilies will lose some of their moisture and become dry and brittle. Crush the chilies in you hand and put it in the grinder along with the other spices. Let them cool and then whiz that stuff up.
I like to grind the chilies first and then the spices and store in an airtight container.
This recipe is dedicated to Reginald Slimer Jr. and Frederick Featherbottom “bubbles”
May you once again party like it’s 1999… in pumpkin heaven.