Well! How about that Halloween snow storm! I'm pretty disappointed in how fast autumn just flew by this year, especially since my hectic schedule these past couple of months with my book and trip to China left little time to fully enjoy my favorite season. There was no apple picking this year. No pumpkin carving. No lazy weekend days of making pies and breads and pandowdies.
Fortunately, then, for the Manhattan and Brooklyn farmer's markets. They may be much more crowded and expensive than, say, a roadside farmer's stand off a country road, but they still offer a whiff of all the niceness fall has to offer. Plus, the markets are outdoors year-round, which leads me to acknowledge that if the vendors can work outdoors for 8 to 10 hours straight, I too can get through these long months of cold weather (i.e. I'd be a total wimp to not venture outside to pick up onions, or my dry-cleaning.)
I meant to post this before Halloween but didn't get a chance to until now. I had picked up a sugar pumpkin from the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket a few weeks ago and wanted to do something other than make soup. I had some leftover rice in the fridge and scallions that needed to be used up, so I decided to throw together a pumpkin fried rice.
Sugar pumpkins and kabocha squash may be the best to use, since they still hold their firmness during roasting. You'll want to cut the pumpkins into large wedges for the roasting; it's too hard when raw to cut into smaller pieces. I soaked up some dried shiitake mushrooms that were in my cabinets, but you can easily substitute fresh shiitake or cremini mushrooms. With chopped scallions as a final touch, voilà! A quick east-meet-west seasonal meal. Or maybe even an unexpected side dish later this month for Thanksgiving.
Pumpkin Fried Rice
Serves 4 as part of a multi-course meal, or 2 as a main dish
- 1 2- or 3-pound sugar pumpkin or kabocha squash
- 4 or 5 dried shiitake mushrooms
- 3 cups leftcover basmati, jasmine, or long-grain rice
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 shallot, chopped
- 1 scallion, white and green parts finely chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Slice off the stem of the pumpkin. Cut the pumpkin into 4 to 6 large wedges. Using a roasting pan or sheet pan, roast the pumpkin wedges for 15 to 20 minutes, until softened enough for chopping not yet cooked through. Remove the pumpkin from the oven and allow it to cool for a few minutes until it's cool enough to handle. Slice the pumpkin flesh into 1-inch cubes and discard the outsides.
- Soak the shiitake mushrooms in a bowl of warm water for 10 to 15 minutes, until softened. Trim off the stems and discard. Thinly slice or chop the caps.
- Heat a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat until a bead of water sizzles and evaporates on contact. Add the oil and swirl to coat the base and sides. Add the shallots and scallions and stir-fry until just fragrant, about 20 seconds. Add the pumpkin and mushrooms and stir-fry for another 4 to 5 minutes, until the pumpkin is cooked through but still maintains its shape.
- Stir in the rice, breaking apart any remaining clumps with a spatula. Continue cooking the rice, stirring constantly, until the rice starts to turn golden and is well-mixed with the vegetables, about 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a large communal serving dish or divide into individual bowls.