PUMPKIN, PANFRIED WITH TOMATO SAUCE
This is a straightforward braise: You sear the pumpkin first, then remove it, make a sauce in the same pan, and finally return the pumpkin to finish cooking. The basic dish is simple, but you can garnish and season as you like for a more elaborate presentation; the variations are quite terrific. Serve this over rice or other plain cooked grain or simply with a baked potato or thick slice of bread.
Other vegetables you can use: any sturdy winter squash, like kabocha, delicata, calabaza, banana, crookneck, or Hubbard.
Makes: 4 to 6 servings
Time: 45 minutes
• 1/4 cup neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn, plus more if needed
• 2 pounds pumpkin, peeled, seeded, and cut into large chunks
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 large onion, chopped
• 2 tablespoons minced garlic
• 2 tablespoons minced fresh chile, or to taste, or hot red pepper flakes or cayenne to taste
• 1/2 cup red wine, any vegetable stock, or water
• 3 cups chopped ripe tomato (canned is fine; don't bother to drain), more or less
• Chopped parsley leaves for garnish
1. Put the 1/4 cup oil in a deep Dutch oven or other pot with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat. Add some of the pumpkin, taking care not to overcrowd; you'll need to work in batches. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until the pumpkin is well browned and releases from the pan easily, 5 minutes or so. Then turn and cook the other side the same way. As the chunks cook, transfer them to a plate and add more pumpkin to the pan. Add more oil if necessary to keep the pumpkin from sticking.
2. When all the pumpkin is cooked, pour off all but 2 or 3 tablespoons of the oil and add the onion, garlic, and chile. Cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 3 minutes.
3. Pour in the wine, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Let the liquid boil off for a few minutes and thicken, then stir in the tomato and its juice. Bring the sauce to a boil, then lower the heat a bit so it bubbles along nicely. Cook, stirring occasionally, until it thickens, about 10 minutes.
4. Return the pumpkin to the pot and let the mixture come back to a boil. Cover and turn the heat to low. Cook, stirring once or twice, until the sauce has thickened even more and the pumpkin is tender but not mushy, about 10 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning, garnish, and serve.
Panfried Pumpkin with Tomato Sauce, Parmesan, and Basil. Great over pasta or for sandwiches, with a little melted mozzarella: Omit the parsley garnish. Follow the recipe all the way through Step 3. While the pumpkin is cooking, grate about 1 1/2 cups of Parmesan cheese and chop a small bunch of basil. When the pumpkin is ready, sprinkle with a little of the Parmesan and all of the basil, but don't stir them in. Pass the remaining cheese at the table.
Panfried Pumpkin with Tomato Sauce, Cocoa, and Pumpkin Seeds. Sort of like a quick mole: Omit the parsley garnish. Follow the recipe all the way through Step 3. While the pumpkin is cooking, toast 1 cup pumpkin seeds, tossing until golden. Chop a small bunch of cilantro. When the pumpkin is ready, stir in the pumpkin seeds along with 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Garnish with cilantro and serve.
Panfried Pumpkin with Cranberries and Pistachios. Festive all through the fall: Instead of the tomatoes, combine 3 cups cranberries with 2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice. Omit the parsley garnish. Follow the recipe through Step 3, adding the cranberries and juice in place of the tomato. Proceed with the recipe and garnish with 1/2 cup chopped pistachios instead of the parsley.