My brother visited last week, spoiling Rocco and us, and when he left Saturday afternoon, there were a few more snacks than usual in the cabinets, a giant pink box of doughnuts on the island and, also, on the counter, this pumpkin. Nashville mid-September, I’m still wearing shorts and sweating, but I see squash and pumpkins and I know it’s fall. Oh, fall. I love fall. I’m so excited for it this year. Give me a pumpkin with its muted orange skin and earthy, vegetal flesh, and I’m all piles of leaves and kids trick-or-treating and getting to go for long walks with Rocco in the crisp, cool air. There’s so much to look forward to with October around the corner! With observing and interacting with Rocco in his fourth and fifth months of life! And roasting a pumpkin, just this simple kitchen task, gives me both the creamy, savory base for today’s sauce and the reminder of other autumns I’ve lived with other pumpkins, of other autumns yet to come.
Maybe this is the whole point of the pumpkin craze, of the growing world of food blogs, of all of our fascination with what it is exactly that we’re going to make for dinner all over again each night. We all have a basic need to fuel our bodies, to consume, to be fed. But along with that we have other needs, for friendship; for meaning; for, ultimately, Him. What (and how and with whom) we eat is part of how we live, how we live is part of who we are and everything we’re doing and living is always, ever set against what we put into our mouths to eat.
I imagine, years from now, I’ll remember my baby’s sly smiles and growing frame when I look at photos and videos and the collection of albums I’ll have packed away somewhere by then. (What a thought!) I also imagine I’ll remember the way we bounced him in the Baby Bjorn through our dinners in these early days when, some other September, I’m combining grains and roasted pumpkin the way I did this past week.
A sort of risotto-esque dinner that Tim says is in the family of a macaroni and cheese, this pumpkin kamut® is simply cooked kamut® (other grains like spelt, einkorn or farro could sub in just as well) with a creamy, cheesy, savory pumpkin sauce. Served with a little extra grated cheese to finish, it’s hearty and filling and perfect for a cool night. As written, it makes enough for two huge, roll-yourself-away-from-the-table servings or for four side portions (which is probably what I’d recommend). Whether next time I’m serving it on pasta or in lasagna or with some other ingredient I don’t know yet I like, I like to think of the tie between these simple days and those future ones, the piles of pumpkin in my kitchen, in your kitchen, in today’s season, in tomorrow’s, all of them with moments of faces gathered around family tables with their plates.
Pumpkin Kamut® with Pecorino and Hazelnuts
So kamut®. It’s not exactly the “it” food right now. Have you heard of it? It’s actually the trademarked name of khorasan. Short explanation for it is that it’s an ancient form of wheat. We don’t like it quite as much as einkorn because where einkorn, being the original form of wheat, has two sets of chromosomes (making it a diploid, there’s a word you won’t need in most of life), it has four because it was hybridized. But we do like it because it’s a high-quality form of wheat with more minimal hybridization than modern wheat, high in protein, organically grown and fun to play around with in the kitchen. Expect a chewy texture and a filling effect when you use it. Oh, and if using a new grain scares you, just try the sauce! Creamy pumpkin goodness is hard to resist.
1 cup dry kamut® grains (or 3 cups cooked kamut)
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped white or yellow onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1″ to 2″ knob of ginger, peeled and grated
1 cup roasted pumpkin*
1/2 cup grated Pecorino cheese
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon coconut sugar (or other sugar)
1 cup roasted hazelnuts
In a large stockpot over medium heat, combine one cup uncooked kamut® with two quarts of water, and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce to simmer and keep cooking for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until grains are soft and chewy. (Or, soak the kamut® the night before, drain and cook with three cups of water until soft and chewy, about 40 minutes or so.)
Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, melt three tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add onion, salt, garlic powder, black pepper and ginger. Continue cooking until onions are soft and translucent, about five minutes or so. Add pumpkin, Pecorino, heavy cream and coconut sugar, stirring to combine. Remove mixture from heat and set aside.
Once kamut® is cooked, drain and place in a large bowl. Stir in half the pumpkin sauce, taste, add more of the pumpkin sauce, and keep adding and tasting until you like the results. I used about 3/4 cup of sauce (with about 1/4 to 1/3 cup leftover.) You want the mixture to be creamy, with sauce mixed throughout, almost like a risotto.
Serve kamut® with grated Pecorino on top.
*To roast pumpkin:
Preheat oven to 375F and slice pumpkin in half. Remove seeds and oil the insides of the pumpkin with coconut oil. Place the halves, cut side down, on a rimmed baking sheet.
Bake for 40 minutes to an hour, until a fork easily pierces the flesh.
Let cool slightly and remove the skins.
Mash the pumpkin or purée in a food processor. (My single pumpkin yielded 3 cups of purée.) Use in a recipe like this one and/or, in my favorite pie!).