Stuff it, stuff it real good: Pumpkin stuffed with kale, asparagus, almonds, coconut milk and smokey cashew nut cream

During the holidays, as a vegetarian, I refuse to settle for side dishes or a store bought mock turkey as my meal.  I need a tasty impressive main meal – so my centerpiece is a stuffed pumpkin – typically stuffed with cheese and cream. As tasty as the dish is, I knew this could be made without any dairy and remain tasty. A hint of cayenne and hickory smoke, cream from cashews and coconut milk, almonds for a crunch and veggies for nutrition – this dairy-free gluten-free stuffed pumpkin has been a hit over the holidays.

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There are so many varieties of pumpkins and squash. Two of my favorites for savory dishes are the cheese pumpkin and the kabocha squash. The cheese pumpkin, also called the Long Island Cheese pumpkin as it was a regional favorite in the farmer’s almanacs and cookbooks in the 1800’s,  looks like a big cheese wheel and has a sweet earthy flavor. It is a short wide pumpkin and has a little less area in the center for stuffing, but the flavor matches the cheesy stuffing perfectly. These are large so are perfect for a large gathering.

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Cheese pumpkin: From the Long Island Seed Project

The kabocha squash, also called a Japanese pumpkin, has a sweeter flavor. If you have ever had tempura at a Japanese restaurant – the large squash pieces which people often think are sweet potato are actually kabocha squash. They are sold in the green and orange varieties.They are great fro both savory and sweet dishes and I highly recommend the kabocha over the sugar pumpkin for pies and other desserts.

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I prefer the orange variety and they tend to be easier to find in the market. These are small perfect for small servings – about 4 people.

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The best part about eating a stuffed pumpkin is scooping out the stuffing and the cooked soft pumpkin flesh. Together the taste is magnificent.

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The first time I stuffed a pumpkin, I used fontina and Gruyere cheese with cream, veggie stock, kale, garlic, smoked seitan and bread crumbs made from day old bread cubed and toasted in an oven. This pumpkin tastes amazing but the dairy-free and gluten-free version is outstanding. The coconut, pumpkin and kale are a good combo and reminiscent of a Cambodian curry that is both savory and sweet. With cheese or without, this pumpkin tastes amazing when stuffed with layered goodness.

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Carve the top (keep it because it will be used for baking, but you can also just use foil) and removing the seeds. Mix together salt and cayenne and with your fingers rub the inside of the pumpkin with a good amount of the mixture. Rub the outside of the pumpkin with coconut oil  and set the pumpkin aside on a baking dish or tray.20161107_203501

Next prepare the filling. Using coconut oil, saute onion for about 5-8 min until translucent, then add in de-stemmed chopped tuscan kale, cook down for an additional 3-5 min and add chopped asparagus. Once cooked through, add in diced garlic, mix and remove from heat, mix almonds in and allow to cool.

I like tuscan kale, also called lacinato or dinosaur kale, because of its leaves which are more tender than curly kale and other varieties. The leaves are smaller but it is important that the tough stems are removed.

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Next make the cashew cream by blending soaked and drained cashews with veggie stock, liquid smoke, nutritional yeast, salt, freshly squeezed lemon juice, tapioca flour and arrowroot flour until smooth. I use liquid smoke to provide a depth to the flavor that could potentially be achieved with a smoked meat like bacon, without  the meat or wheat of seitan.

Once the mixture is smooth, add it to the cooled veg. The stuff the pumpkin with the mix until three quarters filled.

Top off the pumpkin with unsweetened coconut milk. Make sure the solid and liquid of the coconut milk is mixed together well before adding it to the pumpkin as they typically separate in the can.

Replace the pumpkin top and bake at 400 degree F for 60 min, remove the top and bake for an additional 10-20 min. The pumpkin should be tender – you should be able to easily piece it with a butter knife and the filling bubbly. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 5-10 min. Then slice and serve.

Eat by scooping out the pumpkin flesh.

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Creamy, smokey, full of veggies with a nice texture and a bit of protein from the almonds. It leaves you satisfied and wanting more just for the taste.

You can also use the filling to stuff other veg – like a bell pepper.

With or without cheese, I highly recommend you give this stuffed pumpkin a try.

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Happy Eating.

Pumpkin stuffed with kale, asparagus, almonds, coconut milk and smokey cashew nut cream

Recipe is enough filling for 2 kabocha pumpkins or 1 medium cheese pumpkin.

  • 1 Tbs coconut oil + extra to rub on the pumpkin
  • 1 Tbs + 1 tsp Himalayan salt
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 1/2 white onion, diced
  • 1 bunch tuscan kale, stems removed, chopped
  • 15-20 thin asparagus stalks, ends removed, chopped into thirds
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • 1 cup raw cashews, soaked in water overnight, drained
  • 1/2 cup vegetable stock
  • 2 Tbs fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp liquid smoke
  • 1 Tbs nutritional yeast
  • 1 Tbs tapioca flour
  • 1 Tbs arrowroot powder
  • About 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut an opening on the top of the pumpkin and remove seeds.Mix together 1 Tbs salt and 1 tsp cayenne and rub on the inside of the hollowed out pumpkin. Rub coconut oil on the outside  of the pumpkin and place into a baking dish.

Heat 1 Tbs coconut oil in a small pot or large pan and add diced onion. Cook for 5-8 min, stirring frequently, until translucent. Add chopped kale and cook for another 3-5 min until wilted, add asparagus and continue to stir and cook until tender (about 5 more min). Stir in diced garlic and remove from heat. Add almonds. Mix and set aside.

In a blender or food processor, add soaked cashews, veggies stock, lemon juice, liquid smoke, nutritional yeast, tapioca flour, 1 tsp Himalayan salt and arrowroot powder and blend until smooth and creamy with no texture. Add more veggie stock if additional liquid is needed.

Add the cashew cream to the veggies and mix together. Fill pumpkins until they are three quarters of the way full. Mix coconut milk if separated in the can until smooth. Fill the pumpkin to the top.

Cover the pumpkin with the pumpkin lid or foil and bake for 60 min. Remove the top or foil and bake for additional 15-20 until pumpkin flesh is soft and can be pierced with a butter knife and the filling is bubbly. Let cool for 5-10 min and serve.

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