Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Beef Stuffed Pumpkins

It's meals like this that make me wish I had the gift of the camera, or a beautiful girl who takes excellent pictures of food. ...and is easily wooed by my cooking. ...and is hungry. ...or is willing to join me for a drink or something until hunger strikes.

This dish came out GREAT, but I have no evidence, just an empty shell of a mini-pumpkin in the trash and a satisfied belly. You'll have to trust me on this one, it was pretty good stuff. When that girl with the camera comes by, I'll remake it and post some pictures. No doubt.

Beef Stuffed Pumpkins

2-4 pumpkins *
1 lb grass fed ground beef
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tsp dry sage or 1 tbsp fresh chopped sage
1 tsp salt
lots of fresh ground pepper (I cranked it about 10 times, but it's your mill)

* On the subject of the pumpkin... You're going to have to just do your best with this one. Pumpkins come in all sizes, from so small that each person would need two or three, to big enough for a whole family. Just pick what you can find and let's do it. If possible, find a pumpkin for each person, so it will be fairly small and be the bowl for the filling. The one I used was a single serving size, multicolored, and very hard shelled. The perfect bowl. In the past, I've also used a large one and carved it up for the family, too. Each was good in its own way.

The Cooking Of the Pumpkins

Carefully cut off the top of each pumpkin. Using a spoon, scoop out the seeds and fibers, like you wood for a jack-o-lantern.

If you want to eat the seeds with the dish, set the seeds and pumpkin stuff aside in a large bowl filled with water. Rinse the seeds and clean them of the pumpkin fibers. In a dry skillet over low heat, dry the seeds, sprinkling them with salt, if desired. Keep stirring until they dry and puff up. Set aside to cool. If this sounds like a lot of work, throw them away and skip this whole step. They are only a garnish, anyway. A delicious garnish that's work, but a garnish none-the-less.

Put the pumpkins in a large pot suitable for steaming. Add some water to the pot and bring to a boil. Cover and turn the heat down so that the pot simmers. Steam the pumpkins for about 30 minutes or more (until the interior flesh is tender and easily scooped with a spoon. Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes.

The Stuffing

While the pumpkin(s) are steaming, brown the beef in a large skillet, then drain the fat off, reserving a small amount of fat to cook the onion and garlic. Set the meat aside for now.

Add to fat to the skillet and cook the onions until they are soft and translucent. It's okay to brown them a bit. When the onions are done, make a clearing in the center and add a bit more fat. Add the garlic and allow it to cook for about 30 seconds. Careful not to burn the garlic! When the garlic is fragrant, add the chopped tomatoes and quickly stir to stop the frying of the garlic. Stir the onions, garlic, and tomatoes together for minute or so, and then stir in the beef.

Sprinkle the paprika, sage, salt and pepper over the beef mixture and stir thoroughly. Add half a cup of water and stir well. Allow the water to reduce over low heat, and then remove the pan from the burner.

Bringing It All Together

When the pumpkins are cool enough to handle, take a spoon and scoop some of the pumpkin from the inside of the shell, adding it to the beef mixture. Be careful not to break through the shell of the pumpkin or scoop so much that it collapses. Stir the pumpkin into the beef mixture. Salt and pepper to taste, then spoon the beef mixture into the pumpkins.

If everything is hot, just serve now. If it's not so hot, put the stuffed pumpkins into a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes until hot and steaming again.

If using individual pumpkins, just serve them in a bowl or plate. If using larger pumpkins, cut them in pieces and spoon the filling over each portion.

If you loved your guests enough to go the extra mile and cook the seeds, sprinkle them over the pumpkin filling, if not, don't.

The Eating

Eat and enjoy.

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