Monday, November 14, 2011

A Plethora of Pumpkin, Part 3

This is one of those recipes I almost don't want to share.  It has all the components of a great recipe: It's addictingly delicious, it's visually stunning and impressive, and it is EMBARRASSINGLY easy.  Seriously.  It's made slightly more difficult by the fact that I need to be an over achiever and use only fresh, local ingredients, but if you don't share my crazy you don't have to do that.  Or you could.  It's still pretty damn easy.

Recently, I assisted my dad in cooking a dinner for some "fancy" people.  Now, I'm pretty fancy as it is (I tried to find a link to Jona Hill's Saturday Night Live Monologue, but there doesn't seem to be one in existence... for those of you who saw/remember that episode, I'm fancy just like he is!) but when you're having a dinner party with your father you need to really cook to impress, right?

So, of course, I busted out the fanciest recipe I know.  Doesn't hurt that it also fits right into the fall pumpkin theme.

This was so beautiful looking, it started getting eaten
BEFORE I could get a picture!

Really, this is just a baked pumpkin, filled with hot cheese dip.  You wouldn't need the pumpkin for this dish, and you could absolutely use a pumpkin in this way to serve all sorts of dip.  I personally think that the pumpkin is a perfect addition to heavy, cheesy dips.  It helps break up the richness of the cheese, and it adds to the illusion that you're eating something healthy.  And, it looks fancy and fall like.  It's a great option for impressing people at a Thanksgiving dinner, for example.

(Side note to anyone in my family reading this.  If I bring something that looks remarkably like this to Thanksgiving dinner, it is totally NOT this recipe.  It was a way, super hard recipe, that I slaved over for HOURS.  Because I love you that much.)

First off, the pumpkin.  I used a standard "pie" pumpkin - not sure what kind exactly - that I picked up when Jeff and I purchased our Jack-o-Lantern pumpkins.  A pumpkin pie is usually small, and not quite as orange as a "regular" pumpkin.  I've also found that they tend to have slightly thinner flesh, which is good for something like this because it means you'll have lots of room inside your pumpkin to stuff your dip.

The first step is to cut the top off of the pumpkin.  This is, on it's own, a leap of faith.  You want the pumpkin "bowl" to be the right size to hold all of your dip, without looking empty, but at the same time you don't know how thick the walls are going to be, and therefore how big the cavity will be.  So, you just sort of cut the top off.  I amazingly guessed exactly right, and saved the top of this pumpkin for my pumpkin stew... to be seen in a Plethora of Pumpkin part 4!

Once the pumpkin is cut, and the seeds and guts are all cleaned out, season the inside generously with salt and pepper.  Place the pumpkin in a baking pan big enough to hold it, and add about an inch of water to the bottom of the pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour to an hour and a half (depending on the size), until the pumpkin is soft.  A good test is to stick a fork in the top of the pumpkin near an inside edge, and see how easy to flake away little bits of pumpkin.  It should be very easy!

Meanwhile, make whatever dip you want to put inside the pumpkin.  I used a goat cheese and spinach cheese dip.  This is an incredibly versatile dip, and you can really use any kind of cheese you want:

Goat Cheese and Spinach Cheese Dip

  • 10 oz fresh spinach (L)
  • 8 oz soft cheese (I used a herbed goat cheese, but you could use cream cheese or any cheese of a similar consistancy) (L)
  • 2 cups shredded cheese (I used one cup white cheddar, one cup Romano, but you could use any kind of cheese you want.  A mozzarella would make it really melty and gooey!) (L)
  • Salt and pepper to taste (be careful with salt, if you're using a salty cheese)
This is the "base" of the recipe, and is really all you need.  From here, you can add any seasoning you want.  This is what I used:
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed and minced (L)
  • 1 shallot, minced (L)
  • 1/4 tsp mustard powder
  • 4 dashes Tabasco hot sauce (I used the habanero)
Cut spinach into bite size pieces, and place into a pot large enough to hold it all.  Add about a cup and a half of water, and cook covered, stirring occasionally, until the spinach is soft and cooked through.  Drain the water and squeeze as much water as you possibly can out of the spinach (let it cool first.)  If you want to (I do), save the cooking water to cook with later.  This is full of all sorts of great vitamins.  You could even throw some of it into a smoothy if you're into that sort of thing.

As an alternative/even easier option, use 10 oz of frozen spinach, thawed, drained, and all water squeezed out.

(When I was explaining this recipe to a friend, I told her it needed 10 oz of cooked spinach.  "10 oz cooked!" She exclaimed.  "What is that, like 3 pounds fresh?!?"  No, dummy.  10 oz of spinach is 10 oz of spinach.  It just takes up a bunch more room when it's fresh.)

Combine all ingredients, including cooked spinach, in a glass bowl and microwave on high for about 3 minutes, stirring after each minute.  You want the dip to be hot and soft, but not to separate.  You could easily pull this dip out of the microwave and put it right on the table in the glass bowl. 

Once the dip is done, scoop the cheese into the pumpkin and serve with bread or crackers.  I like to stick a cheese knife right into the flesh of the pumpkin and flake a little bit off, so that people get the idea that they are supposed to eat the pumpkin right along with the cheese as a part of the dip.  

It's another vegetable, which means this massive quantity of melty cheese is healthy, right?


  1. Please! No more pumpkin. If I see another pumpkin recipe I'll puke!

  2. Thanks for sharing, this is a very adaptable concept, a bread boule, or acorn squash could be used in stead of pumpkin for those stressed out on the orange gourd.