Photo from arazorashinyknife.com
By Cathy Erway, Brooklyn food writer and author of The Art of Eating In
Each Thanksgiving, vegetarians are faced with the turkey conundrum. What kind of massive, vegetarian entree can possibly compete with this festive main course? You can’t scoop up a side dish of green beans with quite the excitement of carving a turkey, and a vegetarian stuffing — cooked outside the bird — seems kind of sad and lonely. But if there’s one seasonal vegetable that can grow large enough for everyone at the table to share, it’s the pumpkin. And it has a cavity you can stuff just like the turkey, too.
Roasting a whole pumpkin or squash is pretty fun, and it requires much less attention and work than a whole bird. For this dish, I used a great-big blue hubbard squash that I took home with me from the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket. These heirloom winter squashes have a denser flesh that’s tasty and bright orange, and not as stringy as pumpkin. Any kind of squash that’s big enough for your group and fairly round should do well here, too.
To provide protein, I stuffed it with baked beans in a sweet and smoky chipotle sauce. The pumpkin lends its sweet flavor to them while they cook, and you can scoop out the roasted flesh with each spoonful of the beans to serve. Simply cook your beans until almost tender, and finish them in the hollowed pumpkin in the oven. The resulting jack-o-lantern of steaming stuff makes an impressive dish that’s ready to take center stage!
Here’s the recipe:
Chipotle Baked Beans in a Pumpkin (or Squash) (serves: a lot)
- 1 round pumpkin or winter squash, about 5 lbs
- about 2 cups dry beans of your choice (such as red kidney or pimento. Find them grown locally at Cayuga Organics’ Greenmarket stands)
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup honey or maple syrup
- 1/3 cup canned chipotles in adobo sauce, pureed in a food processor with all its sauces until smooth
- salt and pepper
Soak beans overnight. Drain and fill with enough water to cover by 3-4 inches in a saucepan.
Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer and cook gently until almost tender, about 1 hour (depending on type of bean). Make sure there’s still enough water that the beans are completely submerged. Add the brown sugar, honey/maple syrup and chipotles and salt and pepper to taste.
Meanwhile, carve a large lid out of the top of the pumpkin, around its stem. Scoop out the seeds and flesh and reserve seeds for another use (like roasting for snacks!). Fill the pumpkin with the beans and all its juices. Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes, or until pumpkin flesh is soft to the touch and beans are fully cooked. Serve by scooping out beans with a scrape of pumpkin from the sides.
Cathy Erway is a Brooklyn-based food writer, and the author of The Art of Eating In: How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove, a book about her two-year mission to eat only meals that she prepared herself – not an easy challenge when surrounded by the myriad of tempting food dished out by chefs in New York City.