I fell in love with my husband a little bit at a time, starting with a kitchen interlude exactly 10 years ago this month. He’d just moved back to Texas, and we were having a drink. He asked if I’d heard an interview with cookbook author Dorie Greenspan that day on NPR — and I had. He was as intrigued as I was with her talk about a dish in her then-new book, Around My French Table. It was a recipe for Pumpkin Stuffed With Everything Good, and we decided we would make that together the very next day. His enthusiasm for working on something as creative as it is delicious won me over, and so began our teamwork in the kitchen. That — and a shared love of travel and plenty of other things — eventually led to much more. But it all started with this pumpkin dish. We’ve made it many times since, whenever fresh pumpkins arrive. This year, the supply ran out quickly, so last night we made two small pumpkins instead of one medium-size version. Still have plenty of leftovers! Like Dorie recommends, we change up the stuffing ingredients — it can be vegetarian. You can add nuts or not. This time, I threw in some dried sour cherries, which were a delightful foil to the Gruyere and herbs in the ground pork. Bacon works well, as does Italian sausage, and prosciutto would, too. Have fun with this! Just allow plenty of time for the baking process. Oh, and this is lovely paired with a white Bordeaux.
Serves 2 to 4
1 medium (or 2 small) pie pumpkins
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste, divided use
½ pound ground pork, cooked and drained
2 teaspoons fennel seeds, crushed
2 teaspoons dried Italian seasonings
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 green onions, chopped
1 ½ cups chopped mix of spinach and arugula
1 ¼ cups diced day-old sourdough or French baguette
1 cup diced Gruyere cheese
¾ cup chopped walnuts
½ dried sour cherries
½ cup heavy cream
A few dashes ground nutmeg
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Using a sharp knife, carefully cut away the cap from top of pumpkin, leaving enough room for you to easily pull all seeds and strings from pumpkin interior. Salt and pepper the pumpkin cavity and set pumpkin on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
In a bowl, combine sausage with herbs and seasonings, mixing well. Add cloves and green onion, tossing well. Begin packing the pumpkin interior, starting with pork mixture, following half of the spinach and arugula. Then make a layer of bread cubes and cheese, then walnuts and cherries. Finish with remaining spinach and arugula. Whisk nutmeg, salt and pepper into cream. Pour cream over the layers inside the pumpkin. Place cap on pumpkin and bake at 350 degrees for 90 minutes. Remove cap and finish baking another 20 minutes or till stuffing is beginning to bubble. Remove from oven; let stand 10 minutes before slicing pumpkin to serve.
Note: If using two small pumpkins instead of one, divide ingredients in half and follow instructions.