It’s officially fall. I can tell because most of our counter space is covered with ripening tomatoes and drying bean pods, and shoveling out enough space for a mixing bowl or a chopping block is nearly impossible. Despite these obstacles, or perhaps because of them, on the first Sunday of fall, I decided I wanted pumpkin pie. Luckily, I had roasted a pie squash the previous night.
Though there are some fabulous tried-and-true varieties that I plant every year, I also like to try out new vegetables every year — I’ve found that in our extreme climate, it doesn’t pay to plant only a single variety of anything. So this year, as I have for the past 10 years, I planted ‘Uncle David’s Dakota Dessert Winter Squash’ (Fedco Seeds), which has proven an excellent producer of sweet, flavorful squash that keep well into the winter. This year’s rookie squashes were ‘Snack Face’ a naked-seed (hull-less) pumpkin (Jung Seeds) and ‘Eastern Rise’ winter squash (Fedco Seeds).
On Saturday I roasted a ‘Snack Face’ pumpkin, an ‘Eastern Rise’ squash, and all their seeds simultaneously. I had used the meat from our first ‘Snack Face’ pumpkin in a curry soup, so I had no idea what its flavor was really like, though I figured that like most pumpkins, the ‘Snack Face’ meat would probably be stringy, watery, almost completely lacking in flavor, and not quite worth eating. And really, how much can one ask from a single vegetable? Aren’t absolutely delicious, tender seeds enough to expect from a pumpkin variety? On the other hand, I was eagerly anticipating sinking my teeth into the flesh of the ‘Eastern Rise’: The description in the catalogue sounded quite promising. We’ve always roasted all our pumpkin and squash seeds — most have a bit of a tough hull, but not enough to deter us.
While the squash and pumpkin meat roasted on the top rack at 350 degrees, the seeds, well greased on their jellyroll pan, toasted below. As soon as I heard the seeds start to pop, I pulled their pan out of the oven and let the squash roast on. A little too long, actually, all the toasted pumpkin seeds had disappeared down our gullets hours before, and all the water had evaporated from the baking dishes by the time we remembered that we had squash in the oven. (We ended up throwing all the toasted ‘Eastern Rise’ seeds in the compost bucket — they had such incredibly thick hulls that they were completely inedible. This was the first time in nearly three decades of toasting squash and pumpkin seeds that we’d ever encountered a freshly toasted squash seed that we couldn’t eat.)
So, some very well-baked squash and pumpkin awaited me on Sunday. I scooped the well-cooked meat out of the skins. The ‘Snack Face’ pumpkin meat was smooth, moist, nearly custardy, and completely devoid of strings, while the ‘Eastern Rise’ squash was lumpy and crumbly: I’d have a lot of work to do to tame that texture! I stuck a spoon in and tasted the squash; it was bland and nearly devoid of flavor. Then I tasted the pumpkin; it was sweet and flavorful; definitely the most delicious pumpkin I have ever tasted. ‘Snack Face’ is the polymath of cucurbits! I had already thrown the ‘Eastern Star’ toasted seeds in the compost bucket; now I was going to throw its meat to the dogs. Literally. Luckily our furry girls love squash and are not picky. Maisie was so excited about the squash that she invented a snazzy new canine capriole.
The ‘Snack Jack’ made an excellent filling for two gluten-free pumpkin pies with coconut crust, and Walt and I have already demolished more than half of a pie.
GLUTEN-FREE COCONUT PIE CRUST
1 cup brown sugar, loosely packed
1/2 cup butter
1 tablespoon milk
1/2 cup oat flour
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 cup shredded dried coconut
Use a pastry blade or two butter knives to cream the sugar and the butter. Beat the egg and the milk and add them to the sugar and butter, then beat until smooth.
Mix the dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and nutmeg in a small bowl, then add them to the wet ingredients and mix until smooth. Add the dried coconut and mix well.
Grease two pie tins with butter. Press the dough into the pie tins as evenly as you can.
Bake the pie shells in a 350-degree oven until very light brown. Take the pie shells out of the oven and pour equal amounts of the pumpkin pie filling into each shell.
PUMPKIN PIE FILLING
1 3/4 cup cooked pumpkin
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon peeled, grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon salt
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Mix in the order given. Pour the filling into the two already baked pie shells. Bake the pies at 450 degrees F for 10 minutes, then turn the heat down to 325 degrees and bake until a knifeblade slid into the filling comes out clean. Delicious served with whipped cream!