Hello! I am entering the food blog world! While this may seem an inevitable choice, it took some convincing on the part of my friends. I finally relented after a particular bit of nagging from Emily Porter (half of the talented West Virginia wedding photography team, The Oberports).
Even after I decided to go ahead with this project, and pick a domain-able name, I’ve still managed to drag my heels with various indecisions:
– I can’t decide on a WordPress theme!! That’s mobile-friendly! And free!
– How should I style my photos?!
– What recipes are good enough??
This week, however, I forced myself to move forward without having everything 100% in place. I even opted to take all these photos with my iPhone to make it as easy as possible. I’ll be eventually shooting with my big camera, but I think this will at least get me posting for now.
On to the food: Stuffing a whole pumpkin with lasagne is an idea I got from the first season of Top Chef. I believe Tiffani Faison’s dish was meatless, though. I attempted my variation a few years ago using some Italian sausage and sheets of fresh lasagne from the Italian deli in my neighbourhood. The combination of sweet sugar pumpkin, spicy pork, and tangy tomato sauce was irresistible and has become an annual tradition.
Note: Make sure you get a sugar (or pie) pumpkin! Regular jack-o-lantern pumpkins are far too stringy and watery for this recipe and will turn into a soggy, bland mess (which I’ve learned the hard way). Some years, when I have had trouble sourcing a sugar pumpkin, I have opted to use another winter squash (such as butternut) in 1/4 inch slices, and layered in a casserole dish.
ROASTED WHOLE PUMPKIN STUFFED WITH LASAGNE
(This is more like a guide than a strict recipe, as pumpkins tend to vary quite a bit. Cooking times and filling needs are approximate.)
1 sugar pumpkin
1 pound of spicy Italian sausage
2 cups crushed tomatoes
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-1.5 cups of thick bechamel (see The Kitchn’s guide for a good tutorial)
Fresh lasagne sheets
Some parmesan cheese
A pinch of nutmeg
Saute the onions with some olive oil in a saucepan or another skillet until they are starting to turn translucent. Add the garlic and sausage. Cook over medium-high heat until the meat is browned. If you are using sausages in casings, you can either pull the casings off and cook the loose sausage, or fry them whole and cut them up when they are cooked.
Add the tomatoes and simmer the sauce over medium heat until some of the liquid has cooked down. Season with salt and pepper. Add some crushed red chilies if you want more heat.
Cut the sheets of pasta into appropriate sizes for your pumpkin, if necessary. I don’t worry about getting them round, but cut smaller squares for the top and bottom, and larger for the middle layers. Set aside.
Season your bechamel with salt to taste and a pinch of nutmeg.
Start the layering by putting a small scoop of sausage at the bottom. Then, add your first piece of lasagna, a scoop of meat sauce, some bechamel, a bit of grated cheese, pasta, and so on until the pumpkin is full.
Pop the whole pumpkin into the oven and bake until the filling is bubbling and the pumpkin lets you easily poke a fork into it. This particular squash took 2 hours to bake. I removed the top about 30 minutes before it was done to allow some of the excess liquid from the pumpkin to cook down and let the cheesy top to brown a bit.
When fully baked, carefully remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10-15 minutes. Slice and serve as wedges.