Monday, September 28, 2009

It's NOT the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown

I love fall... leaves changing colors, apples, scarecrows, cooler nights (and days - thank God), and pumpkins.

There are certain recipes that herald the start of fall around our house - goodies filled with yummy spices and aromas that conjure up thoughts of cozy nights, crisp cool air, and full warm tummies.

Now that October is almost here - I decided to break out the fall and Halloween decorations - and spent a few hours this weekend strategically placing garlands and bowls of fruit and pumpkins around our house.

I started burning my pumpkin spice candles, and changed our Wallflower plugs out for the appropriately named "Pumpkin" scent.

I pulled out my tried and true collection of recipes (some from books, some from magazines, some from random Internet searches) and carefully planned out our weekly meals based on dinners with a fall theme.

Anna and I discussed the options of baking our first pie of the season together - and collectively decided it should be pumpkin (but with no whipped cream on top - according to Anna.)

So with my organized shopping list in hand, I headed out to the grocery store, where I searched and searched and searched for canned pumpkin.

Canned fruit aisle? Nope.

Canned vegetable aisle? Nope.

Baking necessities aisle? Nope.

Certain not to need to ask for help I then perused the ends of every. single. aisle. in my neighborhood Publix - sure that there must be a seasonal display full of fall baking items - including my beloved canned pumpkin.


Finally, after about 2o minutes of taking laps around the store (seriously, I kid you not) I admitted defeat and flagged down the store manager.

As it turns out - something happened to the pumpkin crop last year - too much rain or not enough cold nights or who knows what (I'm not a farmer) - resulting in a shortage of canned pumpkin. No pumpkin is available in Columbia. I tried to sweet talk the manager - surely there must be a box of dusty canned pumpkin left over from last year's holiday rush somewhere in the underworld of the Publix kept private from regular consumers by the mythical swinging doors.




He said he hopes to get some in right before Thanksgiving - but the look on his face told me I'd better come up with some alternate plan for fall recipes.

I walked away with my head hung low.

No pumpkin pie. No pumpkin bread. No pumpkin muffins. No pumpkin pancakes.

I suppose if I were a more resourceful woman I'd have pumpkins growing in my yard that I could harvest, bake, puree' and have available for my suite of fall recipes.

But I'm not - and I have a black thumb - so the thought of me actually growing something that I could eat someday is ridiculous. I honestly don't even know what kind of pumpkin I'd look for to eat - because come on - the pumpkins I buy are for decorating and carving - and I've heard jack-o-lantern pumpkins don't make good eats.

So I'll keep on the lookout for 'pie' pumpkins, or 'sugar' pumpkins, or whatever those gourds are called that I can *maybe* turn into some holiday meals.

Until then, I'll just think about my pumpkin recipes, and leave you with one of our family favorites. If you can find canned pumpkin in your neck of the woods, try this one out - our family loves it - and think of me as I'm sadly tucking my pumpkin recipes back into the recipe box.

Pasta with Pumpkin and Sausage
Rachael Ray
4 servings

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon
1 pound bulk sweet Italian sausage
4 cloves garlic, cracked and chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
4 to 6 sprigs sage leaves, cut into chiffonade, about 2 tablespoons
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken stock, canned or paper container
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup (3 turns around the pan) heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, ground or freshly grated
Coarse salt and black pepper
1 pound penne rigate, cooked to al dente
Romano or Parmigiano, for grating


Heat a large, deep nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and brown the sausage in it. Transfer sausage to paper towel lined plate. Drain fat from skillet and return pan to the stove. Add the remaining tablespoon oil, and then the garlic and onion. Saute 3 to 5 minutes until the onions are tender.

Add bay leaf, sage, and wine to the pan. Reduce wine by half, about 2 minutes. Add stock and pumpkin and stir to combine, stirring sauce until it comes to a bubble. Return sausage to pan, reduce heat, and stir in cream. Season the sauce with the cinnamon and nutmeg, and salt and pepper, to taste. Simmer mixture 5 to 10 minutes to thicken sauce.

Return drained pasta to the pot you cooked it in. Remove the bay leaf from sauce and pour the sausage pumpkin sauce over pasta. Combine sauce and pasta and toss over low heat for 1 minute. Garnish the pasta with lots of shaved cheese and sage leaves.

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