I don’t think fall dinner gets much better than this. Aromatic basmati rice meets its surprising soulmate, the apple–crown jewel of fall– among the roasted seeds in the vessel of one of autumns other icons–the pumpkin. Baked under a cascade of a apple cider reduction, cranberries and tofu, this dinner is minimal in terms of spices, placing the emphasis instead on the season’s fresh herbs and produce and the naturally fragrant rice.
Last week we drove up to Vermont to catch the last gasps of beautiful weather and foliage. Every single place we ate at was putting out dishes full of flavor and healthy. There were all sorts of stuffed squashes, stuffed raviolis and stuffed eggplants and smoothies. We had a black bean burger that made me want to stand up and applaud. Since coming home I’ve been slowly trying to recreate the greatest hits of Vermont. This one knocks it out of the ball park. The only thing that could possibly make this more delicious is using a kabocha squash instead of a pumpkin because I’m in love with them. The version we had was in a mini pumpkin, like the kind I like to put on my desk at work, but at home we go big.
This is a versatile dish and the filling combination is a winning one, but you can change it up as you wish with whatever you like. I think a mushroom, brown rice combo would work well or even chopped walnuts. I stuck with what I knew would work and made it in stages. The stuffing can be made in advance so at dinner you’ll only have the pumpkin roasting to deal with while you go about your busy evening.
Something so quintessentially fall makes me long for cider doughnuts. I drove all around to every orchard in search of one. As someone who grew up in an orchard town, I know if you don’t get there early, your chances of getting a good cider doughnut are slim to none. I’m obsessed. I have an incredible recipe for a baked cider doughnut that I’m going to turn to soon.
I did buy a bag of maple kettle corns in Vermont that I’ve been eating like crack even a week later. They’re not as fresh as last week, but they’re surprisingly sturdy. Someone stop me. Hide the bag!
Enjoy the weekend and definitely make this recipe. It’ll add a coziness to one of the best times of the year.
LOADED TOFU, BASMATI RICE & APPLE ROASTED PUMPKIN
For the stuffed pumpkins:
- 2 small pumpkins, about 1/2 pound each
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 package firm tofu
- 1/4 cup pepitas, toasted over a flame
- 1/4 cup fresh chives chopped or chopped scallions
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
- pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup apple cider, plus more for cooking tofu (optional)
For the kale in cider reduction:
- 1 head of kale, stems removed or 1 package of baby kale
- 1/2 cup apple cider
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
For the pumpkins:
Using a very sturdy knife—and caution—cut a cap out of the top of the pumpkins/squash. Scoop out the seeds and strings from the cap and from inside the pumpkin. Season the inside of the pumpkins generously with salt and pepper, and put it on the baking sheet and into the oven while you make the stuffing (this pre cooks the pumpkin for about 20 mins).
For the tofu:
Cut up the block of tofu into small cubes. Heat a medium pan over medium heat. Add cooking spray, olive oil or to enhance the apple flavor, apple cider. Add the tofu and stir every once in a while till tender and soft. Remove from heat.
Toss the cooked tofu, rice, toasted pepitas, chives and dried cranberries together in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper and mix.
Remove pumpkins from oven. Pack the mix into the pumpkins. The pumpkins should be well filled.
Stir the apple cider with the nutmeg, a hint of cinnamon and some salt and pepper and pour a about 1/4 cup into and over each pumpkin. You might have too much or too little depending on the size of your squash—you don’t want the ingredients to swim, you want the hint of flavor and the outside to crisp up a bit.
Put the cap in place and bake the pumpkin for about 45 mins—or until the flesh of the squash is tender enough to be pierced easily with the tip of a knife. Because the squash will have exuded liquid, remove the cap during the last 20 minutes or so. While you’re doing this make the kale.
For the kale:
Pour the cider into a pan over medium heat. Let it simmer for about 10 minutes until it reduces a bit. Add the kale and let wilt in the reduction for about 5 minutes.
When the squash is ready, carefully, very carefully—it’s heavy, hot, and wobbly—bring it to the table. To serve, put on a plate surrounded by the kale and/or cut like a pie. Enjoy!