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pumpkin

What doesn't kill you..... And, Violina Red Hummus

What doesn't kill you..... And, Violina Red Hummus

Allora, the story of today, is about pumpkins. After Thanksgiving, pumpkins are relegated to being the second grade actors in most US homes. Beyond a bit of pumpkin pie or a soup here and there, you do not hear a whole lot about these delicious vegetables. In Italy though, I find that this is a rather revered produce!

I present to you Violina Red Hummus!!! 

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Savory Pumpkin Pie

Savory Pumpkin Pie

 My interest is still towards creating a more sustainable ecosystem. What I am working on now is a collaborative approach the goal of which education, awareness and independent choices. I hope to deliver this through an several biased, multi-perspective platform that creates room for discussion and debate leading to a collectively better understanding of all issues.

I am still clarifying the concept and in the middle of putting together the infrastructure and framework for the online platform. But, if any of you is interested in getting involved, please drop me a note and I would love to collaborate.

That's really what is on my mind. So, I am going dive right into the photos and leave you with the recipe for this simple vegetarian pie that surprises you in flavor and more-ness. The secret is the contrast of the crunch of the pastry and succulence of the filling. 

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Happy Thanksgiving!!

As analysis of when to publish posts go, today is possibly the worst day to put up one and possibly I am shortly encroaching on the most insane hh:mm of the year! But, I cannot let the day go by without giving my thanks. 

Also, I am wrought with guilt in having been making merry and not quite showering this space with the love I had originally planned. As you know, I had been in Israel last week. Now, I am in Turkey amidst the stunning beauty of inland Cappadoccia where the natural geography is as awe inspiring as the history of the original cave dwellers. There is much here that makes me marvel at the tenacity and ingenuity of the early civilizations. 

In the two days that I have been in this country, I have smitten by its beauty, the hospitality of its people and the general welcoming feel around here. I will write more about my experiences in a later post when I have properly collected and collated my thoughts. 

In the mean time, I simply want to take this day as an opportunity to thank you, my wonderful readers, friends and well-wishers for the support, feedback and shower of love that you have given this site and me over the years.

While this is a time to cherish our loved ones ever more, I feel it also time for me to be grateful for the generosities and kindness of unknown faces. For the unexpected niceties that life throws at me. For the strength within to face up and out ride challenges. For the wonderful beauty around that takes my breath away as soon as I pause for but a moment. For the freedom I have  that so many more aspire to. For love, joys and sorrow!

Oh to celebrate this wonderful feeling of thankfulness and being alive, we must of course share something sweet. So here is a simple Pumpkin Cheese Cake that is elegant and at the same time rather light, befitting the end of a surely coma-inducing dinner... :)

This is a very simple one pot dessert that comes together very easily and takes about half hour from mixing bowl to plate. I serve it here with a side of boozy fruits but you can go with ice cream just as well.

So, here is toasting to the life that pulses within us! Happy Turkey day!!


Pumpkin Cheese Pots

1/3 cup fresh ricotta cheese, drained

1/3 cup cream cheese

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/2 cup homemade pumpkin puree (unsweetened)

1 T potato starch

2 T whole milk/cream

1 egg

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp grated nutmeg + more for finish

1/2 tsp grated cinnamon

3 T brandied dry fruits {to serve}

Preheat oven to 350F.

Puree all the ingredients to a fine, smooth mixture.

Pour into molds of desired size and shape.

Line the molds in a baking pan with about 1/4 inch of hot water, creating a water bath.

Bake for about 25 minutes until just set.

Let cool for a few minutes and serve warm or cold with the brandied fruits,


Alchemy

I love science. It is the closest thing to being a magician. Who doesn't want to be a magician?

Pumpkin Popcorn Pies

Deep inside I am wide eyed child. Or a nerd. However, you like it.

The gist is I am a wanna-be magician. That is why I cook and bake.

Sometimes, I do a bit of experimenting in the kitchen. Ok, I do a fair bit. My cooking is intuitive with a big dash of ah-let's-see-what-happens-here attitude. I don't know where I get that from. Certainly, not my overall outlook, although I try! ;-)

Whenever the smallest opportunity, to play, presents itself, I pounce on it. I get a gleam in my eye and am filled with glee. When that happens, I am in a far-away land in my head, wearing a white lab coat and playing with beakers and test tubes and mixing concoctions in a large pot and watching it bubble with satisfaction. Now, that sounds like a witch. But I am not. Even if I am, I am like Dorothy, I swear!

Alchemy with Popcorn and Cream Wafers

I don't fly around on a broomstick as much as I to like travel and neither am I green or purple. Matter of fact, I am brown but that is really irrelevant. So. Not a witch. Besides I don't like pointy hats. I like those chic ones they wore around the 70s. Groovy!

Anyway, sometimes, I manage to create magic. Those times, when something I mix, stir, shake and bake comes out perfectly tasty. Really, it makes me feel all puffed up and happy like a custard baking in the oven. You know that poofy top of tart filling just as you take it out of the oven? Only I don't collapse after, unless I have consumed oodles of sugar. Then I just fall asleep and that is neither here nor there.

There is in me an inane desire to play alchemy, to convert one to another. Maybe, it comes from a dislike for eating the same meal more than twice. Really, even if it is simply the best dish on Earth, my palate turns its nose up unbidden after two tries. That's it. Erase. Scratch. Reform.

Pie - Fruit of experiments

If there is food that I don't necessarily like or think can be put to better service, I will modify it, sometimes in simple ways and sometimes elaborately. Like, I made a whole Mughlai dish to finish leftover mashed potatoes. It was awesome but did involve a couple of hours of casting spells.

Recently Whole Foods sent me Holiday package of 365 products. There was a bag of chocolate coated popcorn, pumpkin cream biscuits and sea salt in it. The popcorn I really liked. Cream biscuits not so much.

Even as a child, when most kids went crazy over cream biscuits and oreo cookies, I much preferred the plainer tea biscuits. I always found the cream filled ones too sweet.

So, of course I set about planning an alchemy. Those three ingredients were to be used. And, I decided to play with pies.

I separated the 'cheese cake' cream filing and the biscuits. The biscuits were processed fine with a bit of vegetable oil for the crust. The cream itself was whipped with an egg and some sour cream to make the tart filling. I could have left it at this but the filling was still way too sweet. So I mixed in a bit of bittersweet cocoa to balance it. Then to add more depth of flavor and texture, I folded in some pulverised popcorn. Topped with sea salt, off it went into the oven.

Pumpkin Popcorn Chocolate Pies

I am going to be modest and say, it was a success! The crust is crumbly, no surprise there, it was just another take on the graham cracker crust. The filling is what I am really proud of. It turned out to be the perfect fudgy chocolate creation I have ever tasted. Moist, smooth, not too sweet and with a touch of salt to satisfy any 'dark' cravings! Unfortunately, there was no pumpkin flavor in the tart as it was only the crust that had it and it was not intense enough to survive the alchemy. I would recommend substituting some of the sour cream for pumpkin puree to bring back the flavor.


Disclosure: I received the popcorn, biscuits and sea salt as free samples from Whole Foods but had no obligation to use them. I received no further remuneration to write this post. This post is from my own desire to have fun with food and avoid wastage


Pumpkin Popcorn Pie

Makes one 8 inch pie

{You can make this from any package of vanilla flavored cream biscuits. If not using store bought cream biscuits, use digestives or graham crackers for the crust. For the filling, add about 1/4 cup cream cheese instead of the cream filling}

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1 packet of cream biscuits, wafer and cream separated

1-1/2 T vegetable oil

3 T sour cream

5 T pumpkin puree

2 eggs

3 T cocoa powder

good handful of popcorn, pulsed

pinch of sea salt

Preheat oven to 350F.

To make the crust, process the biscuit to a fine crumble. Stream in the oil and pulse to form a crumbly mixture. Press the mixture to the base of a pie pan.

To make the filling, pulse together the cream from the biscuits, eggs, sour cream and pumpkin puree to a smooth mixture. Fold in the cocoa powder and popcorn.

Pour the custard filling into the pie shell. Top with a sprinkling of sea salt.

Bake for 30-40 minutes until the center is set and starting to crack. Cool on rack. When cool, gently pry the pie out of mold.

This pie is best served cold or at room temperature.


Festive!

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Look around you.. Isn't it a beautiful time of the year?! Whichever part of the world you are in, the festive cheer is in and around you. It's impossible to stay sad or grumpy or anything negative for more than a moment at this time...

All you need to do is look up and inevitably, see someone smiling and you reflexively imitate. Who cares about anything else! :)

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So, around this time, I am usually knee deep in baking and completely overwhelmed by all my crazy Holiday cooking and table ideas. But, this year, I decided to travel! So, ahem!

Or... I am just being lazy... haha..

Nevertheless, I have not been storming the kitchen the whole lot and it's getting the much needed R&R after years of abuse ;-)

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I did, however, make this no-bake cheesecake inspired by Holiday flavors and sudden intense need to make cheesecake after an overdose of Penny, Sheldon and the motley crew!

Incidentally, when I was browsing about, I found out that the Cheesecake Factory in Vegas is one of the highest rated ones of the chain. Also, confession time, I have never eaten in any of the locations, even though Vegas is one of my favorite weekend getaway destinations! No, I don't gamble but there are tons of other things to do! {I should probably write a post on getting around Vegas without being Casino-ed out, sometime!}

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Anyway, back to my

Pumpkin and Pecan Cheesecake

. There! I have given away the punch line! :) Perhaps, I am bit late in joining the pumpkin bandwagon but after having made this, this and this, I was waiting for a new twist before I put up something here.

So, here you go - a fluffy, light cheesecake made with Mascarpone with an Oreo crust and spiced pumpkin and vanilla pecan cheesecake layers!

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This is also my entry into two awesome themed blogger events going on this month!

Meeta

's Monthly Mingle hosted by

Simone

this month and

Simone's PhotoChallenge

!

Pumpkin and Pecan No-Bake Cheesecake

(makes one 8 inch cake)

For the crust

10 Oreo cookies, sans cream

3 T butter, melted

For the pumpkin layer

10 oz unsweetened pumpkin puree (fresh or canned)

8 oz mascarpone cheese, room temperature

1/4 cup heavy cream, boiling

1/4 cup sugar

1 envelope gelatin

1 tsp nutmeg

3 T Disaronno or other Amaretto

1 tsp almond extract

For the Pecan Layer

1/4 cup pecans, toasted and crushed

8 oz mascarpone cheese, room temperature

1/3 cup cold heavy cream

4 T milk

1/2 envelope gelatin

1/4 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla bean paste

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To make the crust, process the oreos until fine. Add the melted butter and process again until they start clumping together. Press the mixture evenly onto the base of a 8 inch spring form pan. Refrigerate for 20 or so minutes for the crust to firm up.

Meanwhile, start with the pumpkin layer. Whisk together the puree, mascarpone and nutmeg. In a bowl, mix the gelatin and sugar and pour boiling cream and quickly dissolve the gelatin. Pour the gelatin mixture into the pumpkin bowl and mix thoroughly. Fold in the liquer and extract.

Pour the pumpkin cheese mixture into the pan and smooth the top. Freeze for 30 minutes or refrigerate for atleast an hour, to allow the gelatin to set sufficiently to make the next layer.

For the pecan layer, I find the easiest way to crush pecans is fold them in foil and beat them with a rolling pin. Also great for the angst! ;-)

Beat together the cheese, vanilla paste and two tablespoons of milk to loosen and fluff up the cheese. Prepare the gelatin mixture same as before with the remaining milk. Add this into the cheese mixture and whip to spread the gelatin evenly. Set aside. Whip up the cream into stiff peaks and gently fold into the cheese mixture. Fold in pecans.

Pour this layer on top of the setting pumpkin layer. Cover with wrap and refrigerate for atleast 3 more hours before decorating as desired, un-molding and serving.

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