Pumpkin: So Poor and Yet So Rich
Among vegetables, it’s one of the most nutritious and rich in vitamins, particularly A, and has great detoxifying, diuretic and antioxidant powers. In addition, it’s very versatile, since it can be the main ingredient of soups, stews, desserts and an endless number of recipes. At the same time, pumpkins have very few calories and are among the most economical foods.
Pumpkins,known as calabaza, auyama or zapallo in Latin America, have been known throughout the Americas and Europe for many centuries. Apparently, the first British explorers to land on the coast of North America were amazed by the great variety of gourds grown by the natives. And although pumpkins are members of the zucchini family (which Europeans already knew), apparently the different varieties of squashes native to this side of the Atlantic had never been seen in the Old Continent until they were sent over from American soil.
Pumpkins belong to the Cucurbitaceae family, which also includes cantaloupe, cucumber and balsam pear or bitter melon.
When you buy pumpkins, always choose those with clean skin, free of blotches, and avoid those that are too soft and ripe, since they rot quickly. Pick the heaviest in relation to their size, since they offer a larger eatable section. The best way to preserve them is to keep them in the refrigerator or in a cool place.
Whencut and cooked, they must be eaten within one or two days. Figure that, on average, 1 lb of pumpkin, with the peel removed, cut and cooked, yields two cups.
As a rule of thumb, figure about 8 ounces per person.
The rounder and flatter ones are best for desserts, such as the classic pumpkin pie, while the longer ones are perfect to eat plain or as a side dish to meat, fish or cheese.
Below is a recipe for a delicious cake in which pumpkins are the star:
Special Pumpkin Cake
2 tsp. granulated sugar
2 cups of unsifted flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup of confectioners’ sugar
1 cup of soft butter
4 large eggs
tsp. vanilla extract
tsp. almond extract
2 cups grated pumpkin
1. Butter a round baking pan. Sprinkle it with granulated sugar to cover the inside of the pan.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt.
3. In another large bowl, with an electric hand mixer, whip the confectioners’ sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, while still beating. Add the vanilla and almond extracts.
4. Preheat the over to 350° F.
5. Blending slowly, add the flour mix to the butter and eggs. Continue mixing slowly until the batter is smooth. Now add the grated pumpkin. Spoon the mix into the pan.
6. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out totally dry.
7. Remove the cake from the oven and set aside for 10 minutes over a rack. Then get it out of the pan over the same rack to continue to cool down. Finally, place it on a serving plate and garnish it as you like with more confectioners’ sugar.
Yields about 10 portions