The Heart of the Matter is hosting their 9th HotM event for healthy holiday food, which coincides very nicely with my need to make something special for my daughter, Sophie, this Thanksgiving. She's been vegetarian for nearly two years now and while this year's meal will include the usual suspects for the ominvores in the family, I also want to make sure I have something just for her. She'd be content to load her plate with meatless side dishes, but I think she deserves her own Thanksgiving centerpiece. My plan is to present Sophie with her very own stuffed pumpkin loosely based on the old Vegetarian Epicure recipe for Pumpkin Stuffed With Risotto Doug Edwards.
Last night I did a test run: To begin with I abandoned using arborio rice for the stuffing base altogether, opting instead for a healthier mix of quinoa, millet and brown rice. Instead of sauteing the cubed eggplant in butter I tossed it with a little olive oil and roasted it. I kept to the idea of including kidney beans and roasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds to up the amount of protein (I always worry that she isn't getting enough).
There's a fair amount of prep involved, but all of it can be done a day ahead of time and then assembled right before you stuff the pumpkin. The original recipe did not call for partially cooking the pumpkin ahead of time, but I experimented with that idea because I knew that I'd be putting the stuffed pumpkin in to cook while the turkey was resting-- with at most 30 minutes before everything was ready to serve.
Sophie's Thanksgiving Pumpkin
2 T olive oil
1/2 cup scallions, trimmed and chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup millet
1/2 cup brown rice
1 1/2 to 2 cups vegeatable broth (I cheated and bought low sodium organic vegetable broth)
1 small eggplant, peeled and diced
1 large carrot, scraped or peeled, thickly sliced
1/2 cup cooked kidney beans (canned OK)
1/4 cup roasted pumpkin seeds
handful of roasted sunflower seeds
salt and pepper
1 small to medium pumpkin (about the size of a bowling ball)
For the mixed grain stuffing:
In a large skillet with a tightly fitting lid, heat 1 T of the olive oil and saute the scallions and garlic for 2 minutes. Add the grains and rice and stir to coat with the olive oil. Add 1 1/2 cups of the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 25 - 30 minutes until the liquid is absorbed. If the millet is not yet tender, add the additional broth about 1/4 cup at a time and continue to cook until it is absorbed and the millet is tender.
While the grains are simmering, toss the eggplant with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and spread on a baking sheet. Salt and pepper to taste. Roast in the oven at 400F until tender. While the eggplant is roasting, steam carrots until half tender, just a few min.
Combine the mixed grains with carrots, eggplant, beans and seeds. Check seasonings, adding more salt, pepper as desired.
For the pumpkin:
Cut the top off the pumpkin and set it aside. Scrape out all the seed and pulp and puncture the inside walls of the pumpkin with a fork here and there. Rub the inside with salt and pepper, and then coat the cut edges of both the pumpkin and the lid with a little olive oil. Partially cook it by placing it (and the lid) on a baking sheet and cooking at 350 F for about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside until needed.
Putting it all together:
When you're ready to assemble everything, fill the pumpkin with the grain and vegetable mixture, and replace the lid. Put the pumpkin on pie plate or other shallow dish, and bake at 350 F for about 30 to 40 minutes, or until pumpkin is soft and the stuffing is hot. Serve hot, scooping out generous servings of the filling along with some of the soft pumpkin as well. You can also cut it into wedges, scooping stuffing onto each wedge.