Thursday, November 3, 2011

Pumpkin & Pomegranate Wild Rice

Growing up, I only ate pumpkin in my mom's pies at Thanksgiving but never enjoyed it in any savory context. Pumpkin is such a fall time treat, I find it's a waste to reserve exclusively for pies, so I try to use it throughout the season in a variety of ways, both savory and sweet. It's interchangeable with more common winter squashes, such as butternut or acorn.  However, don't make the mistake of roasting a carving pumpkin. Look for ones labeled "sugar pumpkins" or "pie pumpkins" which are smaller and suitable for roasting. They are buttery and smooth, unlike their carving counterparts, and can usually be found at farmer's markets and grocery stores during the fall and winter months. Look for pumpkins that seem heavy for their size and free of large blemishes or soft spots. Finding ones with longer stems is a good indication of freshness.

I made up this recipe because I love the combination of roasted pumpkin (or any squash for that matter) and pomegranate seeds. I'm always trying to think up new ways to use the strikingly vibrant and extremely flavorful seeds. They bring lightness to the wonderfully rich rice and, simply put, make eating fun! Pomegranate seeds keep well in the refrigerator (for nearly 2 months) so I like to have them on hand to throw in salads, granola, soups etc. They ripen in mid to late autumn and are available throughout the winter months. Look for pomegranates that seem heavy for their size, brightly colored, and relatively blemish free.



For rice:
2 cups wild rice (I used Lundberg's wild rice blend)
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
4 tbsp. butter
1 tsp. salt
1/3 cup pomegranate seeds 

In a covered, medium sized pot, bring the rice, stock, butter and salt to a boil and stir once. Reduce heat, keep covered and simmer for 50 minutes or until all of the stock has been absorbed. Turn off the heat and let the rice rest covered for 10 minutes. Remove lid and fluff with a fork.

Note: There are many varieties of wild rice to choose from and each can vary in cooking time. Refer to the directions on your particular brand of rice for the suggested cooking method and time. Regardless of the type, replace the water called for in the directions for stock and add the butter and salt.

For pumpkin & shallots:
1 sugar or pie pumpkin (about 4 lbs.), seeded, peeled, and cut into 1-inch cubes
3 medium sized shallots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices
4 tbsp. olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste

While the rice is cooking, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the pumpkin and shallots on a parchment or foil lined sheet pan. Drizzle with the olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Toss well, seeing that everything is coated in oil (clean hands work best). Cook for 45 minutes (depending on the size of your pumpkin), or until the pumpkin is slightly browned around the edges and easily pierced with a fork.

In a large bowl, toss the pumpkin, shallots, rice and pomegranate seeds. Taste to adjust seasonings, adding salt and pepper if needed. Serve warm.

  • To roast the pumpkin, remove the stem and bottom and cut the pumpkin it in half (from top to bottom) using a clever or large chef's knife. Scoop out the seeds (save them for roasting and snacking later!) and flesh using an ice cream scoop or large spoon. Cut the pumpkin into 1-inch slices, lay each slice on its side, and using your chef's knife, cut off the skin. Cut each slice into 1-inch cubes and proceed with roasting.
  • The easiest way I know how to de-seed a pomegranate is by cutting off the top and bottom (as you would an onion) and then score the outer skin. Peel off the skin in a large bowl of water and remove the seeds using your fingers. The skin and fleshy bits will float to the top and the seeds will sink to the bottom. Skim off the water and discard the skin and peel. Strain seeds through a fine mesh strainer or colander and turn out onto a paper towel lined plate to dry. Once dry, place in a well sealed plastic container, and store in the refrigerator. 
  • If you're looking to save time, you can always make the rice the night before, and have it ready to reheat when the pumpkin and onions are done roasting.

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