Thursday, January 15, 2009

Veggie Might: Pumpkin Orzo with Sage ... Chasing the Pumpkin

Penned by the effervescent Leigh, Veggie Might is a weekly Thursday column about the wide world of Vegetarianism.

Sometimes a recipe falls through the cracks and doesn’t get written about right away even though it’s so good I can’t stop thinking about it. Sometimes a recipe is like crack, and once it’s made, it demands to be made again and again. This is both of those recipes.

Pumpkin was one of the few vegetables I managed to freeze from my CSA. I had more of it than I could use, but I didn’t really know what to do with it. When L, the farmer, recommended pairing it with sage, I had no idea that was a common way to serve it. Pumpkin was pretty much found in pie or nowhere growing up at my house.

I poked around the interwebs for a pumpkin-sage recipe, and everything jumped out at me. Unfortunately most of the recipes were so heavy, or drowning in cream and butter, that I gained five pounds in contemplation.

I decided to wing it and make a mostly vegan lasagna with the pumpkin-sage combo. Oh dear. If only I’d followed even part of a recipe or at least taken a photo of the disaster. It was one for the Hall of Shame. There was no sauce to speak of which caused the noodles edges to come out crunchy. The pumpkin puree filling, however, was perfect.

Keeping the part that worked, I switched the pasta to orzo (I have no patience for sweating over a pot of risotto.) and experimented with a rice milk broth to add creaminess without adding a ton of fat. Eureka! A pinch of this, a splash of that: it was just what I tasted in my mind.

This little pot of joy was embarrassingly simple. Especially after I’d toiled so over my failed lasagna. That pan of orange, leathery straps was redeemed by fluffy, sweet-and-savory taste of heaven.

Now that the kinks have been worked out, the variations I have planned for the puree are endless. Any pasta or base grain will work. Oh! I just nearly passed out imagining this with quinoa. I think leafy greens would compliment the pumpkin nicely: a Swiss chard or spinach wilted in the broth stage could add another layer of complexity and give more nutritional punch.

Nothing this easy should taste this amazing. I shed happy tears with every bite. Then I called several people to brag. My doggie even did a little dance. I can’t believe it took me so long to tell you about it. Maybe you should give me your phone numbers.

Pumpkin Orzo with Sage
Serves 4

8 oz orzo
3 c vegetable stock
3 c water

1 1/2 cup pumpkin puree (or squash of your choice)
1 1/4 cup vegetable stock
1/2 cup rice milk
30 sage leaves, cut into ribbons
1 shallot
1 tbsp vegan nonhydrogenated margarine
3/4 tsp salt
20 grinds fresh black pepper
3 tbsp Parmesan cheese (optional, but oh so good)

Pumpkin Puree
1) If you’re starting with a fresh pumpkin or squash, slice in half (lengthwise for butternut and its ilk) and place cut side down on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Bake at 350º for 30 minutes or until tender. Allow to cool and scoop out with a spoon. Puree in a food processor until smooth.

The Sauce
2) Sauté shallots and sage in margarine for 5 minutes over medium heat. Add 3/4 cup of broth and 1/2 cup of rice milk. Allow to simmer for 5 minutes or so.

Meanwhile…The Orzo
3) In a large saucepan, bring 3 cups of broth and 3 cups of water to boil over high heat. Add orzo. Return to a boil and cook for 9 minutes or until pasta is al dente. Drain and set aside.

Back to the sauce...
4) Add pumpkin puree to simmering broth and stir well. Add salt, pepper, and remaining 3/4 cup of broth. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 more minutes on medium low.

5) Stir in Parmesan cheese (if you so choose).

6) Toss over orzo and serve hot.

7) Melt with delight.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price per Serving:
290 calories, 1.7g fat, $.73
(With parmesan: 305.6 calories, 5.2g fat, $1.01)

8 oz orzo: 840 calories, 4g fat, $.50
3 c vegetable stock: 36 calories, 0g fat, $.39
1 1/2 cup pumpkin puree (or squash of your choice): 73.5 calories, 0g fat, .93
1 1/4 cup vegetable stock: 15 calories, 0g fat, $.16
1/2 cup rice milk: 45 calories, 1.75g fat, $.20
30 sage leaves: 10 calories, 0g fat, $.40
1 shallot: 40 calories, 0g fat, $.20
1 tbsp vegan butter: 100 cal, 11 fat, $.12
3/4 tsp: salt negligible calories and fat, $.02
20 grinds fresh black pepper: salt negligible calories and fat, $.02
(3 tbsp parmesan cheese: 63 calories, 4.2g fat, $1.11)
Totals: 1159.5 calories, 16.8g fat, $29.4 (1222.5 calories, 21g fat, $4.05)
Per Serving: 290 calories, 1.7g fat, $.73 (305.6 calories, 5.2g fat, $1.01)


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