Vegan Stuffed Pumpkin
A Vegan Stuffed Pumpkin gives everyone an impressive dish to serve at a Thanksgiving dinner.
It’s the last week of October. Most of us are in full Halloween mode (as far as holidays go, at any rate) or wrapped up in the World Series (Is this the year the Cubs finally win, after more than a century?) or cheering football. But some of us are looking ahead to Thanksgiving.
Especially those facing a challenge at the table.
Thanksgiving is about abundance, about the fruits of the earth, about people coming together to acknowledge the miracle that plentiful food really is.Which makes it particularly hard to plan a meal that suddenly does not include old favorites. Thanksgiving without Grandma’s Stuffing, or Mom’s dinner rolls? But, gluten… Without pumpkin pie? But, dairy and eggs… Without…
Without a turkey?
Well, sure. First of all, this is a harvest festival, not a hunting festival – no matter how traditional it has become, the logic doesn’t actually require meat. And I’ve been at Thanksgiving dinners where a vegetarian or vegan simply feasted on side dishes and ignored the meat and gravy their families were eating. (Most Thanksgiving tables certainly have enough “side dishes” to make a meal. Most of them are already vegetarian, or could be easily, and could be vegan with perhaps a minor tweak.)
But, if you’re the vegan host – I mean, I’m sure you have many party dishes. But isn’t something supposed to be on that platter you impressively carry in and set in the middle of the table? That Pièce de Résistance, as my mother’s cookbooks called it?
First of all, there’s no reason on earth that you can’t serve a platter of adorable little tarts, or crunchy croquettes, or anything else you want. But I’m rather fond of a stuffed pumpkin when I want an impressive meal at this time of year. As any regular reader knows, I am not vegetarian, but I’ve never seen any reason that every meal needs to feature or even include meat… and even for meat eaters, I’ve had stuffed pumpkin overshadow the meat at parties I’ve given. It was the centerpiece for a milestone birthday celebration some years ago – I don’t even remember what else I served, because no one paid much attention to anything else.
I’ve roasted stuffed pumpkins for years, and probably make it a little differently each time. I always use brown rice – sometimes some wild rice. (I tried a bread stuffing once, and prefer the rice.) I do sometimes add sausage, as I did two years ago in this recipe, but more often not. I almost always add lentils or chickpeas, as they taste delicious with winter squash. I even used a commercial rice mix once, in a pinch… cooking in someone else’s house. Not wonderful but it worked.
I almost always cook the rice as a pilaf – the browning adds flavor that complements the rich sweet pumpkin. In this case, I started with the mirepoix base. I had, and therefore used, fresh celery, carrot and onion, but if you have frozen mirepoix, use a cup of that. Since I made this fresh, I cooked it first, just until it softened and started to brown a little, then removed and reserved it. Skip that step if you use premade.
Then I added the rice to the heated pan, and stirred it to toast it. Keep it over fairly high heat, stirring frequently, until the rice itself starts to brown. Then add two teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice, and a quarter teaspoon of salt. Now, that’s too much spice if you were just eating the pilaf, but remember this will season the pumpkin as well. You can use ginger by itself, too, if you’d rather – if you don’t want to resemble the pie you will serve for dessert, perhaps (though I found enough difference with the other flavors…) Stir that around in the hot pan to release flavor, return the vegetables to the pan (or now add the prepared mirepoix from your freezer) then add water, and cook the rice until done. (About 45 minutes.)
Once the rice is cooked, stir in the walnuts, cooked chickpeas, and cranberries. And if it makes sense for you, do everything up to here the day before, or in the morning, and refrigerate until ready to stuff the pumpkin. The spice will permeate the food, you have less fuss the day of, and we all need dishes like that.
Now – either the next day before roasting, or while the rice is cooking, depending on your own preferred schedule, prepare the pumpkin. (And thank you to Rich my hand model, who did this for me.) Hold your knife at an angle to cut the top, so that it will rest lightly on (and not fall through) the hole you make. Then scrape out all the seeds and pulp. You can do this part an hour or so ahead, but not much longer, or the pumpkin will dry out.
This was a four pound pie pumpkin. (You do know to use a smallish pie pumpkin, not a big mealy jack o’lantern pumpkin? The big ones have little flesh and less flavor.) About two thirds of my rice mixture fit in it. You can pile the rest around it in the baking dish, or bake it in a separate dish to reheat (I’d cover that to keep it moist) or just reserve it for another time. If you have a larger pumpkin, you’ll want all of it. A smaller one, you might halve the rice mixture. (Or perhaps make two pumpkins?) I use whatever pumpkin came from the CSA – you may have more choice about size!
Anyway, fill the pumpkin with the rice mixture, and roast at 400° for 45 minutes to an hour, until the pumpkin is fully cooked.. (Longer if the pumpkin is large and the stuffing is cold to begin with – shorter if the pumpkin is small and the stuffing is still hot.)
This colored very evenly, and looks almost shellacked! Other times, I’ve had the skin char slightly… It is always attractive.
And it always looks impressive.
Serve scooping out spoons full of pumpkin along with the rice. The soft sweet pumpkin blends beautifully with the flavors of spice, fruit, and nuts, for a complex flavor. I’m going to say this serves six, but depending how much else is going on at your table, it may go a lot further…
Another holiday, another idea!
Oh, and… as long as I was making this, I also took a suggestion a reader had made on the earlier recipe. If you want a Halloween, rather than Thanksgiving dish, use a sharp knife to incise a jack o’lantern face on the side, and carefully remove the skin. (Don’t make it elaborate, do leave plenty of skin to keep the pumpkin together.) And then you get this! And serve it at your next Halloween party.
Vegan Stuffed Pumpkin
- 1 rib celery
- 1 small carrot
- 1 small onion
- oil for pan
- 1 c brown rice
- 2 t pumpkin pie spice blend
- 1/4 t salt
- 2 1/2 c water
- 1/2 c roughly chopped or broken walnuts
- 1 c raw cranberries
- 3 c 2 cans cooked chickpeas
- Chop the first three vegetables. Heat oil in pan, and saute them lightly, until they start to brown. Remove and reserve.
- Put rice in the hot pan, and stir. Continue cooking and stirring over medium high heat, until rice toasts lightly.
- Add the spice and salt, and stir. Add the reserved vegetables. Add water, and cook until done, about 45 minutes.
- Prepare the pumpkin - cut a hole in the top, making a lid, and scrape out all the seeds and pulp.
- Fill pumpkin with the stuffing mix.
- Roast at 400 for 45 min - 1 hour, until the pumpkin is fully cooked.