Funny when a recipe backfires. (PUMPKIN SEED DIP)

October 10, 2008


It’s funny when a recipe backfires. Like tonight. It is just so 100% perfect. I cancelled my plans to stay home, chained to the computer. I finally decided to put my food where my mouth is (what?) and start that long awaited, long discussed blog. It was a name for the blog that had kept me from reserving a domain for months. I brainstormed myself into circles upon circles…nothing was seeming fit. I thought of Up Chef Creek in a ‘next name you think of will be IT even if it is ridiculous’ mood and just went with it to keep on track. I thought it was a halfway decent name because in cooking, following a recipe is not the most difficult part…but rescuing a recipe when something goes wrong, now that is where ingenuity and terror and terror-inspired ingenuity step in. Plus, it sounds adventurous (in a steak-house sort of way) and I love to travel, as you will learn.

So, committed to putting this blog up tonight, I thought I could best use my time by also trying out a cute little Thai recipe which would turn one of my cute little farm fresh pumpkins, when filled with a coconutty custard and steamed whole, into a rich and delicious dessert. I’m talking a four-ingredients-plus-water type of recipe. Wasn’t feeling too intimidated.

Everything was working out to a T. I had some creamed coconut, a solid block of pure coconut which can be proportioned with water to make a substitute for coconut milk, coconut cream, or shredded coconut. It is used in Latin American and Southeast Asian cooking and these people can tell you more. Creamed coconut is not to be confused with cream OF coconut which is that weird Coco Lopez stuff folks put in bad piña coladas. This is the good stuff:


The custard (coconut, sugar, eggs) was poured into the hollowed pumpkin and popped into the steamer for the recipe’s suggestion of 30 minutes or until custard is set. Upon later online research, I found a very similar recipe that called for one-hour of cooking time. I’m not blaming, I’m just saying.

There was lots of promise. I had substituted a portion of the sugar for maple crystals, the custard mix tasted delicious, all it had to do was firm up as the pumpkin was steamed. I checked the concoction after 25 of the suggested 30 minutes and the stuff was runny as ever, though the pumpkin was steaming nicely. At 40 minutes, I took the lid of the pumpkin in surprise that is was so hot, and cooked through but those eggs were still runny. Can’t you cook an egg on the sidewalk? I let it go some more and at the 60 minute check point, I guess I manhandled the poor pumpkin a little too much and a side collapsed. Liquid custard was leaking into the bottom steamer, all of my nice ingredients wasting away. I stood there, shocked and amused, eating pieces of (tasty!) broken pumpkin and wondering what to do.


That is the extra-funny part. There I was, without a paddle. Since the pumpkin was so soft, I decided to take the entire mess (see above) and stick it in the food processor. I then scooped the puree into small ramekins and put them back in the steamer for about ten minutes, not sure of what would happen and poof! They rose slightly and the eggs finally cooked through, though the custard still had a bit of a soft baby food texture from all that pureed pumpkin. The coconut and the maple sweetness were a really nice combination!


So welcome to Up Chef Creek. Here is an excellent recipe for a pumpkin seed dip until I perfect this pumpkin coconut madness…

1 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds), toasted
2 large tomatoes, quartered
1/2 onion
1 jalapeno, stem removed
1 tablespoon smoked paprika (pimenton)
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 lemon, juiced
1/4 cup cilantro or parsley
1 pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
1/4 cup oil (olive or canola)
salt and pepper to taste

Place tomatoes, onion and jalapeno on a baking sheet and place under the broiler for 7-10 minutes, watching carefully and turning once until they are collapsed and there is some blackening on the skin.

Pulse toasted pepitas in a food processor for about a minute, then add broiled vegetables (and any juice they have released), smoked paprika, cumin, salt, lemon, cilantro or parsley and red pepper flakes, if using.

Process ingredients until starting to combine and add oil while machine is running.

Check salt and pepper. Season to taste and process the dip once more.

Serve with toasted pitas, chips, veggies, etc.


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