It’s pumpkin season, and this pleases everybody. For the kids, the bulbous orange squashes ignite dreams of dressing up, ringing doorbells and filling sacks with candy. Teenagers and 20-somethings party. Adults with li’l ‘uns look forward to joining them on their neighborhood odysseys, and the rest of us revel in the season — few things shout “fall” like pumpkins.
Pumpkins thrill cooks, too. We grow a wide variety of pumpkins at Black Cat Farm, and savor them all for their different uses. But the fist-sized variety, called Jack Be Little, holds a special place in our hearts.
We hollow them out, stuff them, send them to ovens for roasting and nest them on plates. The Jack Be Littles spark a lot of pleasure in our dining rooms, and since the hospitality gene occupies a large part of our souls, this naturally delivers a lot of joy to everybody at Black Cat.
We sell them at the farmers’ market, too, including this weekend. The Jack Be Littles are wonderful for home entertaining. And turning them into gorgeous serving vessels for guests is easy.
“Working with them adds zero, in terms of culinary complexity. But the wow factor for diners is like times 20,” said Eric.
Lucky for you, we have a slam-dunk recipe for small squash, from our cookbook Farm Fork Food: A Year of Spectacular Recipes Inspired by Black Cat Farm. We use Jack Be Littles, but there are others. One caution: Don’t use the small pumpkins you find in craft stores and meant for decorating. Make sure the pumpkins are culinary, rather than decorative.
Stuffed Jack Be Little Squash with Ratatouille and Taleggio
Serves 6 to 8
2 cups diced summer squash
2 cups peeled and diced eggplant
2 cups diced red peppers
3 cups diced tomatoes
2 medium onions, diced
1/2 cup minced garlic
1 large fennel bulb, diced
1/4 cup olive oil
2 bay leaves
1 sprig fresh rosemary
6 sprigs fresh thyme
1/4 cup chopped basil, plus 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
12 small pumpkins, such as Jack Be Littles. Or 12 small summer squash, such as Eight Ball or Ronde de Nice.
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
1/4 cup taleggio cheese, cut into thin slices
1/4 cup basil coulis
Makes 1/2 cup
1 cup fresh basil
1/2 cup fresh parsley
2 ice cubes
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
lemon juice to taste
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Working in batches, in a large sauté pan over high heat, sauté the diced squash, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, onions, garlic and fennel in the olive oil until lightly browned. Transfer to a baking dish, add the bay leaves and rosemary, adn bake until a crust forms on top, about 1 hour. Stir the vegetables, mixing in the crust, and bake 30 minutes more. Remove from the oven and stir in the thyme and chopped basil. Set aside.
Cut the tops off the squashes. Using a spoon or melon baller, hollow out the centers of each squash. Place the hollowed squashes and tops in a medium bowl, dress with the sunflower oil and toss well to coat. Season with salt.
Spread out the squash on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake in the oven until just tender, about 6 minutes.
Fill the squash cups with the ratatouille. Top with the Taleggio and return to the oven until the cheese has melted, about five minutes more.
Divide the squash among warmed plates. Garnish with the basil leaves and basil coulis. Serve immediately.
In a blnder, combine the herbs, ice and both oils. Blend on high speed until very smooth. Transfer to a small bowl. Season with the salt and lemon juice and use immediately.
We now are serving a variation of the above dish at Black Cat, with one of the differences a tomato puree rather than a basil coulis. Behold, the dish itself paired with two fabulous choices, thanks to our wine director Drew Duggan. The 2016 Brouilly (which is a Cru appellation for Beaujolais) by G. Descombes is one of the selections in our wine flights that we pair with our tasting menu. Drew says the combination of fruit (berries, especially raspberries), mineral flavors, floral notes and refreshing acidity makes it an ideal match for the ratatouille. Bonus to G. Descombes for being certified organic. The other bottle comes from the AOC Vosne-Romanée, one of the most celebrated names in Burgundy. The AOC has 15 Premier Crus and six Grand Crus, including Romanée-Conti, which is one of the most sought-after Burgundy wines in the world — bottles can sell for $20,000 and more. We aren’t pouring Romanée-Conti. But this village-level Vosne-Romanée is stunning, says Drew, offering the full “peacock’s tail” — a broad range of flavors, including cocoa, floral, mineral and more. If the Beaujolais, made from the gamay grape, is more fruity, the Burgundy, from pinot noir, is earthy and gamey.
We hope to see you at the Farmers’ Market in downtown Boulder on Saturday. At the farm stand, we will be offering:
- Lettuce Varieties
- Purple tat soi
- Ruby streak mizuna
- Osaka purple
- Pak Choi
- Hon tsai tai
- Sweet Potatoes
- Squash: Butternut, Spaghetti, Acorn, Delicata, Jack-Be-Little, Tromboncino
- Pork cuts