Sunday, October 26, 2008

music for carving yr pumpkin

beware! of witchcraft!

Halloween postcard from the NYPL digital image gallery.

Sharpen your knives and carve your pumpkin to songs about werewolves, black cats and morbid thoughts. Don't throw away the pumpkin seeds because you'll need them for the recipe that follows.

Halloween A-side
Lou Reed, "Halloween Parade" (from New York)
Siouxsie and the Banshees, "Halloween" (John Peel Session Oct. 2, 1981) (from Voices On The Air: The Peel Sessions)
Talking Heads, "Psycho Killer" (from Talking Heads: 77)
Jarvis Cocker, "Black Magic" (from Jarvis)
The Cramps, "I Was A Teenage Werewolf" (from Songs The Lord Taught Us)
The Fall, "City Hobgoblins" (from Grotesque (After The Gramme))
The Monochrome Set, "Silicon Carne" (from Black And White Minstrels)
The Shaggs, "It's Halloween" (from Philosophy of the World)
Tyrannosaurus Rex, "Cat Black (The Wizard's Hat)" (from Unicorn)
Devendra Banhart, "Pumpkin Seeds" (from Oh Me Oh My . . .)
Serge Gainsbourg, "Bloody Jack" (from A Gainsbarre A Gainsbourg Volume 4: Initials B.B. - 1966-1968)
Marianne Faithful, "Witches' Song" (from Broken English)

Halloween B-side
Scott Walker, "Funeral Tango" (from Scott 3)
Joey Heatherton, "My Blood Runs Cold" (from Joey Heatherton)
The New York Dolls, "Frankenstein" (from New York Dolls)
Os Mutantes, "Ave, Lucifer" (from A Divina Comedia ou ando meio desligado)
The Smiths, "Cemetry Gates" (from The Queen Is Dead)
Patty Waters, "Moon, Don't Come Up Tonight" (from Sings)
Inflatable Boy Clams, "Skeletons" (from Inflatable Boy Clams)
Wolf Parade, "Same Ghost Every Night" (from Apologies to the Queen Mary)
Beck, "Scarecrow" (from Guero)
Pulp, "Being Followed Home" (from Freaks)
The Rolling Stones, "The Lantern" (from Their Satanic Majesties Request)
Nick Cave, "Death Is Not the End" (from Murder Ballads)

pumpkin for dinner

I wanted to make vegetarian pastries with pumpkin and cheese and herbs, and instead of using frozen filo dough I went to get the good stuff:

Poseidon Bakery

Poseidon Bakery, 629 Ninth Ave. (between 44th and 45th).

Fresh filo dough from Poseidon Bakery, the only place I know of in Manhattan that makes it. (Surely there are alternatives in Astoria; speak up in the comments if you have a favorite). I'm not really discerning about filo dough in terms of being able to taste the difference between fresh vs. good quality frozen, but I liked not having to wait a day or two to defrost it, and the fresh dough seemed a little easier to work with. I also liked the snack I got to fortify myself for pumpkin-carving.

The recipe below calls for roasted pumpkin, and I have a few words of advice.

roasted pumpkin

Cooking a whole pumpkin is labor-intensive! You've got to cut it into manageable pieces with your biggest, sharpest knife; you've got to scrape away all the stringy innards (and you must be rutheless about this because otherwise they'll make the whole thing watery); you've got to comb out the seeds with your fingers and wash away more of the cold, stringy innards clinging to them; then you've got to pare off the skin from the manageable pieces and cut those into bite-sized pieces. It's not mentally-challenging work, obviously, but you will want a drink when you finally finish, or maybe before then. If you want to try this recipe but don't have time for rasslin' a pumpkin, I suggest using 1 can of pumpkin purée (not the kind described as "pumpkin pie filling") and mixing it with the cheese and egg mixture (see below). I would add an additional beaten egg to keep it from getting too runny in the oven. I am not a fan of food than comes in cans but I have used organic, unseasoned pumpkin purée in soup and other things and I think it would be fine here. Of course you could also roast the pumpkin a day or two ahead of time and refrigerate it until you are ready to proceed with the rest of the recipe.

roasted pumpkin seeds

I used a small pumpkin of the "Sugar Pie" variety. I wanted to use the seeds in a salad so I roasted them along with the pumpkin. (Cook them in a separate pan, of course; mix them with a bit of olive oil, flaky sea salt, and some fresh ground black pepper and check on them after 20 minutes).

Lots of cultures make something similar to these pastries. A quick scan through my recipe collection and favorite cookbooks led me to Greek, Turkish and Serbian recipes involving filo dough and cheese and/or pumpkin. They're all quite similar and once you look at a few you'll have the basic idea and won't need to keep going back to the instructions while you're cooking.

philo pie with pumpkin, feta cheese, and sage
My apologies for over-sharpening the photo and making those grey patches appear. Will try to fix later.

Pumpkin pastry with sage. Try not to knock these about when you're getting them from pan to plate or you'll end up with little rips and tears like I did.

filo pie innards
Pumpkin pastry, interior view.

we're having pumpkin for dinner
4 servings

1 small- to medium-sized pumpkin or squash of a variety suitable for eating (my pumpkin was just over 4 pounds/a little less than 2 kilos)
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus an additional tablespoon or two if roasting pumpkin seeds (see comments above)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 small habanero pepper (or any other orange or red chile pepper), finely minced*
1 egg, beaten well
7 ounces feta cheese, the best quality you can find (I used a creamy French feta made with sheeps' milk)
1/2 package filo dough, defrosted if frozen, cut into rectangles approximately 11" by 15"
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 heaping teaspoon whole black peppercorns
12 whole sage leaves
1 egg white, beaten with 1 teaspoon cold water until smooth

Heat the oven to 375° F.

Cut the pumpkin into 3 or 4 manageable wedges and scrape away every last bit of the stringy innards. Whether or not you intend to roast the seeds, the tidiest way to do this is to scrape the stringy mess out onto a large square of wax paper. (If you want the seeds you then have a work surface to separate them on, and if you don't want the seeds, you nonetheless have a relatively clean kitchen). Pare the skin away from the remaining pumpkin flesh and cut the pumpkin into bite-sized cubes.

Toss the cubed pumpkin with olive oil until it is lightly but thoroughly coated, season it with salt and pepper, and roast it until it is tender when pierced with a fork (approximately 35 minutes). If your baking sheet is not large enough to roast the pumpkin in a single layer, use 2 so that it cooks evenly. When the pumpkin is done, mix it with the minced chile pepper and set it aside. Leave the oven on.

Crumble the feta cheese into the beaten egg, season it with pepper, and stir vigorously with a fork until the mixture is fluffy.

Put the butter, coriander and peppercorns in a small saucepan and cook over low heat just until the butter is melted. Stir the mixture to integrate the spices.

Now you've got to work quickly to prevent the filo dough from drying out: Arrange the dough in front of you with the longer sides on your left and right (i.e., as if it was a sheet of letter paper you were going to write on). Using a pastry brush, evenly brush the top layer with some of the melted butter and neatly place 4 sage leaves about 1/3 of the way up from the bottom edge. (The peppercorns are only for flavoring the butter; make sure none of them end up on the filo dough). Spoon out about 1 cup of the cubed, roasted pumpkin between you and the sage leaves, top it with a layer of the feta-egg mixture, and quickly roll it up into a tidy, rectangle-shaped pie. (This is not as tricky as it might sound: Keep the sage leaves, pumpkin, and cheese mixture at least 1 1/2" from the edges of the dough, gently fold 2 layers of the dough over the left and right sides, roll up the rest as if was a big cigar, and put the finished pastry on a baking sheet with the seam-side down). Repeat the process with the remaining ingredients until you have 4 pastries. Lightly brush the pastries with the egg white and water mixture and bake approximately 25 minutes, or until they are crisp and golden brown.

* You could use a generous pinch of cayenne pepper instead, or a couple teaspoons of harissa if you happen to have some.

watercress with tahini dressing and pumpkin seeds; roasted golden cauliflower with sumac

On the side we had a simple salad of watercress with tahini dressing and roasted pumpkin seeds, and roasted golden cauliflower sprinkled with sumac. To make the dressing, whisk together 3 tablespoons of tahini and the juice of 1 lemon. Add a pinch of fine sea salt, 1/2 a clove of finely-minced garlic, and a teaspoon or two each of olive oil and cold water and whisk some more until it's thoroughly blended. If it's still too thick, add a little more cold water until it is thin enough to drizzle over your salad.

before the knives came out Related posts: 2006 was a good year for pumpkin-carving.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

fundraiser! tomorrow night! for Obama!

What's that Barack? You want to discuss my law review article? Ok I suppose we could.

Photo from Barack Obama's Flickr photostream.

Tomorrow night there's a Grill-o-Rama for Obama on a rooftop on the lower East side of Manhattan and I really think you should be there. The idea is you bring something, we grill it. Also, we all throw some money in a pile and send it to the campaign. I am working on an Indonesian satay of tempeh, marinated in a Kenyan fashion, and served with Chicago-style (sort of!) pickled vegetables, so don't worry that your vegetarian friend won't have anything to munch on. The event is being hosted by a friend of a friend, in collaboration with East Village for Obama and NYC4Obama. You can get the details and RSVP here. If you can't make it, please consider contributing some money to our pile on that same RSVP page.