My friend Isabel throws the best parties. She hosted an Iron Chef party, and challenged us all to bring a dish that used pumpkin pie spice. This was my answer to that challenge: a sugar pie pumpkin, stuffed with a fragrant coconut rice pilaf and baked until tender. It sliced easily into wedges, yet fell apart with the touch of a fork. This is a real autumn showstopper, equally impressive as a vegan main course or a fancy side dish. —ieatthepeach
4 as a main course, 6-8 as a side dish
sugar pie pumpkin (about 3 lb)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
olive oil or coconut oil
medium shallot, diced
medium leek, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
Preheat the oven to 350º F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Use a sharp knife to cut a wide hole around the stem of the pumpkin, as if you were making a jack-o-lantern. Scoop out the seeds and stringy insides from the pumpkin, leaving a clean hollow space (save the seeds for roasting!). Season the hollow with salt and pepper, and place the pumpkin cut-side up on the baking sheet. Set aside.
In a large saucepan or small stockpot, heat oil over medium heat. Add the shallot, leek, carrot, and a pinch of salt, and sweat for about 5 minutes, or until the shallot and leek are translucent. Add cinnamon and cardamom and cook, stirring frequently, for 1-2 minutes, or until the spices are fragrant. Add rice, and stir just until all the grains are coated with oil. Add coconut milk, broth or water, and a large pinch of salt, stirring to combine. Bring to a boil, turn the heat to low, cover, and cook for 30-35 minutes, or until the rice is moist and slightly undercooked. If the rice starts to dry out before it’s ready, add another splash of broth or water.
While the rice is cooking, roughly chop the nuts and combine in a small skillet. Place the skillet over medium-low heat and toast the nuts, stirring frequently, for 3-4 minutes, or until they are fragrant. Remove the nuts from the heat and set aside.
Stir the toasted chopped nuts and the candied ginger into the rice. Taste and adjust the salt as needed. Transfer the rice to the hollowed-out pumpkin. Place the stem “lid” back on the pumpkin, and brush the outside of the pumpkin all over with a thin layer of vegetable oil. Bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the pumpkin is tender but not mushy. In the last 20 minutes or so of baking, remove the “lid” and place it on the baking sheet beside the pumpkin. To test for doneness, poke a thin-bladed knife into the side of the pumpkin–it should meet little to no resistance going in.
Remove the pumpkin from the oven and let it sit for about 10 minutes before serving. Use a serrated knife to cut the pumpkin into quarters or wedges, and serve warm. Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days, and reheated in a 350º F oven.