Last week I said that the fried portion of my Vegan Mofo adventure was over. I lied. But only because I found a recipe that I bookmarked nearly three years ago - with a "Try this in October" note. Two Octobers came and went without me trying it. Forgive me this last fried indulgence!
Until I made this meal, I had never bought a sugar pumpkin for food purposes. Every fall, since I first moved out on my own when I was 19 years old, I haven't been able to resist the urge to buy one of the cute round pumpkins that hang around the squash aisle of the market every October. And every year they have been given Table Decoration Status until they've rotted out. It never fails. Every November we end up wandering around the house asking each other, "Do you smell that?" and "Why does it always smell like garbage in this house?" and then a few days later we notice the soggy culprit in the middle of our kitchen table.
Honestly, I don't know where the intimidation came from because I work with squash all the time. Pumpkin is no different from the butternut and acorn and delicata squashes I have become so fond of roasting this time of year.
This year I still couldn't resist the urge to buy a sugar pumpkin. But unlike previous years, I mustered up the courage to actually cook it!
The recipe that I bookmarked years ago is in Vegan with a Vengeance. I can't find a copy of it online, but since it's the archetypal vegan cookbook I'm confident that most of you have it. If you don't, you probably should!
The one noticeable difference between something like a butternut squash and a pumpkin is the exceptionally tough exterior. My chef's knife didn't really do much. I had to grab a knife that was serrated on both sides and then use it to hack the crap out of the pumpkin, much like carving a jack-o-lantern!
The prize for throwing out your shoulder while carving out a pumpkin is the opportunity to roast the seeds! Is there anything more glorious than the smell of roasting pumpkin seeds?
When they get golden brown you pull them out of the oven and let them cool down for a bit. Then into the food processor they go.
Meanwhile, you slice the pumpkin, brush on some oil and toss it into the oven.
I had it in the oven for about an hour before I was dying of starvation and took it out, even though it wasn't as tender as it should have been. The recipe suggests roasting it at 350F but I normally roast my squash at at least 375F, which is what I will do next time.
I think the cranberry relish is considered an option for this recipe but it is not. It is a must. Besides, you have nothing but time while waiting for that pumpkin to roast. It's quite tart, and when I tasted it on its own I wasn't sure if I was feeling it all that much. But combined with the pumpkin and the fried tofu I'm about to show you - amazing!
After you've drained the tofu of as much liquid as possible, you cut it into 2" slabs and prepare your breading station - flour, water and the ground pumpkin seeds mixed with corn starch and oregano, dipping each piece of tofu in each bowl until totally covered in the pumpkin seeds.
They look like this when they are finished frying but the real story is how they smell. Technology has come a long way but sadly it is still something I can't share that via the blog. You'll just have to make them yourself!
This is a pretty labour-intensive and time consuming recipe. It is definitely not a weeknight dinner. But the best meals usually take the most time, don't they? I first saw this recipe three years ago and was too intimidated to try it, especially considering my history of injury-via-frying (for the record, Paul did the frying this time), and I'm disappointed that I didn't take the time out to make it sooner. In fact, I think it's going to become an October tradition in our house.