PUMPKINS + MARJORAM

On one chilly afternoon Adam showed up at my work, on his bike, out of breath, and carrying two huge black garbage bags. He had just come from Jean Talon, where the guys at Shamrock were about to throw away their entire (enormous) seasonal pumpkin display.

Being ever resourceful, Adam leaped on the chance to take home 150 lbs of pumpkin for free, and he started carting over pumpkins, garbage bag by garbage bag, leaving them at Le Pick Up. Anything you could imagine — twisting green gourds, gigantic vermilion pumpkins, yellow squash the size of basketballs, tiny decorative squash with spots, medium-sized pumpkins covered in warts — Adam brought it home. I made cakes and pies with those pumpkins for weeks — and Le Pick Up made a mean curried pumpkin soup with the loot, too — but my favorite  pumpkin-themed dish thus far has been our marjoram-pumpkin risotto.

I had just eaten a transcendental butternut squash risotto topped with tiny scallops at Le Latini and was eager to replicate the dish. I think ours was much better. I stirred arborio rice with butter, olive oil, white wine, chopped garlic and shallots, lemon zest, a few leaves of bay, and some chicken stock, stirring periodically and adding more broth when it got dry. We added at least three tablespoons of minced fresh marjoram. The smell is magnificent, full of pine and resin and citrus — so powerful, herbaceous, and unique, and a wonderful pair for our mellow pumpkin, which we roasted in small cubes and added to the risotto halfway through. The pumpkin melted into the rice, forming a beautiful, creamy sauce.

We ate this alongside a bowl of sauteed mushrooms and plate of chopped sauteed beet greens, blanched quickly then fried with garlic and chili oil. Finished with  wedges of thick brown bread, smears of salted butter, and tangy ‘Grey Owl’ goat cheese covered in ashes, it was one of the best vegetarian meals I’ve had all fall.

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