It’s fall, aka pumpkin season! I had so much fun a few years ago when I made the Pumpkin Stuffed with Cosas Ricas, and wanted to reinvent that dish, but with Puerto Rican flavors. Rice and beans are staples in the island, and since beans are often stewed with pieces of pumpkin, I thought of flipping the equation: beans cooked inside a pumpkin. The pumpkin imparts not only a little sweetness, but also adds body to the sauce or caldito. I am not the biggest fan of beans, but E is and I hadn’t made any since we came back from our trip to Seattle. The timing was perfect for putting together this pumpkin stuffed with beans and ham.
Local inspiration at the farmers’ market
Today I was lucky to find a gorgeous pumpkin at the farmers’ market at la Placita Roosevelt. Coming in at six pounds, it was the perfect size to stuff and roast inside my five-quart Dutch oven. This type of pumpkin is called “taína dorada” (golden taína – native Puerto Rican). `Taina Dorada’ is a relatively new variety of pumpkin bred to produce a tastier, smaller fruit.
A few pointers…
If you have a favorite/signature method for preparing habichuelas, by all means stick to that. I am giving the proportions of sofrito and salsa I use for one can of beans. Feel free to substitute with your favorite beans as well. I would love to try this with small white beans in the future. Add extra salt than what you normally use – the pumpkin will absorb it.
The roasting/cooking time will depend on the size and type of pumpkin you are using. Pie and golden pumpkins usually take less time to roast than firmer versions like green skinned calabazas. I cooked the pumpkin shown in the pictures for two and a half hours. The first hour and a half, at 350˚F and then I lowered the temperature to 325˚F. Halfway through the cooking process, I added a small foil tent to keep the pumpkin from over-browning. In the recipe, I suggest baking the pumpkin for two hours.
The recipe can be easily adapted for vegans and vegetarians by just omitting the ham. To get that umami taste that goes so well with the sweeter pumpkin flavor, add a small dash of tamari or liquid aminos to the sofrito mixture.
The stuffed pumpkin would also be wonderful way to give a little Puerto Rican flair to any Thanksgiving spread. To make the presentation/transition from kitchen to table easier, it can be baked in an deep oven-proof ceramic bowl instead of a Dutch oven.