Pumpkin Baked With Rice, Nuts, and Fruits

Now that Halloween is over, we need to do something with all the pumpkins we carved, like cook rice in them… okay just kidding! Kidding about cooking the carved pumpkin, but serious about cooking rice in one! Rice, packed with dry fruit and nuts, and baked in a pumpkin, is a star dish! I always knew it as a traditional Armenian dish called “Ghapama”, but many countries also have some variation of it. I say, it is delicious and pairs beautifully with savory Thanksgiving turkey! So if you are thinking of spicing up (or more like, sweetening up) your Thanksgiving table, definitely consider this dish.  Here’s my disclaimer. When it comes to holiday dinners, presentation is huge! But at the same time, to save myself energy for fun family moments, I definitely prefer easy and proven recipes. The presentation is super fun and everyone gets very excited to try it. And while the recipe is medium difficulty in my opinion (the good news is that my bar is quite low!), there are ways to simplify it.  A few housekeeping matters: First, active preparation time is under 1 hour, and inactive baking time is 2.5 – 3 hours, so plan accordingly.  Second, I found that sugar pumpkin is the best one to bake in and it’s more compact. Now, not all pumpkins are created equal, and their weight size may not necessarily be an indicator how much rice will fit inside its cavity. So after I scrape the seeds (see below), I put a plastic bag inside the pumpkin cavity and fill it in with uncooked rice halfway. Then I pour the rice into a measuring cup.  Third, 1/4 cup of uncooked rice equals 1 serving. So now, without further ado, here’s the recipe. The Ingredients: 1 sugar pumpkin (pumpkin I used is about 5 lb) 1 cup rice. (4 servings).  Again, pumpkins don’t come with the standard cavity size, so make sure to check how much how much rice will fit inside it.  3tbs butter, melted 1/4 cup dry fruits, chopped (cherries, plums, apricots, fig, or any you like) 1/4 cup raisins 1/3 cup chopped nuts (walnuts, almonds, pecans, or any you like) 1 tbs pumpkin seeds 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon 1/4 salt 1 tbs honey 1/4 cup water  Directions: Heat oven 325 F degrees. While rice is cooking, wash and pat dry the pumpkin, and cut off the top (don’t discard, you will be using it as a lid). Scrape out the seeds and rinse inside the pumpkin. drain excess liquid. Now, if you are not sure how much rice can fit in the pumpkin, this is the time to measure it (as described above). In a pan, bring 2 cups of water to a boil (or, depending on amount of rice you use, just double the amount of water). Add rice then cover the pot and reduce heat to low. Cook rice for 15 minutes, it should not be fully cooked. Drain excess liquid and transfer rice into a large bowl. While rice is cooking, chop the dry fruit and nuts. Add dried fruit, nuts, salt, cinnamon, melted butter, and honey to the bowl with rice. Stuff filling into pumpkin (loosely!), pour 1/4 cup hot water over the rice. Cover the stuffed pumpkin with the pumpkin top as a lid, and move to a baking sheet. Bake at 325F for about 2.5 hours or until soft. To serve, slice the pumpkin into 1 inch wedges and gently fluff rice with a fork.

Roasted Cherry Tomato Garnish

Hello my dearests, I am finally starting the Food page which I am sure will be one of my favorites. We spend time in our kitchen a lot. We cook and bake here, eat and drink wine here, and hosts our friends here, so it, by all means, is a happy place! As this blog is about simplifying my life, starting from decluttering my brain to leave room for experiencing the amazing flavors of life. And food, being one of the greatest pleasures of life, cannot escape this blog! My food philosophy is simple. Eat whole foods, use very few ingredients, and always add a dash of salt and pepper. And always remember, simple foods and simple recipes equal amazing flavors!!  So let me tie my hair back, and here’s a super easy and delicious roasted cherry tomato garnish recipe.  Here’s what you need: 10oz cherry tomatoes, preferably organic, since they are more flavorful. 2 tbs Avocado oil (lately I’ve been using it for cooking instead of olive oil since it withstands high heat better) Salt and Pepper to taste (and if you want, a dash of hot pepper flakes) Preheat oven to 450F, wash, pat dry, and put tomatoes on a baking sheet, add salt, pepper, and hot pepper flakes if you want, drizzle avocado oil, shake the sheet to coat the tomatoes. Bake for about 20 minutes.  You can serve it on any dish, from eggs to burrata (recipe coming soon) to pasta, to any rice or veggie dish.