This recipe takes everyone’s favorite orange gourd to a whole new level. There’s not a pie crust in sight, but pumpkin is definitely the main attraction in this dish. Onions, jalapeno, and garlic replace cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger, the holy pumpkin trinity of spices. I know, your whole world has been turned upside down.
The Pumpkin Challenge has made the average dinner more, well, challenging. Do I make something pumpkin for dinner? Do I cook something else and then feel bad about not using pumpkin? Do I say “F this” and order a pizza? So many options. I was in the mood for something light and different and thought that a heaping bowl of flavorful pumpkin rice fit that bill perfectly.
Having poured over dozens of pumpkin recipes over the past few weeks, I’ve discovered several rice dishes that look rather tasty. I modified a recipe I found on the Weight Watchers website (again, looking for something light. If I could eat pumpkin cheesecake every day, I would). The ‘Island’ aspect of this dish relates to the use of calabaza which is a Spanish pumpkin-like gourd. According to Wikipedia (the most trusted and resourceful site…) calabaza is a “term that can be applied to a variety of gourds and melons grown throughout the world”, which couldn’t be more vague. Really it came down to it’s 9pm, I’m hungry and standing in the produce aisle with a bewildered expression on my face, dreading the chore of peeling and slicing a sugar pumpkin. Then the pre-hacked wedges of calabaza caught my eye. Not only were they packed into perfectly-quartered wedges, but they were even more appropriate for this island-inspired recipe than a plain ol’ little pie pumpkin. Double bonus.
Other than a great deal of chopping, this dish was relatively simple to prepare. While the onions, jalapeno, and garlic (powder…I didn’t realize I was out of the real thing until I got home…ugh) simmered away in a bit of olive oil, I peeled the thick gourd skin and cubed the bright orange flesh into bite size pieces. Once the onions were tender I added the uncooked brown rice and some water to aid the cooking process. Shockingly, some of the simplest tasks baffle me. I notoriously burn both rice and toast. Buttercream, I can handle, but bread and grains in my care rarely end up golden brown or fluffy. It’s a skill that has eluded me over the years. But in this instance, the crunchy bits of burned rustically-charred rice added an exotic feel to the dish. The calabaza steams in the lidded pot while the rice finishes cooking and ten minutes later — it was ready! I was skeptical that the calabaza would be cooked all the way through and worried that my first bite would leave me with a hard chunk of gourd. But it was lusciously creamy and fork-tender — more like sweet potato than pumpkin.