Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending another great dinner put on by Hush Concepts, with my husband and our two dining buddies. It was held in the gorgeous Mise en Place in Denver, which offers hands-on cooking classes and demonstrations for groups. It’s a beautiful location with a large open kitchen and dining space in the Denver Ice House.

This particular Hush dinner featured season five Top Chef winner Hosea Rosenberg, formerly of Jax Fish House in Boulder. I was very excited to attend this one, since my husband and I have always loved Jax, and I’m a huge fan of Top Chef, and was thrilled when our local representative won in season five. There was a great turnout, and the food did not disappoint. My photos don’t come close to doing justice to how gorgeous the food was, but my excuse is that it’s hard to surreptitiously take eight photos of a dish before eating it when you’re in public!

The first course was an oyster with horseradish dipping dots (which had melted by the time I took a picture, so just imagine little pearls on the oyster).

Oysters & Pearls

Oysters & Pearls

The next course was a divine butternut squash bisque with Alaskan king crab and apple. The butternut squash was from Boulder county’s Isabelle Farms. I love butternut squash soup, and this one was particularly tasty.

Isabelle Farms Butternut Squash Bisque

Isabelle Farms Butternut Squash Bisque

Following the bisque was wild king salmon and pork belly, with Brussel sprouts and pomegranate brown butter — a great combination of flavors.

Wild King Salmon & Pork Belly

Wild King Salmon & Pork Belly

Course five was porcini crusted venison loin with sunchoke puree, chokecherry, and sage. I think this was my favorite course of the evening. It was very boldly flavored, and absolutely delicious.

Porcini Crusted Venison Loin

Porcini Crusted Venison Loin

Course five was a wonderful pumpkin Napoleon with honey crisps and cocoa nibs. Gorgeous on the plate, and a perfect ending to the meal.

Pumpkin Napoleon

Pumpkin Napoleon

Now that I have pumpkin purée after my adventure roasting a pumpkin from Munson Farms, one of the first things I wanted to do with it was make pumpkin bread. I make banana bread quite often, but pumpkin bread is a little less common, since I don’t usually have pumpkins sitting around on my counter going bad as is standard operating procedure for bananas. But now it was time for pumpkin bread!

Chocolate is always a good thing in quick bread, so of course that was going to be an ingredient. But as I was thinking about how good pumpkin and chocolate would taste, pistachios popped into my head. Hmmm…I liked the sound of that! And as it turns out, it is a pretty tasty combination.

As I mentioned in my post on chocolate banana bread, I’ve had issues in the past with quick breads turning out fairly dense and overly moist. I did a little research on high altitude adjustments for problems with quick bread, and was rewarded with the completely non-helpful assertion that this could be due to the dough being too moist, too dry, or over-mixed. The over-mixed idea obviously gave me something to go on, but too most OR too dry? Seriously? Thanks a lot, internet. But I tried a few things, and this actually turned out to be the best-textured quick bread I’ve made for quite a while. I ended up using a bit less baking powder than usual, and a bit more milk. The other change I made was to add all the flour at one time, rather than gradually, which as far as I know is totally the wrong way to do it, but it seemed to work, so…I guess I’ll do the same thing next time.

This was so quick to throw together, I made it after working out in the evening, just a couple hours before going to bed. The vast majority of the time it took was actual baking time. The fat in this bread comes from the chocolate and the pistachios (with a trivial amount from the flour), so one slice has about 3 grams of fat, technically making it low-fat.

I would add one note – the fresh pumpkin gives it a decidedly (although hardly surprising) fresh pumpkin taste. If you like a brighter, pumpkiny taste (along the lines of a sweet winter squash), then use fresh pumpkin. If you want the taste to be more mellowed, like pumpkin pie, then you might want to use canned. My husband and I really liked the fresher pumpkin taste, but it was definitely different than bread made from cylindrical pumpkin.

Chocolate Pistachio Pumpkin Bread Ingredients

Chocolate Pistachio Pumpkin Bread Ingredients (Ingredient Ratios In No Way To Scale)

Chocolate Pistachio Pumpkin Bread
(recipe for 5400 ft altitude – lower altitude substitutions below)
makes 16 slices

1+3/4 c pumpkin puree (or 1-15 oz can pumpkin)
4 oz applesauce
1/4 c plain yogurt
1/4 c skim milk
1 c sugar (or 1/2 c sugar + 1/2 c erythritol)
2 oz dark chocolate, finely chopped
1+1/2 oz pistachios, finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
2 sprinkles cloves
1 sprinkle nutmeg
2 c flour (I used white whole wheat)
1+1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the first 12 ingredients well (up through nutmeg). In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, and baking soda well to distribute the baking powder and baking soda evenly. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and mix only enough to incorporate all of the flour in the batter. Spray 2 small loaf pans (or 1 large one) with cooking spray (or rub with butter). Transfer batter to pans, and bake for 45-55 minutes, until a knife inserted in the middle comes out mostly clean. Cover loosely with foil if the bread browns too much on the top before it’s done in the middle.

For lower altitudes: use a full 2 tsp baking powder, 2+1/4 cups sugar, and bake at 350 degrees.

Chocolate Pistachio Pumpkin Bread

Chocolate Pistachio Pumpkin Bread Cooling

Chocolate Pistachio Pumpkin Bread

Chocolate Pistachio Pumpkin Bread Slices

I’d actually be a really lousy squirrel, because this amount of food wouldn’t last me long, but I still did more than I ever have before in terms of saving food for the winter. In past years, once the farm stands were done selling tomatoes and delicata squash for the year, I started getting all of my produce from the grocery store. So after sometime around October, it was back to standard, grocery store vegetables. This year I decided to try to do a little planning ahead so we would have at least a few bites of Farmers’ Market produce later on in the year. I don’t feel up to taking on canning yet, but that still leaves freezing!

A few weeks ago, I bought about nine pounds of heirloom tomatoes at the Boulder Farmers’ Market from Far Out Gardens (whose tomatoes are divine), and made a huge batch of tomato sauce. I used my usual recipe, utilizing onions and some wonderful, strong-flavored garlic from the Farmers’ Market as well. I kept enough sauce for a pasta dish during the week, and then put 2-person sized portions into freezer bags, and stacked them on the fast freeze shelf to set up. A couple of weeks later (but before the recent snow), I went to the Boulder Farmers’ Market expecting to find no tomatoes whatsoever, but Growing Gardens had two boxes of paste tomatoes. Some were a little overripe, but I found about four pounds of really nice ones. So I made another batch of tomato sauce, albeit smaller, and got another pasta dish and two more freezer bags out of it.

Local Heirloom Tomatoes for Tomato Sauce

Heirloom Tomatoes for Tomato Sauce

I just loved the colorful array of tomatoes. They looked even cooler after I dropped them in boiling water to loosen the skins and peeled them.

Peeled Heirloom Tomatoes

Peeled Heirloom Tomatoes

I started out using our big (and tall) soup pot to cook the large batch, but it was taking absolutely forever to cook down, so I transferred it into our large, rounded (and wide) saute pan, so there was more surface area exposed to the air. It still took about 3 hours to make the larger batch, but was well worth it!

Cooking down the tomatoes

Cooking Down Tomatoes

Getting the tomato sauce into freezer bags was a bit messier in reality than I imagined it beforehand, picturing myself competently transferring it without any spills and no waste. But after I got out as much air as I could and sealed them up, cleanup of the outside of the bags (and the counters) wasn’t too bad, and I didn’t lose too much sauce.

Frozen Tomato Sauce

Frozen Tomato Sauce

My other big freezing endeavor was to make pumpkin puree out of a gorgeous (and purportedly sweet) pumpkin I bought at Munson Farms.

Pumpkin

My Gorgeous Blue-Grey-Green Pumpkin

I actually started laughing about half-way through cutting this thing up. I read some column or essay or book at some time where a woman was talking about how she decided to make a pumpkin pie from scratch, scoffing at all the people using a 15 oz can of pumpkin (or as my husband calls it, cylindrical pumpkin). Then at some point she became overwhelmed by the amount of effort, and started wishing more than anything that she had a 15 oz can of pumpkin. As I finished cutting up the first half, I totally understood where she was coming from. And I also figured out why most of the pages I found on the internet with information on how to roast pumpkin indicated that you should pick a couple of those small pie pumpkins. These big pumpkins have dense, robust shells! After I finished cutting it into smaller pieces, I cut the shell off, and arranged the pieces on a couple of baking sheets. I didn’t use oil or anything additional, I just put them right into the oven as is (about 350-375 degrees), and baked them until they were tender.

Pumpkin ready to be roasted

Pumpkin Ready to be Roasted

Then came the puréeing. And more puréeing. And still more puréeing. I had never gotten to know my food processor quite this intimately before, but I can say we’ve seen each other in some messy situations now. I’m never very good about keeping my hands clean when it deals with transferring stuff into and out of a food processor (or into freezer bags (see above)), so there was a lot of pumpkin puree on the processor handle, the cover, the counters, the cupboards. But, once it was done, I had the four bags below (about 1-15 oz can each), plus three more 15-oz cans’ worth in a plastic container for pumpkin bread and pumpkin soup this week. And it really is a very tasty pumpkin. The stuff out of the can doesn’t taste very sweet at all, but this definitely has a bit of sweetness. I’m looking forward to cooking and baking with it. So all in all, a very successful pumpkin purée making experience (albeit a little laborious and messy).

Pumpkin puree ready to freeze

Pumpkin Puree, Ready to Freeze

My other preemptive winter preparation was to purchase 2 $5 bags of gorgeous, spicy garlic from Wee Bee Farms. Each bag was 6 cloves, so I should be good for about 8-12 weeks, depending on how garlicky I am in the months to come. I love this garlic – you can tell as you peel it and chop into it how much more fragrant it is than the usual common grocery store garlic. And I checked the storage information for the kind I bought to make sure it would be good through December or January.

Garlic from Wee Bee Farms

Garlic from Wee Bee Farms

%d bloggers like this: