From Peel To Seed: Making The Most Of Your Thanksgiving Pumpkin

— by Ronit Treatman

You picked or bought a pumpkin for Thanksgiving.  Now what should you do with it?  Here are three vegan recipes that make use of the whole pumpkin.  One pumpkin can produce an appetizer, a soup, and a vegetable dish for your festive meal.

Begin by cutting your pumpkin in half.  Scoop out the plump seeds from the center of the pumpkin.  From these seeds, you can prepare Sikil P’ak, an ancient Maya appetizer from the Yucatan Peninsula.

More after the jump.
Sikil P’ak
Adapted from Hugo Ortega

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Scoop the pumpkin seeds from your pumpkin (you should get about one cup).
  3. Wash with cold water.
  4. Place on a cookie sheet.
  5. Toast in the oven for about 5 minutes, until golden and fragrant.
  6. Place the toasted pumpkin seeds in a food processor.
  7. Grind until smooth.
  8. Spear one habanero chile with a fork.  Hold it over the flame of a burner or grill until it is charred all over.  
  9. Char 2 plum tomatoes in the same manner.
  10. Add the charred chile and tomatoes to the food processor.
  11. Add 3 tablespoons of minced cilantro.
  12. Add 3 tablespoons of minced chives.
  13. Season with salt to taste.
  14. Process all the ingredients together until you have a smooth paste.

Serve as a festive Thanksgiving appetizer with warm corn chips.

Next, separate the peel from the flesh of the pumpkin.  Make a hearty vegetarian soup from the pumpkin flesh, fusing this New World fruit with exotic spices from North Africa.  

Moroccan Pumpkin Soup
Adapted from Christine Benlafquih

  • 4 cups cubed pumpkin
  • 1 large onion, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro, minced
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp. Ras El Hanout or make your own with the recipe below.
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • Honey to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  1. Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a pot.
  2. Add the onion and garlic.
  3. Cook over medium heat until golden.
  4. Add the pumpkin, chickpeas, broth, spices, and honey.
  5. Bring to a boil, and then simmer for about 15 minutes.

Serve with fresh, warm pita bread.

If you would like to make your own Ras El Hanout spice mixture combine:

  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 ½ teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves

What can you do with the remaining pumpkin flesh and peel?  You may be inspired by a Japanese specialty called Kabocha No Nimono or Simmered Pumpkin.  It is traditional not to peel the pumpkin when preparing this dish.

Kabocha No Nimono
Adapted from Serakitty

  • 8 cups of diced pumpkin flesh and peel
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup dried mushrooms (preferably Shiitake)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  1. Place all the ingredients in a pot.  
  2. Bring to a boil, and then simmer for 15 minutes.  May be served hot or cold.

Kabocha No Nimono is wonderful side dish for Thanksgiving.  Its earthy sweet and salty mushroom flavor makes this a favorite fall comfort food.

The first way to demonstrate thankfulness for our bounty is by not being wasteful.  We say this blessing of gratitude for having a whole pumpkin:

Ba-ruch a-tah A-do-nai E-lo-hei-nu Me-lech Ha-o-lam,
bo-rei p’ri ha-a-da-mah.

Blessed are You, HaShem, our God, King of the Universe,
who creates the fruit of the earth.  

Thanksgiving: A Celebration Of Cranberries

— by Ronit Treatman

“How do you say cranberry in Hebrew?” my children asked me.  I was stumped.  I had never heard of cranberries before I moved to the United States.  “Maybe “cranberry” with a Hebrew accent?” I suggested.  I looked it up to be certain.  Modern Israeli Hebrew is a revived language, in which new names are constantly being adopted for things that did not exist in Ancient Israel.  The Hebrew name selected for “cranberry” by the Academy of the Hebrew Language is “chamtzitz.”  To me, “chamtzitz” refers to any sour wild plant.  In order to learn more about this Native American fruit, we decided to experience the cranberry harvest in New Jersey.

More after the jump.
Our Thanksgiving celebration began in mid-October with a visit to Double Trouble State Park‘s cranberry harvest.  This beautiful park is located in New Jersey’s Pine Barrens.  Oxycoccus macrocarpus is one of three fruits native to North America.  The other two are blueberries and Concord grapes.  The Leni Lenape called this berry “ibimi” or “bitter berry.”  For them, the cranberry was a symbol of peace.  The Pilgrims named it “crane berry” because they thought that the cranberry blossoms looked like cranes.  With time, this name was shortened to “cranberry.”  After the American Revolutionary War, cranberries began to be cultivated.  They were exported to Northern Europe, where they became very popular.   These evergreen vines are planted in peat bogs.  Historically, cranberries were picked by hand.  The most cost-efficient way to harvest them is by flooding the bog.  The ripe berries float to the surface.  At the Double Trouble State Park, we saw farmers dressed in waterproof rubber clothes vacuuming the ripe cranberries from the surface of the bog.  It was a wonderful visit, and the whole place looked like a beautiful impressionist painting with shades of green, red, and gold.

We came home with several pounds of fresh cranberries.  I decided to investigate how the Native Americans prepared them.  I was surprised to discover that it is possible to eat cranberries raw.  They were too tart for my taste in this manner.  One of the most famous ways in which the Native Americans used cranberries was in the preparation of pemmican.  Pemmican is a type of jerky made with deer (or any other game) and cranberries.  I discovered a recipe for the first cranberry sauce, which the Wampanoag tribe taught the Pilgrims.  It is a true Native American dish composed of the New World flavors of cranberries and maple sugar.  

Pilgrim Cranberry Sauce
Adapted from Eliza Leslie’s Miss Leslie’s Directions for Cookery.

  • 1 pound fresh cranberries
  • 2-3 cups maple sugar
  1. Place the cranberries in a pot. Cover with water.  
  2. Bring to a boil, and then simmer for 12 to 15 minutes, until soft.  
  3. Stir in the maple sugar to taste.  
  4. When the sugar is completely absorbed into the sauce, remove from the fire.

Serve hot or cold.

What did we make with the rest of the cranberries?  Another Native American specialty: dried cranberries.  

Dried Cranberries

  1. Wash the cranberries.
  2. Preheated the oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.  
  3. Place the berries on a cookie sheet lined with 3 layers of paper towels.  
  4. Put the cranberries in the oven.
  5. Turn the heat down to 150 degrees Fahrenheit.
  6. Leave the cranberries in the oven for 8 hours or longer as needed.

As I celebrate my adopted holiday of Thanksgiving, I will honor the Native Americans and Pilgrims by preparing the cranberry sauce that they savored together in 1621 at Plymouth Plantation.  I like to say a blessing from my tradition to express my gratitude on this day:

Barukh atah Adonai, Eloheinu, melekh ha’olam shehecheyanu v’kiyimanu v’higi’anu laz’man hazeh.

Blessed are you, L-rd, our G-d, sovereign (or king) of the universe who has kept us alive, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season.

Holiday Aloneness

By Hannah Lee

In our modern, frenetic society, people are often far from loved ones for the holidays, whether for studies, work, or national service.  As the retail establishments bring out their holiday decorations earlier than ever — Nordstroms, however, has promised not to do so until after Thanksgiving —  the atmosphere of forced cheer and gaiety can prove difficult for some of us.  So, what can be done about it?

I’ll paraphrase the late President John F. Kennedy who’d said in his inaugural speech on January, 1961, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”  The remedy for self-pity and loneliness is to take action for others.  In all the years of my marriage, my husband has had to work on Thanksgiving and certainly on the Friday afterward, so it’s not a long weekend for us to visit with family (and none choose to visit us, maybe because they do not want a turkey-less meal).  However, Thanksgiving continues to be my favorite American holiday.

One year, when my first-born child was very young and her father was to be on call for Thanksgiving, I signed up to help serve a meal the day before while she was still in daycare (I paid for extended hours that day).  I drove to a section of North Philadelphia where some of the buildings had busted windows and I found that I was the only person not of African origin.  I felt safe, though, because the organizers lead everyone in prayer at the beginning of the meal.

More after the jump.
When my daughters grew older, we have volunteered with MANNA, preparing and delivering meals to the home-bound chronically ill.  The early-morning kitchen stints, however, were hard for teens who like to sleep later than their usual 6 am wake-up call on school days.  Delivering to the various depressed neighborhoods where the clients live has been an eye-opening experience to my suburban children.  Driving with my children can be a comedy routine at times, as I am a bad driver and my elder daughter is an ill-tempered navigator.  My younger daughter, in turn, has been more patient with me.

Others have devised their own rituals.  Our cello teacher and his talented violinist wife, both émigrés far from family members, would bring their sons to perform as a string quartet for hospital patients.  A few years ago, I started a Giving Thanks notebook, where I invited my family to jot down their thoughts for the year.  My husband and younger daughter have consistently declined, but my elder daughter and I take pleasure in contributing to it and more so, in re-reading previous entries.

I do take care in serving new and favored dishes for Thanksgiving, but the meaning of the holiday is in giving thanks, acknowledging our freedom and our privilege.  That we can do even when we are far from loved ones.

Cartoon reprinted courtesy of Yaakov (Dry Bones) Kirschen

Thanksgiving Hunger Quiz

In honor of Thanksgiving, here is a Hunger Quiz from the Jewish Federation:

  1. People are hungry because there is not enough food for everybody on our planet.
    • True
    • False

  2. You can tell if someone is hungry by how they look.  
    • True
    • False

  3.  How many children does the United Nations estimate die every day from causes related to hunger and poverty?
    • 40
    • 400
    • 4,000
    • 34,000

  4. How many people a month in the Greater Philadelphia area does the Mitzvah Food Project of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia serve?
    • 250
    • 1,000
    • 2,000

Answers are the jump, along with hunger relief resources.

Answers to Hunger Quiz

  1. False.  Each year a total of 470 pounds per household is thrown away.
  2. False
  3. 34,000
  4. 2,000

Now that you have learned more about the problem of Hunger, please support one of the local organizations dealing with this important issue.