Dried currants, pecans, cooked spelt, and tempeh are transformed into a chewy pilaf and spooned into roasted sugar pumpkin halves for an impressive Thanksgiving or autumnal entrée. I suggest you try this recipe using spelt, but barley or farro (which it resembles) are both good substitutes. Because spelt is often confused with farro, when you purchase farro, make sure its labeled Triticum dicoccum (farros Latin name). Like spelt, it requires overnight soaking, but it takes longer to cook, about 2 hours. To lighten your holiday workload, make the stuffing up to 24 hours ahead and store in the refrigerator. To prepare for stuffing the pumpkins, add up to 1⁄2 cup water to the stuffing to rehydrate it a bit and then reheat the mixture in the microwave or on the stove over very low heat. The pumpkins can be baked and kept warm for up to 3 hours before stuffing and serving. I use any leftover filling as a lunch accompaniment to a vegetable burger or sandwich. If you cant find sugar pumpkins, this recipe works very well using acorn squash.
11⁄2 cups whole grain spelt, picked over, washed, and soaked overnight (8 hours) and drained
2 sugar pumpkins, about 4 pounds each, rinsed and wiped dry
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1⁄4 teaspoon freshly grated
4 garlic cloves, minced
1⁄2 cup currants
4 ounces tempeh, cut into 1⁄4 -inch pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
10 ounces baby spinach
1⁄2 cup chopped cilantro
leaves and stems, plus 4 whole sprigs
3⁄4 cup chopped toasted pecans
1. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, combine the spelt and 4 cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer 45 minutes, until the spelt is firm tender. It should be chewy but not stick in or to your teeth.
2. Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Lightly oil a baking sheet. Using a large, very sharp chefs knife, halve both the pumpkins horizontally, around the equator. Cut very thin slices off the stem and bottom ends of each pumpkin so the halves will sit flat in the pan without wobbling. Scoop out the strings and seeds and throw to the squirrels. Place the pumpkin halves, flat side down, on the prepared baking sheet and roast until the flesh is soft, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
3. Meanwhile, in a large deep skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the nutmeg and half the garlic and cook another minute or so. Add the currants, tempeh, and 1 teaspoon salt and stir and cook for 5 minutes or so. Add the spinach, chopped cilantro, and remaining garlic and season with salt and pepper. Cook another 3 minutes, stirring often to make sure it doesnt burn. Stir in the cooked spelt and half of the pecans.
4. To assemble, place a pumpkin half on each plate. Fill the hollowedout halves with the stuffing. Garnish with the remaining toasted pecans and the cilantro sprigs and serve.
From Totally Vegetarian by Toni Fiore. Excerpted by arrangement with Da Capo Lifelong, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright © 2007.
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