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Scrumptious Squash

by Maria Linardi last modified 2008-06-20 15:12

Call it pumpkin, call it squash, here is one of the most delicious - and versatile - vegetables known to man. And don't throw away the shell, you can use it as a vase, lantern, cup or ladle.

Scrumptious SquashPumpkins and squash made their way to Italy from South America and belong to the family of Cucurbits which also boasts melons, courgettes and cucumbers amongst its members. Most of the pumpkins used in Italian cuisine belong to two varieties - Cucurbita maxima (banana squash) and Cucurbita Moschata (calabaza), although butternut squash can be used as a good substitute for either.

Pumpkin and parmesan croquettes
300 gr of pumpkin flesh
160 gr of flour
3 eggs
Grated parmesan or grana padana
An amaretto biscuit
Dried yeast
Steam and puree the pumpkin. To the mixture add one egg, 2 yolks, the flour, the amaretto biscuit, a pinch of nutmeg, 2 spoons of grated cheese, and some dried yeast. Whisk the 2 egg whites and fold them into the mixture with a pinch of salt. Roll the mixture into small balls. Heat the oil in a non-stick pan and fry the croquettes until golden. Drain on kitchen paper and serve piping hot.

First course
Giant pasta shells with pumpkin and chickpeas
400 gr of conchiglioni (giant pasta shells)
450 gr of pumpkin
100 gr of tomato sauce
250 gr of chickpeas (cooked and drained)
80 gr of speck
Olive oil
Black peppercorns
Clean and dice the pumpkin. Heat 5 spoons of oil in a non-stick pan and add the chopped herbs and speck. Add the diced pumpkin and gently cook. Stir in the chickpeas and add the tomato sauce. Cover and turn down the heat. In the meantime bring salted water to the boil and cook the pasta. Drain and add to the sauce. Add some freshly grated pepper, drizzle over some oil and garnish with freshly chopped herbs. Serve hot with a chilled bottle of Collio Riesling Renano.

Second course
Chicken, cabbage and pumpkin kebabs
350 gr of chicken breast
200 gr of pumpkin flesh
4 Savoy cabbage leaves
1 onion
Marmite or beef stock cube
Vegetable stock
Balsamic vinegar
Split the cabbage leaves in half, remove the stalk and blanch for 5 minutes, drain and pat dry. Thinly slice the chicken breast and pumpkin flesh and divide into 4 equal portions. Thread the ingredients onto kebab skewers starting with half a cabbage leaf, followed by the chicken and pumpkin and finishing off with the cabbage once more. Season then steam for 15 minutes. When the kebabs are almost ready melt the butter and gently sweat the finely chopped onion. Add a ladle of vegetable broth. Heat then mix in a spoonful of marmite (or a crumbled beef stock cube), 2 spoons of balsamic vinegar and bring to the boil until sauce thickens. Pour the sauce over the kebabs and serve with a julienne of raw (or lightly cooked) pumpkin.
This unusual dish is perfect when served with a dry white wine with a flowery bouquet such as a Vernaccia di San Gimignano.

Food for thought . . .
While we're on the subject of pumpkins we must spare a word for the Spanish writer and philosopher Lucio Anneo Seneca who wrote Divi Claudii Apocolocyntosis - or The Pumpkinification of the Divine Claudius - on the emperor's death. This violent satire, written to appeal to Claudius' stepson Nero, plays on the Greek word apathanátisis (deification) transforming it into the ridiculous apocolocyntosis (pumpkinification) giving some idea of the fate that awaits poor Claudius in the after-life.

Links - - A site for registered users with all you need to know about Italian cuisine, complete with a variety of pumpkin and squash-based recipes - - Wines from Collio, in Friuli

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