Dark Days 2011: Pumpkin Cream Pasta

This year is the first I’ve ever not been a student come Autumn “fall back” which means it’s the first year I haven’t had the luxury of mornings or afternoons or whatever stretches of daylight to nab for food photography. I used to think it was hard back then…little did I know. Hello, is everyone else in this hemisphere really ok with it being dark when you get home from work? What is this madness?! Needless to say, it’s made for some interesting mornings, trying to reheat food to mesh the way it’s supposed to, then frantically snap a few shots before I head off to work.

In the same vein, it’s winter, a season of few local foods–or plenty? Last year I worked at a local foods grocery/restaurant, so it wasn’t that tough–plenty of squashes and eggs and cheese and meats from local farmers–but this year I’m out there wandering around stores along with every other shopper wondering where I can get anything local. (I guess I could go back to my old store…but, well, my leaving wasn’t incredibly amicable.) But, with the 5th annual Dark Days Challenge, I’m looking forward to rolling my sleeves up, donning my apron (if I ever find it in the boxes, that is), and whipping up some delicious local, vegan food! Yup, I’m upping it a notch–vegan Dark Days. I see lots of butternut squash and cabbage in my future…

For the first challenge, I looted through the post-Thanksgiving fridge (Thanksgiving wrap-up post coming next) for anything I had on hand. What I found: local pumpkin, roasted and pureed last year, then frozen, then thawed for pumpkin pie (but, of course, I thawed too much) and a bag of local kale (from which farm, I can’t remember). So while this dish might not be 100% local, the two highlighted ingredients are, and for someone who wasn’t able to do much farmers market shopping this week, I’m pretty stoked with it.

The pumpkin sauce was a random mix of pantry items that sounded good: pumpkin, coconut milk, garlic powder, sage, salt, and pepper. The rest is, again, another pantry mix (so feel free to use whatever veggies you have on hand). I sauteed the kale and chickpeas, threw them on top of bow tie pasta, and, voila, a delicious, nutritious, and largely local meal!

Even if you aren’t participating in the Dark Days Challenge, is anyone else trying to incorporate more local ingredients into your cooking this winter? What are your strategies, favorite tips?

Pumpkin Cream Pasta with Kale & Chickpeas

1 c pumpkin puree
1 c coconut milk
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sage
a pinch of black pepper

1 bunch kale, chopped
1 15 oz can chickpeas
olive oil

1 lb cooked pasta of choice

To make the sauce, combine the first 6 ingredients in a sauce pan. Warm over medium-low heat and mix well. Adjust spices to taste. Let simmer while cooking the pasta and kale (but don’t bring to a boil or you’ll scorch it).

Saute the kale in olive oil over medium heat, approximately 4-5 minutes. Allow to wilt. Add the chickpeas, cook 1 more minute, set aside.

Combine the pasta, sauce, and kale mixture. Garnish with vegan Parmesan if you’ve got it on hand.

Serves 4

14 Responses to “Dark Days 2011: Pumpkin Cream Pasta”
  1. FoodFeud says:

    I love, love, love this idea! People get way too caught up in the idea that there’s nothing to eat in the winter months and rely on so many ridiculously sourced ingredients. I always try to eat as local as possible. I can’t say I have any real tips but I give you major props. Scour the farmers market and delve into your pantry and imagination! Yes, squashes, grains, cabbage but fruit are also locally abundant and can be mixed with vegetables for unexpected meals (Brussels + apples are awesome..)

  2. WOW JES! what an absolutely beautiful and nutritious meal you created. Congrats! I have kale and chard in the garden and I find they are so easy to add to SO many thing – fresh in a salad, sauteed or in a soup or sauce. I like the idea of kale in with you pasta and the added chickpeas for protein.

  3. Barbara says:

    This looks absolutely yummy, Jes. I love how you used coconut milk to make it creamy. And I thought I was the only one up at the crack of dawn, scrambling to set up food shots with the natural light before heading off to work! Right on!

  4. Becky says:

    The short days totally get me, too. I work by daylight in my studio, and when the sun starts going down at four-freaking-thirty, it makes me feel like it’s bedtime, rather than time to hammer out a few more hours of work. I love the extra hour of sleep that comes with Fall Back, but it doesn’t seem like a fair trade-off for an extra hour of darkness every afternoon!

  5. I’m planning on making this one of the meal delivery, only with more pumpkin cream and no kale so it’ll last longer. :) Thanks so much for sharing.

    PS: The thanksgiving post was disturbing!

  6. Mel says:

    What a gorgeous looking meal! I love how simple it sounds and it really makes me wish that kale was widely available over here. I am good at eating seasonally but locally can be a struggle as there just aren’t enough farmer’s markets in Australia. I ate heaps of cauliflower and brussel sprouts during our winter here and am thoroughly enjoying asparagus at the moment.

  7. Stunningly simple; I’m kind of in awe that you could put together something so basic yet so brilliant, and instantly enticing. Easy, ingredients I have on hand, delicious flavors, healthy; It’s just perfect!

  8. I’ll be making this soon – what a great way to use up pumpkin puree! I am up to my elbows in it.

  9. Jessica says:

    This looks scrumptious! And I can totally relate to what you were saying about not having the right lighting or perfect conditions (time, energy, etc) to photograph your creations…

  10. Mmmm… pasta and winter squash. Definitely comfort food! I did butternut squash filling in buckwheat raviolis recently and we nearly ate ourselves into a stupor!
    ( http://eatingfloyd.blogspot.com/2011/10/cooking-floyd-butternut-ravioli.html )
    Sometime this week I’m going to make your version!

  11. Hey lovely! So I made this recipe but I had to change it a lot to make it yummy! As is, it tasted of creamy uncooked pumpkin (I used canned organic) with the faintest hint of garlic. Very unappealing. I added double the garlic powder, way more salt, black pepper, more sage, a pinch of cayenne, and a few tablespoons of nutritional yeast. Maybe another thing or too, also. What do you think went wrong for me? All of my ingredients were fresh and organic. :-( When I finally got it to a good place, I licked the bowl!

    • Jes says:

      Hmm, strange! I did simmer the sauce for about 10-15 minutes while I prepared the pasta and kale, so maybe that cooking time helped meld the flavors together. My pumpkin was roasted, pureed, and frozen, so that might have also made it different than canned, but I’m not sure (I used cheese pumpkins). How long did you simmer the sauce? I’m really not sure what made yours so different than mine but I’d like to figure it out!

      • Hey Jes! I think it was ABSOLUTELY the fact that you used roasted, pureed, frozen cheese pumpkins. Even organic the canned stuff doesn’t hold a candle to prepared-at-home. Thanks for solving the mystery!

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