Ever wonder what to do with those leftover pumpkins from the fall display on the front porch that seemed like such a good idea at the time? As long as they are still firm and fresh and haven't turned to mush (this obviously doesn't apply to the ones you carved for Halloween and hopefully threw away weeks ago!) there's no reason you can't turn them into something tasty!
One of my favorite inspirational cookbooks is Vegetables From an Italian Garden, part of the Silver Spoon series from Phaidon publishers, and one of my favorite recipes from said cookbook is for Torta di Zucca, or Savory Pumpkin Tart. This is pumpkin in its true form, reveling in its own sweetness and paired with the most luscious of savory ingredients--what it was meant to be before it was turned into the traditional pumpkin pie of the American Thanksgiving table.
Torta di Zucca
3/4 cup dried wild mushrooms (your choice of type)
4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 pumpkin (pie pumpkin or other pumpkin-type squash) weighing about 2 1/4 pounds, seeded, peeled and diced (Real pumpkin! No canned pumpkin!)
All-purpose flour for dusting
1 clove of garlic
Butter (just enough for greasing the baking pan)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 generous cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Pinch of freshly grated Nutmeg
14 ounces basic pie dough, thawed if frozen
3 1/2 ounces Fontina cheese, sliced
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Place the mushrooms in a bowl, pour in enough warm water to cover, and let soak while you perform the following steps. Heat half of the olive oil in a pan over low heat. Add the onion and saute, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until softened and translucent. Add the pumpkin, 3-4 Tablespoons water and a pinch of salt and cook over medium heat, stirring continuously, until the pumpkin has broken down into a puree (use a handheld blender if you need some help getting it nice and smooth). Remove the pan from the heat.
Drain the mushrooms, squeeze out the excess liquid and chop.
Heat the remaining olive oil in a skillet. Add the garlic clove and cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until the oil is infused with garlic flavor. Remove and discard the garlic clove. Add the mushrooms, cooking over low heat and stirring frequently, for 10 minutes or until soft and aromatic. Remove pan from heat.
Grease and flour an 11 x 13 glass baking dish (in the original recipe a "cake pan"). Combine the pumpkin puree (cooled so it doesn't cook the eggs!), eggs, Parmesan, mushrooms and nutmeg in a bowl and season with pepper.
Roll out the pie dough on a lightly floured surface and line the baking dish with it, making sure that it comes up the sides. Spoon in the pumpkin mixture, place the slices of Fontina cheese on top and bake for 40 minutes at 400 degrees F.
***Be sure to grease and flour the pan well to make the tart easy to remove when you serve it. This is the way the original recipe was written (baked in a "cake pan" or glass baking dish), but I have also used a large tart pan (which may not require all of the pumpkin mixture) or wide, shallow pie plate and it works just as well and is easier to slice and serve.