Sunday, February 9, 2014

Recipe of the month: Pumpkin Chiffon

February's Recipe of the Month, like January's, is a sweet dish rather than a savory one—even though it's based around a vegetable, at least in name, rather than a fruit.

A little background on how this recipe came to be: last month Brian and I were trying, on our vet's recommendation, to feed pumpkin to our cat to aid her digestion. Amélie (the cat), however, was not inclined to cooperate. We tried mixing tuna juice into the pumpkin, but she still wouldn't touch it; she'd eat it if we mixed in a bit of the tuna itself, but eating tuna every few days did not agree with her, so we abandoned the experiment. (We're trying her on a product called Laxatone instead, which she will take with tuna juice only.) This left us, at the beginning of February, with half a can of pumpkin in our fridge that we had to use up somehow if we didn't want it to go to waste.

I suggested to Brian that he try making a half recipe of the "Baked Pumpkin Custard" out of The Volumetrics Weight-Control Plan. This is a weight-loss book I bought last year because I liked its common-sense premise: people tend to eat a fixed amount of food every day, so you can lose weight by filling up on foods that are "volumetric," or low in calories for their weight. However, it turned out to too limiting for me as a weight-loss plan; it doesn't require you to eat specific foods each day, but it restricts you to a fairly narrow list of choices. Nonetheless, I kept it on on our shelf because it contained several recipes that looked both healthful and tasty, including this pumpkin custard, which is essentially like the inside of a pumpkin pie without the crust.

Unfortunately, the recipe in the Volumetrics book called for sweetened condensed milk, which isn't an item we normally keep on hand in our pantry. Rather than go out and buy some, Brian tweaked the recipe to make it more like his normal chocolate pudding recipe. In the process, he actually made the pudding more volumetric by whipping the egg white, so half a can of pumpkin is enough for two generous bowls full. It's quite tasty, as well. The flavor, as you might expect, is similar to pumpkin pie, but the texture is much lighter and fluffier, so I've named it Pumpkin Chiffon. And since this is a made-up recipe that doesn't belong to anyone, there's no reason I can't share it with you in full.
Brian's Pumpkin Chiffon 
Separate 1 egg. Place the white in a bowl and the yolk in a small bowl or cup and set both aside.

Combine the the following ingredients in a saucepan:
  • ½ cup canned pureed pumpkin 
  • ½ cup + 2 Tbsp milk
  • 3 Tbsp sugar 
  • 1 ½ Tbsp corn starch 
  • ¾ tsp pumpkin pie spice (ours is a homemade mixture of 4 parts cinnamon, 2 parts ginger, and 1 part each nutmeg and cloves) 
  • 1 pinch salt
Heat over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and begins to bubble. After it bubbles for about 1 minute, remove from heat and add approximately 1/3 of the mixture to the egg yolk. Mix with the egg yolk thoroughly, then return it all to the saucepan. Stir to mix, and heat until the mixture begins to bubble again. Remove from heat.

Using an electric mixer, beat the egg white, gradually adding 1 Tbsp sugar. Beat until stiff peaks form. Carefully fold the the pumpkin mixture into the beaten egg white.  Distribute into bowls and allow to cool. Makes 2-3 servings and can be scaled up as necessary.
I calculated the nutrition info for the recipe using this Recipe Calculator, and I found that if you use skim milk and a large egg, you can get two large bowls with 190 calories each or three smaller portions with 126 calories each. Of course, if you top it with whipped cream, as we do, that will add another 30 to 60 calories. But even with the whipped cream, it's still fairly virtuous as desserts go, and it's actually quite filling. The only thing that's odd about it is the color. You can't tell so much from the picture above, but when you look at this stuff in the bowl, it really doesn't look like a dessert—mainly because it's almost exactly the color of turmeric. Then again, maybe if you're not in the habit of eating Indian food very often, that won't bother you.

Overall, I consider this Recipe of the Month a complete success. I expect it to become a regular part of our dessert repertoire, as well as our default method of using up a leftover half can of pumpkin.
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