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The season for pumpkins has begun, and is viewed by many as an American Thanksgiving specialty. Pumpkins were most likely cultivated eons ago by the original natives of both North and South America. Not only was it a staple in their diets. As the pumpkin was vital in their diets, it had a dual purpose for the early inhabitants as the outer shells were put to good use as cooking pots and serving bowls.
Although pumpkins are not normally associated with Spain, the seeds were brought back by the explorers and cultivated. According to archives, during his first voyage to the New World, Christopher Columbus found vast fields planted with pumpkins and squashes along the eastern shores of Cuba. Another Spanish explorer, Hernando De Soto stated that the pumpkins of the west coast of Florida were more flavorful than the squash and gourds being grown in Spain.
Today, the Jack o' Lantern version of pumpkin, as well as the non-traditional odd shaped varieties, can be found throughout the country in marketplace. The pumpkin and squash took shape to become part of the autumn and winter cuisines. In Spain, pumpkins were not used for pies at first and instead, women used the pulp of the pumpkin to add to breads for flavor, and to thicken up soups and stews.
Bakers experimented in creating new desserts with pumpkin, although the standard pumpkin pie served in the United States is not commonplace in Spain. It is more usual to find assorted pastries and cake made with pumpkin during autumn season as an additive to the already popular ingredients.
This is a very simple dessert using the vegetable of the season, pumpkin as a main ingredient mixing itself with the Spanish dessert favorite, almonds. Almonds are always a staple to Spain, and it was only a matter of time that it would be incorporated with pumpkin.
From a nutritional standpoint, beta-carotene and vitamin A are outstanding nutrients from the pumpkin and the almond-sugar mixture increases the energy value. If you want a unique and special pumpkin treat this season try this recipe that serves 4.
The pulp from 1 medium-size pumpkin (Approximately 4 cups)
1½ cups of brown sugar
2 eggs yolks (beat the yolks)
1 cup of ground almonds
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Olive or vegetable oil to grease the cake pan
Additional sprinkling of sugar for topping prior to placing in the oven
1) Cut off the top of the pumpkin and discard the top. Roast the pumpkin in a medium-heated (250ºF) oven for 1 hour.
2) Remove the pumpkin pulp and grind it with a blender.
3) Place the grind pumpkin in a saucepan over medium heat on the stove.
4) Add the brown sugar, and stir until the mixture thickens.
5) Separate the whites from the yolks and add the beaten yolks to the saucepan, stirring often to prevent sticking.
6) Grate the lemon rind and add to the saucepan with ground almonds and cinnamon.
7) Continue to stir and cook for approximately 5 minutes and remove from burner.
8) Pour into a glazed baking mold, muffin pan or baking tin.
9) Sprinkle the top with sugar and introduce it into the oven at 300ºF to brown for 15 minutes.
10) Remove cake from oven, and allow it to cool before removing from pan.
For accompaniment, beat up some cream cheese with a little sugar and add the zest from a lemon. You can also top it with whipped cream, dust with powdered sugar or melted chocolate or just enjoy it plain with a cup of coffee. The texture of the finished recipe is similar to almond cake with the added premium of pumpkin.
Other recipes by Veronica:
Swordfish Alicante Style
Torta de Nueces y Zanahorias (Carrot and Nut Cake)
Canelones Rellenos con Gambas
Pinchos de Gambas (Shrimp Skewers)
Sopa de Crema de Ajo (Cream of Garlic Soup)
Vieiras a la Gallega (Galician Scallops)
Tortilla Española (Spanish Omelet)
Albóndigas de Arroz y Espinaca (Rice and Spinach Meatballs)
Crema Catalana (Catalonian Custard)
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