Halloween has always been one of my favorite Holidays. I used to love the cold and foggy dark of San Francisco nights where I could barely see my candy bag in front of my face. Halloween as a kid meant the rare thrill of being out after dark, and the ability to run wild with a gang of neighborhood kids for a few magic hours. It meant flickering candles in the mouths of shrieking jack o' lanterns, the sighing of the fog horns, the running slap of tennis shoes on the damp sidewalks and the barking of the seals on nearby Seal Rocks. Anything might happen on a night like that.
Of course forgetting the costume and free candy part, that was what most nights in the Sunset district of San Francisco (otherwise known as The Outside Lands) were like. It was a sort of Bronte growing up, and it left me with a permanent soft spot for dark, dank nights when the clock falls back, lying in bed listening to the bark of seals, Halloween, and Jack O' Lanterns in the raw, aka Pumpkins. Yes, I'm a pumpkin freak. I admit it. The fruit/vegetable that can be sweet, savory and also scary? Dude, that's what I call versatile! I'm talking Justin Timberlake-acting-dancing-singing versatile. Except Justin Timberlake isn't vegan cause he, like the rest of us is technically made of meat.
Well, we're smack in the middle of pumpkin season and there are a lot of things that can be done besides going all Nip and Tuck on them, Jack O' Lantern style. Now I happen to have a few (make that a buttload of) pumpkins around. I'd planned on carving and candeling them for Halloween but got too lazy, and so when Halloween rolled around, it was just Alan and me and Patsy the Husky and Johnny Depp (the neighbors cat) and nothing got done.
So something had to be done with these pumpkins, and fast. Last year I'd had a similar intention and decided to store my extra pumpkins in the garage. Well, one thing led to another and I located one of the pumpkins sometime in the spring. Okay, I didn't exactly locate it. You couldn't miss it. Only it wasn't quite a pumpkin anymore. It was more like a pumpkinish bathmat, all orange and fuzzy.
This year I was determined that wasn't going to happen again. I had no excuses for neglecting my gourds because pumpkins aren't just for carving anymore. There are a whole raft of other things that one can do with them besides let them rot in the garage. One can make pies, and pasta sauces, breads and cookies, purees and gnocchi. One can also make meatballs. Well, not really meatballs, more like meatless-balls otherwise known as koftas.
Koftas are delicious, little puffy bites. Koftas can be made of anything, spinach, flour, bread, potatoes, yams, you name it. The ingredients are mixed with chilies and spices and a bit of garbanzo flour (besan). Usually they're deep fried, but in the name of holiday sanity and health, I decided to saute/fry mine in a smaller amount of vegetable oil. Serve koftas in a sauce, or on a platter as finger food with a spicy dipping sauce. They're easy to make and perfect for the holiday season ahead.
Here's what you'll need:
1 small sugar pie pumpkin (about 1 and 1/2 lbs or 4 cups) peeled and grated
2 fresh green serrano chilies seeded and stemmed and finely chopped
1/2 tsp of cumin seeds
1 tsp of salt
1 Tbs of fresh lime juice
2/3 cup of chickpea (garbanzo flour)
Here's What To Do:
Peel and grate the pumpkin in a food processor and set it aside.
In a bowl, combine the pumpkin with everything else.
Pour in the lime juice for moisting.
Get your hands in it and mix it all around. Massage that pumpkin.
Roll it into little 1 inch balls.
Heat some vegetable oil in a kadhai or wok. I used enough to come halfway up the little koftas but not enough to cover or deep fry them.
When the oil is very very hot, add in the koftas.
Roll them around until they brown and crisp up. Then take them out with a slotted spoon and set them on a plate with a paper towel to let them drain.
These should be served with a sauce, either for dipping or poured over the koftas. The sauce I used for the pumpkin koftas was a spicy spinach sauce. Since pumpkin is mild, this sauce hots them up and makes the flavors pop. And since the koftas must be served and eaten hot, the best thing is to make the sauce ahead of time, and this spinach sauce can be made a day ahead. Keep it in the fridge and heat it up before using.
Here's What's In It:
1 bag of fresh baby spinach
4 Tbs of vegetable oil
A 2 inch piece of fresh ginger peeled and chopped
2 fresh green serrano chilies slit up the mmiddle
1 bunch of fresh mint
1 and 1/2 cups of water
1 tsp of salt
Here's What To Do:
In a skillet or wok or kadhai heat the oil.
When the oil is hot, toss in the chopped ginger and chilies. Stir all that around and saute it a bit, then add in:
Cook everything until the spinach and mint start to wilt, then turn down the heat and add in the water and salt.
Turn down the heat, put a lid on things and let it all simmmer for about 15 minutes.
Take it off the heat.
Put everything into a food processor and blend it up into a puree.
Serve it when it's done with the koftas, or pop it in the fridge to use later. Use a little or use a lot.
I love these pumpkin koftas, vegan, gluten free, vegetarian, perfect for meatless Monday feasting. It ticks all the boxes no matter how you eat. Even carnivores love 'em. I'm not talking about Patsy or Johnny Depp the cat, but the other major carnivore around here, Alan.
I'll be making more of these koftas over the holiday season using a variety of vegetables. I think they'll be perfect on party platters. In fact coming up next the traditional holiday sweet potatoes get an Indian tune up. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori