Swiss Pumpkin for Cook the Books Club

For our Cook the Books Club this go round, hosted by fellow Hawaii resident and blogger, Deb of Kahakai Kitchen, we read (or in my case re-read) Comfort Me with Apples, a memoir by noted Chef, Food Editor, Restaurant Critic, TV personality, and author, Ruth Reichl.

I must suffer from some sort of medium-term memory loss.  Most of the book seemed new to me.  Had forgotten the long, drawn-out, often sad, business of her marriage break up and affairs, but on the brighter side of honesty, there is humor, good food, more humor and interesting snippets with restaurant personalities and food VIPs.  Do read as well, Tender at the Bone: Growing up at the Table, and Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise, they are even better.

There was much in her memoir to tempt and inspire, as well as challenge our cooking skills.  Reichl has the ability to communicate smells and tastes through descriptive writing, aided by an unbelievable palette, which is the premier gifting for a food critic or chef.  I sometimes wish mine could be tuned up a few notches. It would certainly help in the area of wine tasting as well.  I wonder if there is an herb that would help??

It was difficult to decide exactly what to prepare for this round.  So many directions you might go, from California nouvelle, to Chinese or Thai.  The idea of Cook the Books Club, in case you are new here, is to read the current bi-monthly book selection and then to cook and post a recipe inspired by your reading.

Since we have been having cold, rainy weather lately (yes, even in Hawaii), what finally called my name was her Swiss Pumpkin, nicely filled with half-and-half, Gruyere cheese, toasted bread, etc., and baked for 2 hours.  I used one of our locally grown Kabocha pumpkins, which are just the right size for for two (with not too much left-over). So, given a 2 lb. squash, I cut the recipe in half, and didn't for once change anything, wanting to test out the original.

Swiss Pumpkin

1 pumpkin, about 4 1/4 lbs.
 a 14-inch baguette, cut into 1/4 inch-thick slices, then toasted lightly
1/4 lb. Gruyere cheese, grated
1 3/4 cups half-and-half
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 350F.
Carefully cut a 1-inch slice off the top of the pumpkin, reserving the top.  Scoop out and discard the seeds and strings.  Make 3 layers each of toast and cheese in the pumpkin cavity, alternating layers and ending with cheese.  Whisk together the half-and-half, eggs, salt, pepper and nutmeg, then slowly pour the mixture into the pumpkin.  Replace the top and bake on a shallow baking pan in the middle of the oven until the pumpkin is tender, about 2 hours.  Serve by scooping out the pumpkin flesh with the bread and cheese.
Serves 4.

So easy to put together, and such good comfort food, especially in cold weather, and perfectly delicious.  I served this with bowls of basil tomato soup as a first course.  Do check out the round-up of recipes, which should be ready early in April, on the Cook the Books Club website.

Also sharing this with Beth Fish's Weekend Cooking.


jama said...

That looks yummy. The whole time I lived in Hawaii I never ate any fresh pumpkin (and can't remember ever seeing one in the supermarket). Mmmm, gruyere cheese . . . :)

Claudia said...

Thanks Jama, they seem to be here year round these days.

Deb in Hawaii said...

It's funny Claudia--I forgot a lot of the detail of the book too and most of the marriage drama stuff, remembering more of the food and chef stories. ;-) I love your Swiss pumpkin--it does indeed look perfect for all of the cool rainy and windy weather that we have been having.

Thanks for joining in this month and inspiring my pick.

Louise said...

That looks fabulous. We Australians love fresh pumpkin- and use it year round. This might be a way to get my cheese loving son to eat a bit more pumpkin. I was just looking at some small pumpkins at our local produce shop today. I might try this this week. (It's turning autumnal in Australia)

Beth F said...

So funny that you said most of the book seemed new to you. I was thinking of doing a re-read of all her memoirs because I realized that I don't really remember them. I certainly don't remember this dish, but love the idea of it. I may have to try it before the weather changes over.

Tina said...

That's s good book. I read it quite a while back and meant to participate with CtB club.
I have never had a fresh pumpkin as you've prepared, I like your presentation!

Claudia said...

Thanks Beth, I've been noticing the phenomenon with other authors too, and just merrily re-read, enjoying the second time around. Especially A. McCall Smith.
Thanks Tina, I really enjoy her writing.

Claudia said...

Louise, several times I've filled the mini pumpkins with a blue cheese, egg and cream mixture for baking. Very similar.

Debra Eliotseats said...

I'm glad, Claudia, that I wasn't the only one that found I was rediscovering the book. I had totally forgotten about the adoption fiasco and heartbreak. I really could use a big pumpkiny bowl of this stuff today!

Rachel said...

This recipe sounded a bit daunting when I read it in the book, but you deconstructed it very nicely in your blog post. And deliciously!

Alicia Foodycat said...

That pumpkin dish was so tempting! I've seen a similar one on one of Anthony Bourdain's shows, which I really wanted to try.

A Day in the Life on the Farm said...

I was tempted by this recipe as well. Great choice!! Your version looks and sounds delicious.

Delaware Girl Eats said...

I just love Gruyere cheese, and this is such an inventive presentation, cathy from Delaware Girl Eats

Amy said...

That looks absolutely amazing! I remember seeing the Swiss Pumpkin recipe and having trouble visualizing it - now that i see yours, I see that's it's a must make!

Simona Carini said...

Good choice of squash variety: Kabocha is one of my favorite. Quite a rich recipe: I like the way your rendition looks.