Christmas Recipes > Dressing with Apricots and Prunes, Stuffed in a Whole Pumpkin

Posted On November 2, 2008

Filed under Festive Recipes

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“Food should be an expression of love and acceptance, mutuality rather than the differences.”

Ingredients >
1 cup dried apricots
1 cup dried pitted prunes
1 cup apple juice
1 loaf good-quality commercially made presliced whole wheat bread
1 large onion, diced
1 to 2 stalks leafy celery, diced (leaves included)
1 1/2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon dried leaf sage (not ground)
1/4 cup butter, melted
Vegetable stock as needed
Tamari or shoyu sauce to taste
Dried leaf basil and oregano to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Cooking spray (optional)
1 medium-large pumpkin, prepared for stuffing*

Method >
Place the apricots and prunes in a small heatproof bowl. Place the apple juice in a small saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil. Immediately pour the juice over the dried fruit. Let stand for at least 2 hours, but overnight or a day or two in advance is fine. Drain the dried fruit, reserving both the fruit and the soaking liquid. Coarsely chop the fruit and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F, then turn down to 200 degrees F.

Set a wire rack on a baking sheet and place a single layer of bread slices on the rack. Place in the preheated oven and bake, slowly, turning once, until the bread is hard, crunchy, and dry all the way through, but not browned. This is a fairly slow process, it might take 45 to 60 minutes, but set the timer at 20-minute intervals to remind you to check. You will either need to do 2 sheets worth of bread (in which case, reverse their positions in the oven halfway through), or repeat the toasting again until all bread is prepared. Remove the dry bread from the oven and let cool.

Coarsely crumble the bread into a large bowl. Add the onion and leafy celery and toss to combine. Measure the sage (starting with the smaller amount) into your hands and rub the leaves back and forth in your palms until they crumble. Add the sage to the bread mixture. Pour the melted butter over the mixture and toss well to combine. Add the soaked dried fruit and toss again. The dressing should still be dry. Begin adding the liquid, a combination of vegetable stock and the reserved fruit soaking liquid. Use more stock than juice, and use just enough to moisten the dressing without making it soggy. Keep tossing, adding stock as needed. Add tamari, starting with about 1 tablespoon. Taste for salt and add it and plenty of pepper to taste. Add more sage, dried basil or oregano, if you like. The stuffing can be prepared to this point and stored, covered and refrigerated, overnight.

On the day you plan to stuff the pumpkin, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

If not using nonstick baking dish, spray one large enough to accommodate the pumpkin with cooking spray.

Stuff the dressing into the cavity of the prepared pumpkin, topping with the pumpkin’s cap. Place the stuffed pumpkin in the prepared baking dish. Place in the preheated oven and bake until the pumpkin is slightly brown and looks a bit collapsed in on itself, about 40 minutes. Serve whole, at the table.

To prepare pumpkin >
Buff-colored varieties are sweeter by far than the bright orange ones.
Cut off and reserve a lid, as in preparing a jack-o’-lantern. Scoop out all seeds and fibers.
Put an inch or two of water in a large pot. Place the pumpkin, cut-side down, in the water, cap wedged in near it.
Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover tightly and steam for 10 to 15 minutes to precook slightly.
Remove the pot from the heat and let cool.
When cool, remove from the pot.
Season the inside with salt, pepper, a little tamari, Pickapeppa and brown sugar, rubbing this into the exposed interior flesh after steaming.