A friend asked me a while back if there was any possible use for those inexplicably tiny pumpkins one finds at the grocery store. Sure, small children paint faces on them and people without extremely rambunctious cats may put them over the fireplace for decoration, but that’s not really useful.
I have an answer. Actually, I have quite a few answers and they all revolve around one simple but apparently little-known fact: pumpkin is not just for pie. Sure, it perks up beautifully with a dash of cinnamon and a generous scoop of brown sugar, but pumpkins are just as good in savory recipes as they are in sweet. In this instance, stir fry. Combine sweet pumpkin, bitter greens, and peas (snap peas would have been better, for the crisp texture) for a delightful Western stir fry.
It pains me that I’ve run out of Chinese hot mustard powder. I ran out of it almost a year ago, and just can’t seem to get up the energy to drive into the city for more. If you like mustard, see if you can find the hot stuff. If you can’t find it, just use an lot of ordinary mustard powder. Hate mustard? Some Chinese five spice, or just chili powder and nutmeg, will do the trick nicely.
Ingredients (serves 1, easily doubled)
1/2 of a baseball-sized pumpkin
4-5 leaves collard greens, mustard greens, or kale
1/4 cup peas (or sugar snap peas)
1 t mustard powder (a bit less if using the hot stuff.)
a dash of mirin
a dash of soy sauce
salt, to taste
1 cup cooked rice
Start heating a bit of butter, oil, or chile oil in a wok or large saucepan over medium-high heat. Peel the pumpkin. I hear the peel is edible, but the texture is rubbery and unpleasant, so I’d just peel it.
Slice the peeled pumpkin into 1/2 inch wide strips.
Dice the strips and toss them into the hot oil.
Remove the central rib from the greens. If you plan to eat it, dice it and toss it with the pumpkin immediately–It’ll need longer to cook than the leaves. If not, discard it.
Roll the leaves up tightly and cut them into 1/4 to 1/2 inch chiffonade.
Toss the greens and peas in with the pumpkin.
Stir vigorously, adjusting the heat if it’s not sizzling well or cooking too fast.
Add the mustard powder (or whatever spices you like.)
Place the cooked rice in a bowl.
Top the rice with cooked vegetables.
Add a splash of rice vinegar.
Then a splash of soy sauce.
Stir the rice and vegetables together with your chopsticks.
Serve hot. This is a light, simple, ten-minute meal, perfect for work nights or a bagged lunch.