My local farmers market is looking, well, wintery. The brilliant colors of summer—radiantly red tomatoes and light green basil—are nowhere to be found. Instead there’s a lot of dark green (kale, chard) and orange (squash and pumpkins of all shapes and sizes). This week I bought a pumpkin I’d never seen before. It was called Cheese. When I got home I looked it up on the interwebby and found that the full name is Long Island Cheese Pumpkin.
Long Island Cheese Pumpkin!?!?! That sounds like it should be an Urban Dictionary entry. As in: A bridge and tunnel cute-y boo who sells drugs to Wall St. types after the markets close.
I also found some real facts.
This variety of squash is more closely related to a butternut than a pumpkin and has been cultivated on Long Island since the 1800s. Sometime in the 1960s they started to disappear. Maybe they fell out of favor or maybe there was a blight that took the crop out. In any case, it’s taken a long time to come back, but thank goodness it did. In addition to being irresistibly cute (it’s shaped like a ridged, flattened wheel of cheese) it is much richer in flavor and color than your run-of-the-mill pumpkin. It’s squashier than butternut too. This farmer uses the cheese in pies that always sell out. I can understand why.
I wasn’t in the mood for pie, so instead decided to make pumpkin dumplings. These are very similar to gnocchi, but I can’t call them that because this dough is scooped directly into boiling water instead of being rolled and cut first.
To go with my dumplings, I made a sauce—in quotes—of locally made kielbasa and Swiss chard. It’s in quotes because it’s not really all that saucy. This is a great cold-night dish. It feels healthy, but also a little piggy (read: delicious), and is a fun way to explore a new (to me at least) type of winter squash.
Long Island Cheese Pumpkin Dumplings with Swiss Chard and Kielbasa
Serves 4 as a first course or 2 as a main
1 small Cheese Pumpkin (or butternut squash)
2 tablespoons olive oil
fine sea salt
1 large bunch Swiss chard
1/2 pound kielbasa
1 small red onion, sliced
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Cut pumpkin in half and remove seeds with a spoon. Place a piece of foil on a baking sheet. Rub cut sides of pumpkin with 1 tablespoon oil, then sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Place pumpkin, cut sides down, on baking sheet and roast until tender, about 40 minutes. Let cool.
Separate chard leaves and stems. Cut stems into 1/4-inch pieces and tear leaves into large pieces.
Cut kielbasa into 1/2-inch slices. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large heavy skillet over medium high heat, then brown sausage, turning, about 6 minutes total. Transfer sausage to a plate, reserving fat in skillet.
Add onion and chard stems to skillet and cook, stirring, until softened, 4 to 6 minutes. Add leaves and cook, turning with tongs, until wilted, 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and reserve.
Scoop 1 cup of pumpkin into a bowl. Stir in cheese, yolks, sage, flour, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper (the batter will be sticky).
Bring a pot of boiling salted water to a boil. Drop teaspoon-sized pieces of batter into boiling water. Boil dumplings until they float, about 3 minutes. Transfer dumplings to Swiss chard mixture and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then serve.
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