Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Pumpkin Season - Part II

I was hoping to get to one of the Katrina benefit dinners at any of the hipster restaurants far away from work and the suburban boredom that is Livermore... Alas, I am still at work. I realized today that I was supposed to give a presentation in Berkeley on Friday, and since they are going to be using some fancy projection system, my slides are due tomorrow. So far, I have 2 slides done, and one is my title slide. Sniff. Procrastination has gotten the better of me again, and I am having to stay at work instead of out and about enjoying my fading youth.

Oh well.

Since this is breast cancer awareness month, I'll deviate from regular programming for a second and share a little bit of what I do as a cancer biologist. My presentation on Friday is about angiogenesis. Angiogenesis is the process by which new blood vessels grow, and because blood supplies all of your cells with oxygen and other much needed goodies to grow, tumors are particularly fond of new blood vessels. They actually NEED it to grow beyond a certain size/state... You see, tumors are just like us and they can't grow a whole lot if they don't get their nutrients. Taking advantage of this fact that angiogenesis and tumor growth are hand-in-hand are the very promising anti-angiogenesis cancer treatments... And somewhere in this web is little Doc Alice, trying to find her place in the field of cancer biology and human health...

Anyway, back to pumpkins before I speed off back to angiogenesis for real.

This pumpkin-shiitake couscous was an accompaniment for my most recent Paper Chef entry. Since I went shopping after being inspired by Chris on Saturday, I picked up a pumpkin at the Walnut Creek farmer's market. I saw a very pretty orange pumpkin for only $3 - it was huge for $3! Well, it turned out to be a not-so-tasty pumpkin in the end. I think it was a decorative pumpkin...

But before I found that out, I sliced the pumpkin into two, cleaned its guts, and roasted it in my oven. My oven has no temperature control, but the pumpkin came out soft and scoopable in an hour and whatever temperature it felt like being. While the pumpkin was roasting, I made a very condensed dried shiitake broth, seasoned with soy sauce, which I've been enamored with since trying it during the last IMBB. I took the mushrooms out and sliced them while I cooked the couscous in the broth. I dumped the mushrooms and the scraped pumpkin-meat back into the pot once the couscous was done, and voila! Pumpkin-mushroom couscous! So vegan, yet so satisfying. The couscous really absorbed the shiitake depth of flavor while the pumpkin meat gave it strength and substance. This was rich without being cumbersome, light without being bland.

My only complaint is that the pumpkin really didn't have that strong sweet pumpkin taste.... But then again, maybe it's because the Japanese kabocha (what we call pumpkin) is really not a pumpkin but a whole different gord...


Uchipu said...

I have a pumpkin dessert that's very good and very easy.

1) Get those "decorative" mini pumpkins. Make sure that the stem looks fresh, and hard.

2) Like you would make a jack-o-lantern, make a circular cut at top, take the seeds out.

3) Put inside 1/2 table spoon of unsalted butter, 3 teaspoons of brown sugar (or honey), 2 teaspoons of cinamon, 1 teaspoon of all spice.

4) Set them on a baking casserole, with 1/2 to 1/4 inch water - like when you make flan.

5) Cover with aluminum, bake at 300F until the flesh gets tender - like 45 min.

That's it.

They look cute, and taste like mini pumpkin pies. You can serve them warm with really good vanilla ice cream too!


Uchipu said...

I forgot... when baking, make sure you put the pumpkin "lid" back on...

jd said...

Not sure that cancer and couscous mix that well, but it is interesting to read about your work.

My 8 year old is always trying to think of cures for cancer so I'll let him know about angiogenesis (or keep it to myself so I can stay one step ahead). So far he has been sticking to botanical potions and household chemicals as treatment.

Anonymous said...

Hi there-
I randomly found your site one day and I find it very interesting since I too like to cook and try new things. As for this entry, do you have an actual recipe? Also, you couldn't use canned pumpkin could you? Just wondering... :P.

saccot said...

Hajime-mashite.Thank you for your commnet on my blog.
I am just thinking of couscous recipes. This pampkin shiitake couscous is great!! I'll copy it!
PS. Can I type Japanese on your blog comment?

Alice said...


That sounds wonderful! I'll have to try it for a dinner party sometime soon!!


That's great that your 8 yr old is already thinking about new approaches for cancer therapy!!

Anonymous cook,

I actually don't have a recipe for anything I make, but the general process is to make shiitake broth by boiling dried shiitake, season the broth with salt, and then use that broth to cook the couscous. Once the couscous is done, just add the pumpkin! I'm sure you could just use canned pumpkin instead - I'm sorry it doesn't get more specific! I just kind of throw stuff around into one pot in the kitchen!!


I love your blog! Your pictures are great, and your cooking sounds awesome! And yes, please feel free to comment in Japanese. Many of my Japanese friends do!