pumpkin custards

pumpkin custards

You know, pie really is something that shouldn’t be reserved only for few-and-far-between holidays or events when the guest list contains an ample amount of people. The only issue, of course, is that generally an entire pie is far too much for one person, a couple, or even a small household to reasonably eat in the timeframe necessary. Sometimes just one serving would do the trick, right? That’s what I was thinking when the weekend warranted pumpkin pie, but I didn’t have a handful of guests to serve it to. That’s when the custard trick fit the bill quite perfectly. I keep small portioned amounts of pumpkin pie filling, divided into zip-top bags [from my favorite recipe here.] I let it thaw overnight, divide it into ramekins, bake as I would a pie [dialing down the time needed by about a third] and top with cream and cinnamon sugar. Just delightful.

pumpkin custards

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pumpkin custards

For when one desires pumpkin pie without all the work and all the leftovers. A simple way to enjoy the dreaminess of pumpkin custard on a weeknight, for a small gathering, or on a rainy day when things like pumpkin custards are in order. The point here is to freeze the amount of filling in each zip-top bag as you see yourself using each time. Then, when the desire strikes, thaw a batch a day before baking. All that remains to be done is bake and eat!

Adapted minimally from Smitten Kitchen, originally adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
Makes 10-12 total servings [to be divided into 5 or 6 zip-top bags, frozen, and thawed separately as needed]

Filling:
1 cup half-and-half
3 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
1 cup drained candied yams (one 15-ounce can)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon table salt

Freshly whipped cream, for serving
Cinnamon sugar, for serving

Make the filling:
Whisk together the half-and-half, eggs, yolks, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Place the pumpkin puree, yams, sugar, maple syrup, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir together with a sturdy rubber spatula or thick wooden spoon over medium heat, until mixture starts to simmer and sputter, about 5-10 minutes. Mash the yams against the sides and bottom of the pot to start breaking them apart, but don’t be too worried about breaking them apart completely. Simmer the mixture until it becomes thick and shiny, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat.

Whisk in the cream mixture very slowly until it is fully integrated with the pumpkin mixture. Puree the mixture with an immersion blender on a high speed until completely smooth – you don’t want any chunks or lumps! Divide evenly into 5 or 6 freezer zip-top bags, carefully press out the air, and seal tightly. Freeze [except for one batch, of course, to be enjoyed soon!]

Divide a batch of filing amongst a few ramekins, about 2/3 full. Bake at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 300 degrees and bake until edges are completely set, and the filling registers 175 degrees F (about 30 minutes longer; watch carefully depending on the size of your ramekin and how fast your filling bakes.)

Let the custards cool on the counter at room temperature for at least 2-3 hours before serving to ensure the filling sets. Serve with freshly whipped cream and a dusting of cinnamon sugar, if desired.

Leftovers will keep at room temperature, covered, for 2-3 days.

© Simple Pairings. All rights reserved.

a relaxed weekend morning

a relaxed weekend morning | simple pairings

Guys, we all know moving is a pretty huge deal. Moving cross-country? Even more so. Perhaps the only heartache involved with the process is that my kitchen is still completely packed up in storage. Until the Simple Pairings kitchen returns to me, [spoiler alert: balloons-and-streamers surprise party awaits; you’re invited!] I look forward to easygoing weekend mornings like these. Mornings like these are good for the soul, so much so that they almost erase the memory of your favorite marble pastry board or Italian coffee pot buried somewhere within hundreds of boxes. Whether you have the looming task of unpacking your life into a new place or not, consider making time for a quiet morning before life happens each day. Because it’s in the still, coffee-drenched mornings when some of the most brilliant inspiration can wildly and relentlessly strike.

Cheers to all that’s to come.
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roasted eggplant dip

roasted eggplant dip

I think entertaining at home is terribly underrated. It’s exhilarating to go to new places, but I also love being in the comfort of a home and relaxing with others. One of my favorite elements of at-home tapas parties, aside from all the mingling and laughter, is experiencing the dishes that the hosts and guests provide. Each showcases a personality, a favorite ingredient, a seasonal theme – and usually, you stumble across some pretty incredible recipes that you can’t wait to duplicate yourself. That’s where this incredible Roasted Eggplant Dip stems from. My lovely friend Katie introduced this recipe to me on a wonderful wine and movie night, and every time I make this recipe, I think about all the fun we had together. Don’t you love recipes like that?

What are your tapas party favorites? Now that we’re in the middle of holiday party season, it’s time to roll out the best dishes we’ve got, right? Cheers to fantastic parties, company, and food!

roasted eggplant diproasted eggplant diproasted eggplant diproasted eggplant dip

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roasted eggplant dip

This Mediterranean dip is incredibly hearty, and makes a refreshing, savory addition to add to any table. I think it’s best served atop warm toasted black bread, but it’s also fantastic on rye or pita. It’s healthy enough to please the pickiest of guests, but dynamic enough to enchant the masses. Play with the seasonings to your liking, and make it your own.

2 small eggplants
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 cup plain full-fat Greek yogurt [I use Fage]
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint, optional
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
Dash of cayenne, to taste, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. If desired, line a baking sheet with parchment paper (certainly not necessary, but makes clean-up a bit easier.)

Peel the eggplants if you so choose [I find the skin softens adequately enough during roasting, but it’s a matter of personal preference], dice into 1/2-inch cubes, and toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Arrange the eggplant cubes into a single layer on the baking sheet, season with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Roast for 20 minutes, or until the eggplant is tender but still maintains a bit of structure [you don’t want it to fall apart in the dip.]

In the bottom of a large serving bowl, thoroughly combine the yogurt, lemon juice. Add the roasted eggplant, feta, and mint, if using. Toss gently to coat. Add additional salt, black pepper, and cayenne, to taste.

Serve chilled or at room temperature with toasted black bread, rye, or pita.

© Simple Pairings. All rights reserved.