Have you ever stumbled upon a recipe or a dish that brought back a memory? They say the nose has the strongest memory of all five senses, but the truth is it does not really matter because good food encompasses all five of our senses. It should be no wonder that it is such an overwhelming trigger for memories. A few weeks ago, I was prowling for new blogs and stumbled upon this recipe. It instantly took me to baking with my grandma in Russia. I know it is cliché. Everyone has a recipe they shared with their grandmother but it’s not the uniqueness of the recipe that’s so amazing, it’s the uniqueness of my grandmother.
I call her Nelly, because, well, that’s her name. To this day, she is way too active and energetic to be called a grandmother. She is more of a second mom slash best friend slash grandmother. Since that’s way too much to write on a mug, her first name works just fine. Nelly has a unique talent of befriending every person in the world. In Russia, her house was filled with people to the point where she would go to bed and there would be guests still laughing and eating in the rest of the apartment. She gave a new meaning to open door policy. I don’t even think I remember being in the apartment without some company over. When she immigrated to America, neither the distance nor the lack of a new language stopped her from keeping this trend. During the late hours, she stays up writing letters to 20+ people a night in all corners of the world. During the day, she spends all her time organizing lectures, productions, museums, trips for her friends. In the time between, she is at the park meeting new American friends left and right. When she sleeps is a mystery I really don’t think I’ll ever understand but I’ve come to terms with that.
** Just for fun, this is a picture of my amazing Nelly and my mom at Varnisage, our local russian resterant.
Anyway, one of my first memories of Nelly was watching her make these stuffed apples in Russia. I was maybe 4 at most. Now granted, they did not include pumpkin and I recall allot more butter then this mixture but this recipe reminded me of hers none the less. When I finally made them, I couldn’t get enough of the taste of childhood. These snacks are sweet but keep you filled, comforted and satisfied.
Adapted heavily from http://www.tasteofhome.com/Recipes/Scented-Rice-in-Baked-Pumpkin
• 1 small pumpkin (about 2 pounds)
• 6 apples
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1/2 cup uncooked brown rice
• 1 cup water
• 1/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans, toasted
• 2 tablespoons raisins
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 teaspoon curry powder
• 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom, optional
• 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
• Wash pumpkin; cut into six wedges. Remove loose fibers and seeds from the inside
Brush wedges with oil. Place onto an greased baking sheet. Bake at 400° for 35-40 minutes or until tender. Set the pumpkin aside and let cool.
• Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring rice and water to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender. Strain the rice and place in bowl.
• Poke holes in the apples and microwave for 15 minutes. The apples should be soft but still intact. Set aside to cool.
• When the pumpkin has cooled scoop out the pumpkin and place in a food processor.
• Scoop out the flash of the apple. Set the gutted apple aside. Take out the seeds from the flash and place in the food processor.
• Process the apples and pumpkins until the mixture is consistent but chunky. Do not let it liquidize. Place the mixture into the rice.
• Stir in the pecans, raisins, salt, curry, cinnamon and cardamom if desired.
• Stuff the mixture into the apples and place on an oiled baking sheet.
• Bake for 350 for about 15 min.