Unpredictable can be wonderful.
I’ve made a life that revolves around the unpredictable. Wanting never to bore or tire of the same routine, I’m drawn to boundaries that need pushed, challenges that need met, and the unpredictability of weather. As a professional emergency manager, I spend my days assisting people prepare for what could be their worst. Unpredictable is at the very core of what we do, and if it can be predicted, mitigation measures are called into place.
In this line of work, it’s not practical to try and have detailed procedures for every possible scenario or bizarre event that could fall in your lap, so instead you focus on building a variety of capabilities that you will need regardless of what life throws at you.
I didn’t realize it until now, but there are incredible similarities to cooking. I used to hate cooking and especially baking. I followed recipes to painful detail only to be disappointed time and again with the results. When things turned out poorly, I tried other recipes, and followed them even closer, rather than trusting my gut when I knew proportions or steps seemed wrong. It turned me off from the kitchen for quite a while, as everything seemed more like a chore than an adventure.
When I found food blogs – especially the wonderfulness that is Smitten Kitchen – I quickly fell in love with the idea that people were showing me how cooking feels and works, as opposed to what precise measurement to add to the other.
Food blogs are a wonderful reprieve from boring numeric recipes where some stranger is telling you exactly what to do or not do in your kitchen, often setting you up for a hard-earned failure of a meal. Once I realized it’s not possible to learn the recipes for every amazing food out there, or even to expect one recipe to turn out the same way twice, but I could learn the core skills required to craft a beautiful meal and then mix and match those abilities based on where the wind blows a particular night, I got excited.
This is the joy of cooking for me after a long day: learning a few tricks, being drawn to a certain ingredient or challenge with the ingredients on hand, getting inspired, and then throwing the recipes away!
So here we are today, the no-recipe peppered ginger pumkin pie. If you would have asked me 5 years ago if I could ever bake a pumpkin pie without a recipe or a measuring cup in sight, I would have laughed. But after a few successful attempts and some bold adventuring, we have landed on something extrodinary. Full of fall flavors and the expected comfort of a creamy pumpkin pie, without all the sweetness that usually makes pumkin pie a once-a-year dessert.
Everyone already knows I love pie for breakfast, and at all times of the day and year, yet this pie is unexpected. Bursting with the spice of a lot of fresh ginger and a little ground black pepper it is happy response to a formerly one-sided conversation. Eat it plain any time of the day, or top it with drizzles of whipped cream cheese, ever so slightly sweetened with sugar and a splash of vanilla, for an exciting take on a comforting favorite.
Pumpkin-everything season, just got a little more festive….
- 1 medium sugar pie pumpkin
- 1 medium chunk of fresh ginger (a little over an inch cube after peeling)
- 2 eggs and 2 more egg yolks
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup real maple syrup
- Pinch salt
- 2-3 good sprinkles of nutmeg (1/4 tsp?)
- A very small sprinkle of cinnamon (1/8 tsp?)
- 1/8-1/4 teaspoon ground pepper ( I just ground it into the bowl, probably 3-4 turns of the grinder)
- 1 can evaporated milk (or I prefer heavy cream)
We started with a medium sized sugar pie pumkin, roasted whole after removing the stem and poking steam vents.
We actually roasted the pumkin the night before while we had the oven hot for something else. Then put it in the fridge whole, so tonight it was soft and ready when I got the urge for late night pie making.
Adam cut the pumkin and removed the slime and seeds while I tried to decide what kind of pumpkin pie to have. Bless this man for always being up for heading into the kitchen with me to cook overly-ambitious late night snacks when other people probably just reach for potato chips!
We had added fresh ginger last week at the suggetion of Smitten Kitchen, so we added even more this time. About a large inch cube of ginger, maybe a smidge more (but you can add more as you get braver)!
Then 2 eggs, and 2 additional egg yolks, a decent amount of fresh pepper and nutmeg, with a small amount of cinnamon which can quickly get over powering. Added a little bit of the milk and mashed everything with an immersion blender, making sure to get the ginger chunks. If you don’t have one, you can always mince the ginger before adding. Then I added a good pour of maple syrup, a pinch of salt and tasted the batter (if you’re not afraid of the raw eggs). I added sugared to taste, not until sweet but just enough to cut the zesty ginger and then a tiny bit more.
We added to a buttery, and oh-so flaky quick pie crust and tossed into a 400 degree oven, until the center set.
Late night pie in bed.
Kate and Adam