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In Other News, I Won an Award

November 14, 2010

Things around here have been sad, and I reserve the right to be glum whenever I want.

However, the day before Beth was hospitalized was a great day, and one which I had intended to write about, so here we go.

One reason it was nice was that I felt challenged by and satisfied from my day job in a way that I had not felt since I became a parent. It felt awesome to flex those worky wings.

Another good thing was that I won an award at my job.

The award is not for actually working, however.

The award was for cooking something orange.

You see, I work at a place where you can win awards for cooking orange things better than your colleagues can cook orange things.

New York City is cutthroat, I tell you.

Before we go any further, here is a huge, blurry, and yet cheerful picture of me with my award:

The award is a gourd. It says “First Prize, Savory.” It was signed by judges.

Apparently, the seventh floor — where I don’t work, because I work on the eighth floor — hosts an occasional themed cooking contest. I just started working at my company again after a three-year hiatus and was invited to participate in October’s contest, whose theme was ORANGE.

When my one-year-old was napping one afternoon, I decided to steal and slay the sugar pumpkins he’d brought home from a farm, and make Afghan-style pumpkin out of them. Afghan-style pumpkin is a VERY DELICIOUS entity that I first learned about in high school or early college, when we would venture into Hartford to go to a restaurant called the Shish Kebab House of Afghanistan. If you find yourself in that area of the world, you should go. The restaurant has since moved to West Hartford, which makes for safer dining than Hartford. Or actual Afghanistan.

We often order Afghan delivery in our Brooklyn neighborhood, and that restaurant has a standout pumpkin dish, but it’s pumpkin turnovers. If it seems like I know a lot about Afghan food, that’s because it was my minor in college. Viva Liberal Arts!

That is a lie, but I really love it and once wrote a whole feature article on it for Time Out New York. It does not include any recipes, nor is it very funny, but it does give you a sense of why Afghan food is one of my favorites.

Anyhow: I read a bunch of different recipes and cobbled together a few whose aspects I liked, so I’ll just describe what I did in an informal format. So, you should either steal your child’s pumpkins, or buy a sugar pumpkin, which is a far more civilized act, or hightail it to your nearest Afghan restaurant and order some, which is easier yet less satisfying. If you choose the third option, order some eggplant too, and some of the pasta dishes, and the rice browned in onions, and some spicy spinach. You will not be sorry.

Afghan Pumpkin

2 lb sugar pumpkin
1.5 C sugar, plus a pinch
Mild oil (canola, corn, or safflower)
Coriander (ground)
1 C Yogurt (full fat plain, or Greek style yogurt, which could be lowfat)
2 cloves garlic
Kosher salt
Tomatoes (Passata, whole peeled from a can, or crushed)
1/2 a medium onion
Ground Ginger
Cayenne (optional)
Ground beef (optional)
Dried mint (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Bake the sugar pumpkin for 15 minutes. This prebaking is a key step that will allow you to slice the pumpkin open without filling your kitchen accidentally with blood.
  3. Scoop out goop and seeds. Reserve seeds if you intend to cook them later. Here is a really good recipe.
  4. Peel the outside skin off of the pumpkin with a y-shaped peeler. Cut the pumpkin into hunks that are a size that you wouldn’t mind being served.
  5. Rub a mild oil (safflower, corn, or canola) on the hunks. Put them on a cookie sheet or roasting pan in a single layer. Then, put on more sugar than you would imagine is reasonable, and be sure that the sugar is coating the hunks. For a 2 lb’er, use a cup and a half.
  6. Sprinkle on some cinnamon. Add a bit of crushed coriander if you have it.
  7. Cook for 2 or 3 hours on 300, basting once after an hour and a half. Pumpkin should be translucent (ie, had enough oil on it when it was cooking) and getting slightly caramelized in certain parts.


  1. Mince one clove of garlic. Stir into a cup of yogurt.
  2. Add a pinch of kosher salt. Let it sit so the flavors can blend.
  3. Taste and add salt if necessary.

Tomato sauce

  1. Chop half of a medium onion (or most of a small onion?) and mince a clove of garlic.
  2. If using ground beef, sautee beef with onions and garlic in a small amount of oil in a medium saucepan.
  3. Otherwise, just sautee onions and garlic in a small amount of oil in a small or medium saucepan.
  4. Add a pinch of cinnamon, a very small pinch of cayenne, and a shake of ground ginger to the cooking onions.
  5. Add tomato and a pinch of sugar.
  6. When tomatoes are cooked, after a few minutes, taste for flavor and adjust seasonings.
To serve, put a bit of yogurt on a plate, and sprinkle with ground mint if using. Add a piece of warm pumpkin. Top with tomato sauce.
7 Comments leave one →
  1. Alana permalink
    November 14, 2010 10:34 pm

    This sounds amazing! I need the # for your Afgan take-out place. Have you been to Khyber Pass in the East Village? Excellent pumpkin fritters there.

    • November 23, 2010 12:13 pm

      I love it love it love it at Khyber Pass. Haven’t been in so long! It’s bahar: I don’t have the number with me at the moment but it’s on menupages and it’s on CIA, so very close to you!

  2. November 15, 2010 8:52 am

    Nu-uhhh, this recipe looks so good it can’t even be real! No wonder you won! And how awesome is it to win the savory gourd with a recipe that has more than 1.5 cups sugar?
    And, I remember when you were writing that article on Afghan food because it was partly when I visited you and we got to eat so much Afghan food including the special desserts that taste like roses.
    And in this picture you are as beautiful as a rose and I love you so much and am thinking of you lots and pouring out my heart to you every day.
    And do you think I could make this recipe with butternut squash? because that is what keeps coming in my farm box and soon I will win a prize for Collection of Butternut Squash, Largest.

    • November 23, 2010 12:10 pm

      You could absolutely make it with butternut squash, and perhaps a little less sugar? Ahh, what they hey, put all of the sugar in. xo

  3. Julie permalink
    November 15, 2010 9:35 am

    That’s an adorable photo! I’d love your recs for local Afghan food (which joint, and what to get). Also, just want to say I’m impressed by your ability to take pleasure in this, even while dealing with something so devastating.

    • November 23, 2010 12:12 pm

      Hi Julie,
      Bahar! And get the mixed turnovers, and the “morgh kabob,” and the spicy spinach. They don’t have this pumpkin there. The eggplant appetizer is also great!

  4. November 16, 2010 2:33 pm

    I’m so happy to see your smiley face!

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