Darcy Lewis Design

Adventures in "Good Enough" Design

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Amazing Armenian Stuffed Pumpkin

When my Armenian husband and I were first dating, he made this much-beloved traditional stuffed pumpkin filled with rice, dried fruits, nuts, and spices, (called “Ghapama” – which means ‘cooked in a covered pot’) and brought it to an Armenian party…. which caused all the mothers to swoon with delight and pull him aside to tell him about their daughters.  This dish basically has legend status, there is even a popular song about this dish! (“Hey jan ghapama, hamov hodov ghapama” – which means ‘Dear Ghapama, tasty, fragrant ghapama’.)  The song claims that when ghapama is made, over 100 guests will come – judging by the response every time we bring it, I can totally understand that!!

I just made this for a holiday party, and was asked for the recipe, so am posting it here for everyone.  Please note that I didn’t measure things, so quantities are approximate at best.  Also note that there is no ‘standard’ recipe for this dish – it’s a pumpkin stuffed with rice, fruit, and nuts – beyond that, the details depend on the individual cook.  So feel free to substitute any fruits, nuts, and spices you personally like (can even use an acorn squash instead of a pumpkin)!  This is my personal twist on the traditional version – with more of a Middle-Eastern/Fall Harvest flavor.  This is such an easy recipe, but makes a dramatic and delicious presentation for any fall/holiday party!

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Darcy’s Version of Ghapama!

Ingredients:
1 medium regular pumpkin, or 2 smaller pie pumpkins
2 cups basmati rice
4 Tbsp. (1/2 stick) butter, melted
½ cup each: chopped dates, pomegranate-flavored dried cranberries (Craisins), mixed raisins
½ cup glazed pecans – pieces or coarse-chopped
1 cup walnuts – pieces or coarse-chopped
1-2 Tbsp. each: brown sugar, molasses, pomegranate molasses, date molasses
½ cup maple syrup
½ cup candied orange peels in syrup (both the syrup and the peels) (I love the Italian ‘Toschi’ brand!!)
½ – 3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ginger powder
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of salt
¼ cup hot water

Directions:

1. Wash and dry the pumpkin(s). Cut off the top in a circle  – it will be the lid.
2. Scrape out all the guts.  Rinse and save the seeds for roasting if you want
3. In a saucepan, bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Add rice, stir, cover the pot and reduce heat to low. Cook rice for about 15 minutes. Rice should NOT be completely cooked. Drain any excess liquid.
4. In a large mixing bowl, combine the partially cooked rice, fruit, nuts, spices, and sweeteners.
5. Loosely stuff the rice mix into the pumpkin; pour the ¼ cup hot water over the top of the filling.
6. Line a baking pan with heavy duty aluminium foil.  Put the pumpkin in the pan, put the top of the pumpkin back on and bake at 350°F for about 2 hours or until soft. Insert a toothpick into the pumpkin to determine tenderness.

You can either plate this as a whole pumpkin and let guests scoop everything out (you eat the soft pumpkin flesh with the rice) or you can cut the pumpkin into starburst-like wedges when you serve.

* A final note: The more ‘exotic’ ingredients can usually be found at your local Middle-Eastern market.

 

 

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Darcy’s Armenian Fig Cheesecake!!

Never heard of Armenian Cheesecake, have you?  That’s because I invented it!!

We were invited to the home of an Armenian family and asked to bring dessert. I had the following parameters: Gluten-free, not too sweet.  Easy, right?  I decided that I wanted to bring something unique and flavored with traditional Armenian flavors, but I am not Armenian so didn’t want to make anything that actually IS traditional (I’m not competing head to head with Armenian cooks!!).  So I thought of figs and the young black walnut preserves Armenians put in their tea…and cheesecake, a nice classic for summer.  It came out DELICIOUS, not too sweet, very distinctive, unique flavor, fluffy texture, etc.  Both kids and adults loved it, even adults who don’t like sweets OR cheesecake!!

So I’m sharing with you:

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Darcy’s Armenian Fig Cheesecake with Gluten-Free Cinnamon Crust

Prep Time: 45-60 min. – including cooling time for the milk

Bake Time: 60 min.

Total Time: 5 Hours (3 hours of cooling after baking)

 

Crust:

2 cups Chex cinnamon gluten-free cereal, crushed/pulverized/crumbled

4 Tbl unsalted butter – very soft

Blend together, and press into the bottom of a 9″ glass pie dish.  Set aside.

Filling:

3  8-oz packs of regular cream cheese

1  10-oz log of goat cheese with figs (I used Celebrity Int’l brand)

.5-1 cup (to taste) sweetener of choice – I used the syrup from young black walnut preserves.  You can use sugar, honey, jam in a complementary flavor, etc.

3/4 cup milk – in which you’ve boiled 2 Tbl strong black tea and 1/2 tsp whole cloves until the milk turns medium brown and smells VERY strongly of the tea and cloves. Let cool.

4 eggs

8-oz sour cream

1/4 cup gluten-free flour

Fig marmalade – about 8 oz. Heated until runny. (I found a huge jar at Costco pretty cheap – used about half).

1 orange – zested

 

Instructions: 

Let cheeses stand at room temperature until soft.  Blend them together until creamy. Add the sweetener and the cooled milk and 1 full tsp of orange zest. Blend. Add the eggs, one at a time, then the sour cream and flour – DO NOT OVER MIX – only blend as much as needed.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Ladle a thin layer of filling over the crust and smooth.  Top with a thin evened-out spooning of the warmed, runny, fig marmalade.  Add another thin layer of filling, then another thin layer of fig, then a very thin layer of filling.

I had enough filling left over to fill 3 ramekins – skipped all the layering and the crust, and just put in filling and spread some fig marmalade on top then baked.  This was also delicious, so you can skip all the layering work if you want, and just do a layer of marmalade on top of the filling.

Pop into the heated oven for 1 hour – BE SURE TO PUT A LINER DOWN – this has a tendency to bubble over (because I totally overfilled the dish – I REGRET NOTHING!)

The edges should be lightly browned, and it’s ok if the middle jiggles a little when the dish is moved.  It will firm as it cools.  The little ramekins I baked for only 45 min.  – putting them into the oven 15 min. after the big cake, then letting everything bake and cool together.

When done, leave the door closed, and just let the cheesecake sit a few hours until it cools.

Top with a sprinkle of orange zest before serving.

ENJOY!!!

In process photos:

Adding the marmalade layer

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Side view of all my layers – except the final filling layer on topIMAG5597

With the final top layer – it’s so full, I know disaster (aka leaking) is inevitable, I don’t care…IMAG5599

Cooling… IMAG5600

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