Food by the Book: Supernatural fantasy meets academia

Serve up an informal Halloween dinner for young and old alike at your house with pumpkin hummus, baked sausage-stuffed pumpkin and mummy pizzas.

Yale freshman Galaxy Stern, called Alex, can see dead people in Leigh Bardugo’s new adult fantasy thriller, “The Ninth House” (Flatiron Books, 2019). Always the weird kid at school because of her supernatural insight, Alex was destined for a life of drugs and crime until she was given a full ride to Yale University by Lethe, a group enlisted in 1898 to regulate the school’s secret societies.

While Skull and Bones at Yale is a well-known institution of wealth and privilege, one distinct difference in Bardugo’s alternative world is that its Bonesmen indulge in human offerings under a Haruspex in order to predict the future of the stock market or for political gain. Alex’s job as a Dante (freshman) in return for her tuition is to spy on the societies under the guidance of Virgil (a senior named Darlington) and report to Lethe any incidents that might gain public attention. They monitor the eight underground “houses,” mausoleums built over magical nexuses. But what of the ninth house?

Bardugo’s novel is an American Harry Potter of prep school privilege, magic and murder set in one of the nation’s bastions of both liberalism and an oddly conservative status quo. New Haven, where Yale is located, was also the site of the first witch trials in the 1600s, giving further rise to its legacy of secrecy and magic. “The Ninth House” is a truly exquisite read for anyone who loves supernatural fantasy set in academia.

Serve an informal Halloween dinner for young and old alike with unique pumpkin flavors. Make mummy pizzas by adding string cheese “mummy wrappings” and olive eyes to individual round deep dish pizzas before baking. Kids will love it.

Easy Pumpkin Hummus

Topped with Roasted Veggies

Ingredients

1 tub prepared hummus with roasted red pepper

1/2 can pumpkin puree

1 roasted beetroot, mashed

1 roasted carrot, mashed

1/2 roasted, sweet potato, cubed and mashed

1/4 teaspoon cloves

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Crumbled feta and salted pepitas for garnish

Olive oil for drizzling

Pita chips or naan bread for serving

Directions

Roast root vegetables drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with seas salt until fork tender; set aside. Mix the hummus and pumpkin together. Add spices. Spoon onto serving plate. Mash root vegetables slightly with the back of a spatula or heavy spoon and place on top of hummus. Sprinkle with cheese and pepitas. Drizzle thinly with olive oil. Serve with desired chips. Inspired by Where Women Cook, Oct.-Dec., 2019.

Baked Stuffed Pumpkin

Ingredients

1 medium pie pumpkin, about 3 pounds

1 cup instant brown rice

1 14-ounce skinless smoked sausage, chopped

1 cup grated white smoked cheddar

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 large shallots, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup dry white wine

1 cup kale, chopped

3 large eggs

1/2 cup half-and-half

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup shaved Parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the pumpkin on flat surface. Using a heavy-duty knife, carefully cut out a “lid” from the top of the pumpkin about 2 inches from the top. Remove seeds and pull out loose strings, using kitchen shears if needed. Transfer the pumpkin to a baking sheet and set aside.

Place the rice and cheese in a large mixing bowl. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium Add the sausage and sauté until browned. Add sausage to the bowl with the rice and cheese. Add shallots and garlic, cooking until softened. Increase heat to high and add the wine, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add kale and stir until wilted transfer to rice mixture.

In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, half-and-half, Dijon, 2 teaspoons salt, thyme, pumpkin pie spice, and pepper until combined. Pour over bread mixture and gently toss to coat. Transfer the stuffing to the pumpkin, filling it all the way to the top.

Bake about 1 1/2 hours until the filling is bubbling and the flesh of the pumpkin is fork tender. Sprinkle with Parmesan. Carefully transfer the pumpkin to a serving platter using a spatula. Slice pumpkin into wedges to serve.

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