Every day, around five in the afternoon, there is a traffic jam on the bridge (AKA causeway) connecting Miami Beach to the mainland. Locals are used to it, we explain to worried guests, nothing alarming is happening, it’s only the boats.
Somewhere on that narrow bridge, I am sitting in traffic inching along, with the cruise ships – the boats!- to the left of me, looking at downtown Miami where I need to be for an important meeting. Cars are slowing down or stopping altogether, and people are craning their necks. They want to see the boats!
But it’s not the docked ships they are interested in. They stop their cars, get out, take pictures, wave, and all because around five in the afternoon…
… those leviathans loaded with thousands of happy vacationers embark on their adventures. I can relate to their feelings of sharing extraordinary expectations with those on board, their attempts to catch a spark of excitement by waving and snapping pictures, or at least to slow down and contemplate – what? Escape, perhaps? Different kind of life, even for a few days? A childhood dream?
Meanwhile, I am not looking at the cruise ships on my left; I grew up around boats, big and small, so cruise ships don’t hold much fascination for me. I am looking to my right, trying to spot our little sail boat among many others moored at Miami Yacht Club, and contemplating a new recipe. Since I’ve discovered the little delicious Indian pumpkins, I fell in love with their firm white flesh and slight lemony taste. The boats give me an idea.
First we make the boats. Pierce these cute little guys with a sharp knife around the middle from top to bottom and back up, to create oval, rather than round shapes. Put them into a microwavable dish, as some juice will be coming out during cooking, cover with a paper towel, and microwave for about 10 minutes. You can also bake them in the oven, but then you’ll have to cut them in half first, and it’s a bit tough as their skin is harder than regular pumpkin skin. When softened enough to cut, cool them off, cut and scrape out first the seeds, then the flesh. Cut the white translucent pumpkin flesh into bite size chunks. That would be your first passengers.
Drain a package of extra firm tofu, pressing gently to get rid of excess water. Cube it into the same bite size pieces. All your passengers are equal!
You’ve seen people returning from those tropical cruises, kissed by the sun. We need to give our pale passengers some suntan! Stir fry them together for a few minutes, until the tofu bites are slightly browned and the pumpkin pieces are a little softer.
I’ve heard from some cruise-goers that one of the things they love about being cooped up with the same people on a boat – even a huge one! – is socializing, or mixing of seasoned travelers with “newbies.” Let’s season our travelers with salt and pepper, a splash of olive oil and chunks of garlic, and stir fry some more.
And now, let’s add some spice to their lives with cinnamon, paprika, and sumac. If you want to sweeten it a bit, you might want to add a splash of agave, but that’s optional.
Where is the crew? We haven’t seen them around because they’ve been so busy, they were literally torn into pieces providing a caring and healthy experience for all. So take some loose spinach, tear it into pieces, and incorporate it into the mass of hot, but happy passengers.
This exciting mix, loaded into pumpkin shells, garnished with a few spinach leaves and sprinkled with crunchy toasted sunflower seeds, will grace your table, whether hot, warm, or cold, and provide a captivating dinner conversation starter.
- 2 small Indian pumpkins
- 3 – 4 large garlic cloves, roughly chunked
- 2 cups loose spinach
- 1 package (12 oz) extra firm tofu, cubed
- A splash of olive oil
- Optional: a splash of agave
- A pinch of cinnamon
- A pinch of paprik
- A pinch of sumac
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Toasted sunflower seeds to garnish
- Pierce pumpkins around the middle lengthwise with sharp knife. Microwave in a dish covered with paper towel for ten minutes. Alternatively, bake in oven for 20 minutes. Remove, cut in half, let cool. Scoop out seeds, scrape out flesh, leaving shells intact. Cut flesh into bite size pieces. Start stir frying.
- Drain tofu, pressing gently to remove excess water. Cube into bite size pieces.Add to pumpkin pieces, stir fry together until tofu is lightly browned and pumpkin is softened.
- Cut garlic into rough chunks, add to tofu and pumpkin mix. Add a splash of olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Add cinnamon, paprika, sumac. Stir fry for a few more minutes until tofu is reddish in color. Turn off.
- Tear or shred spinach, leaving a few leaves intact for garnishing. Add to warm stir-fried mix. Lightly toss together.
- Load pumpkin shells, garnish with whole spinach leaves and toasted sunflower seeds.