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Pumpkin Pudding & Falling in Love

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I might be falling in love. Never met the person, never will. And yet. The mix tapes! I was always a sucker for a great mix and my basement can prove it - boxes of cassettes titled "Driving Mix '92" or "Is She Really Going Out with Him?" or the ambiguous "Let's See." There are mixes from old loves, mixes from college roommates, mixes from crumbled friendships. Mixes from summers I'll never relive except through these songs. And I love that music allows for time travel. I based my whole first novel, Liner Notes, on that concept.

But of course, cassettes are long gone. We find them only in kitsch now. CD mixes have no A/B just one ultra long space to fill.

So imagine my surprise when along comes a mix. Handed to me at night, when I'm alone and the house is quiet and my unsuspecting husband is out at his indoor soccer league. 11pm. Past my bedtime. Cue the music.

I've flirted with Pandora before, had some fun times with various song channels and stations ranging from Cat Stevens to the Shins to Little River Band (hello, Air Supply!). But this one...

The mix is the mix I never received from the ideal high school boyfriend I never had. Squeeze melds into Echo and his silly Bunnymen into Kinks and dashes back to unreleased Squeeze and then to the Smiths and the Clash and pretty soon I'm thinking, yes I will go out with you, yes let's skip the fall dance for a romp through Harvard Square and I'll borrow your suede jacket and we'll share pumpkin anything and I'll think the sound of your ragged shoes on the cobblestones is pure music.

But it's just a radio station, right? And I can pause it. Restart. Skip ahead. All the things we can't do in real time.

I asked it in Liner Notes and I'll ask it again here.

What's on the soundtrack to your life?

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Pumpkin Pudding (Persian Halwa)

This is not pudding the way we might think of it -- less custardy and more solid. In fact, traditionally, this is made in a pan and sliced. If you'd like, you can try it in wedges in a pie pan or in any dish with raised sides. For the sake of space and interest, I served this round in small, glass cups I brought back from Morocco (in my shoes so they didn't get crushed). You can use coconut for the topping or or chopped dried cranberries, crushed pistachios or rose petals or angel wings -- whatever you have around.

1 1/2 cups shredded pumpkin (you can sub in buttercup squash)

2 tsp coarse salt

1 cup sugar

1/2 apple cider

1 tbs lemon juice

1/2 cup salted butter

1/3 cup sorghum flour (use wheat pastry for substitute)

sprinkles of toasted coconut (optional)

Boil the shredded pumpkin in salted water for 25 minutes. Drain pumpkin in cheesecloth or colander, keeping 1/2 cup of the liquid. In a heavy pot, combine the apple cider, the pumpkin liquid, and the sugar and bring to the boil on medium-low. Cook the syrup mixture for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add lemon juice.

In a different pot, melt the butter and make a roux with the sorghum flour (melt butter, add flour, whisk while it cooks). When flour and butter mixture is beginning to brown, add in the drained pumpkin and stir. Now add the syrup mixture and stir well, cooking on medium-low. The pudding will begin to thicken and the pumpkin will begin to break down and change color. Keep stirring and cook for about 20 minutes or until desired texture (the longer you cook, the softer the pumpkin, the thicker the pudding).

Spoon into tempered glass cups or spread into a pie plate or baking dish. Sprinkle with garnish -- this is a delicate pudding so crush your topping for balance. For pudding-like texture, serve warm as is or with a splash of cream on top. For more traditional slices, let the dish cool and then slice and serve at room temperature.

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