EATING well

Light pumpkin custard has a Thai twist

Ramekins of Thai Pumpkin Custard offer an alternative to ho-hum pumpkin pie and weigh in at just 170 calories, with little fat.

Associated Press

Ramekins of Thai Pumpkin Custard offer an alternative to ho-hum pumpkin pie and weigh in at just 170 calories, with little fat.

By SARA MOULTON

Associated Press

I'm a fan of traditional American pumpkin pie, of course, but I also know that pumpkin is versatile, and I thought I might be able to internationalize it a little, too. This recipe, which reflects the influence of Thai cuisine, is a good example. It stars Thai staples like kaffir lime leaves and coconut milk and complements them with fat-free evaporated milk.

I used to think that Thai food owed almost all of its Thai-ness to lemongrass. But that was before I learned about kaffir lime leaves. When I was introduced to them, I was knocked out by the intensity and richness of their scent and taste, and impressed by their ability to improve both sweet and savory dishes.

I like to use them to infuse sugar syrup, then add it to lemonade or iced tea. You can find kaffir lime leaves in Asian grocers, online and often at natural foods stores. You can find them fresh or even thinly sliced and jarred. They freeze and store well.

This recipe calls for canned pumpkin, an ingredient I used to turn up my nose up at. Happily, I figured out after a while that pumpkins, like tomatoes, don't suffer from canning. They're harvested at peak ripeness, then cooked and canned immediately, which ensures that both flavor and health benefits are retained.

Besides, who has the time to cut up, seed, cook and puree fresh pumpkin, especially when it can be watery? Still, be sure to read the label. You want "solid pack" canned pumpkin with no added sugar or salt.

Deliciousness aside, pumpkin is a smart choice for dessert. Canned or fresh, it's full of carotenoids and fiber, and it boasts more potassium than a banana. And a cup of canned pumpkin has just 80 calories.

We use fat-free evaporated milk because it has a lovely creaminess. Combined with coconut milk, it delivers the texture of a custard, without all the fat and calories.

THAI PUMPKIN CUSTARD

3 large eggs

½ cup packed brown sugar, preferably dark

½ cup light coconut milk

5 ounces fat-free evaporated milk

2 teaspoons finely minced kaffir lime leaves (or 1 ½ teaspoons freshly grated lime zest)

1 ½ tablespoons lime juice

2 tablespoons dark rum (optional)

Seeds from 1 vanilla bean or

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon table salt

1 cup pumpkin puree

Chopped crystallized ginger or toasted coconut, to garnish

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Bring a kettle of water to a simmer.

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the eggs. Add the brown sugar and beat just until any lumps have dissolved. Add the coconut milk, condensed milk, lime leaves, lime juice, rum, if using, vanilla seeds or extract, salt and pumpkin puree. Beat just until smooth.

Divide the mixture among six 1-cup ramekins. Set the ramekins into a rectangular baking pan (such as a lasagna pan) and pour enough simmering water into the baking pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

Carefully transfer the baking pan to the oven's middle shelf and bake until a knife inserted at the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Remove the ramekins from the water bath and cool on a wire rack. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until well chilled, about 6 hours. Serve each portion topped with some of the crystallized ginger or coconut.

Serves 6.

Nutrition information per serving: 170 calories (30 from fat, 18 percent of total calories), 3.5g fat (1.5g saturated, 0g trans fats), 90mg cholesterol, 26g carbohydrates,

2g fiber, 23g sugar, 6g protein, 170mg sodium.

Light pumpkin custard has a Thai twist 11/14/13 [Last modified: Thursday, November 14, 2013 5:30pm]

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