By SARA MOULTON
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.