Since Libby started canning pumpkin purée more than 75 years ago, cautious cooks have avoided the work of peeling and cutting this challenging vegetable. I happen to like more texture on my plate, so I researched recipes for fall dining and the holidays where you could actually recognize a few chunks of real pumpkin.
When buying a pumpkin for cooking, be sure to get a sweet, tasty version like these pie pumpkins from Stillman's Farm rather than one grown for display.
We are offered pumpkin flavor this and pumpkin flavor that! But, if you review the ingredients in those products, you may not find pumpkin on the list. Most “pumpkin” items contain what we might call pumpkin pie spices – cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, and cloves.
Even when a bit of vegetable is present, it may be processed, canned pumpkin or, in some instances, a different squash. There has been an Internet rumor that all canned pumpkin is really squash. Snopes, a trusted website that investigates such rumors says, “90 percent of pumpkin sold in the U.S. (and 85 percent worldwide) is a proprietary cultivar known as a Dickinson pumpkin ...”
The first time Ed and I hosted Thanksgiving dinner in our home, we began the meal with a recipe for “Pumpkin Tureen” from The Enchanted Broccoli Forest cookbook.
It was a pumpkin filled with a mixture of rye bread, swiss cheese, onion, mustard, horseradish, and milk and then roasted in the oven until the pumpkin pulp was tender enough to scoop out with each serving. This was a mistake. The dish was so rich and filling that it should have been served alone not as part of a large holiday meal.
Today I’m more likely to serve slices of roasted pumpkin as part of a side dish of various root vegetables. Roasting brings out the best in pumpkin.
Stir-Fried Pumpkin from Madhur Jaffrey's Vegetarian India.
Pumpkin Meals from Other Cultures
We think of pumpkin as a harvest season treat. Other cultures embrace this large squash as a filling diet mainstay.
Traditional Indian cooks use pumpkin in curries. Madhur Jaffrey features a pumpkin stir-fry in her latest cookbook, Vegetarian India. She blooms mustard seeds, urad dal, and dried chilis for a few seconds in hot oil before adding onion and then pumpkin cubes. After a few minutes of stir-frying the vegetables, she adds cumin, water, and brown sugar and simmers the dish until glazed and tender.
Another favorite book, “The New Spanish Table” contains a recipe for Olla Gitana or Gypsy Pot. This hearty stew has carrots, garlic, onions, tomatoes, and chicken stock as a typical soup base. But it adds a colorful rhythm section of pumpkin, chickpeas, pears, almonds, and saffron.
Cambridge restaurant Helmand heads their appetizer menu with this tempting photo of Kaddo.
Middle Eastern cooks create Kabak Tatlisi, a pumpkin dessert. They candy the pumpkin by slowly roasting it in sugar and in its own juices. Pumpkin prepared like this is turned into Kaddo Bourani the signature dish at the Cambridge restaurant Helmand. They top the sweet, roasted pumpkin with a rich meat sauce and tangy yogurt.
Gordon Hamersley has a great pumpkin, mango chutney recipe in his cookbook, Bistro Cooking at Home. He pairs it with duck. A quick web search reveals hundreds of variations of this Indian condiment. It might be a great new holiday tradition.
That baked pumpkin that I made for a holiday meal would make a great vegetarian alternative to turkey or ham on a holiday table for guests who prefer vegetarian food. Using small pie pumpkins, you could make two smaller versions using rice instead of bread in one, for anyone who is gluten intolerant.
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Words: Penny & Ed Cherubino ( adapted from one of our Fresh & Local newspaper columns)
Photos: ©2016 Penny Cherubino with photo of Kaddo from the Helmand.