Ten Best: Pumpkin recipes
There are a lot of reasons to like the fall – football, Halloween, foliage and good scotch, for instance. But my favorite thing about autumn is the versatile pumpkin, centerpiece of the Thanksgiving table and a veritable king among winter squash. In October, the pumpkin ales start showing up in grocery stores, and although I don’t drink them all the time, the odds are good I’ll indulge in at least a 12-pack’s worth before the season’s over.
If you’re carving a pumpkin, you’ve got to do something with all the seeds. The easiest preparation involves cleaning and roasting them in a hot oven. Once they’re done, you can eat the seeds as a healthy snack, or sugar them into a unique brittle. Pureed raw pumpkin seeds also figure heavily in several Mexican sauces called pipians that would be easier to make than find.
This year’s crop of sugar pumpkins is starting to make its cameo appearance at the Farmer’s Curb Market down on Yanceyville Street. The sugar, or cooking, variety of pumpkin is paler and smaller than its carving cousin. You could wait until Thanksgiving in late November to turn out your first pumpkin pie, or you could practice with some of the early crop. Pumpkin filling is fine paired with pecan praline, and even better folded into cheesecake.
Pumpkin and chocolate chip muffins
You can find this variety all year round at Tate Street Coffee and Spring Garden Bakery. But for some reason, it just tastes better once the leaves have turned. The spicy, moist pumpkin bread pairs delectably with the sugary assertiveness of chocolate. You don’t have to bake these in muffin tins either; a loaf pan will serve just as well.
Almost all varieties of winter squash can be pureed into a rich and nutritious soup, and pumpkins are no exception. I rarely make pumpkin soup from scratch because of the hassle of peeling and cleaning. But if you’ve got some extra time on your hands, or even better, a friend willing to do the grunt work for you, you can combine cooked pumpkin with anything from parmesan cheese and cream to coconut milk and curry powder.
The site epicurious.com has more than 250 pumpkin-related recipes, including a couple of winter squash raviolis. The most promising pumpkin pasta recipe involves penne noodles with a pumpkin sauce. Other ingredients include cream, butter, garlic and all the other things that make pasta good. A word of warning: I didn’t have time to fire up my test kitchen, so if this one doesn’t work out, don’t blame me.
My boyfriend Mark and I usually reserve one weekend morning for cooking and consuming a lavish breakfast. For a month after we bought a waffle maker from Carolina Thrift for two dollars, we obsessed over the Belgian delicacies. But now I think we’re ready to ease off. A recipe for pumpkin and walnut pancakes sounds perfect for a late fall morning, and with a little adjustment it could probably be modified for waffles.
Among the few savory recipes for pumpkins, one that caught my eye was for risotto with scallops. It sounds a little involved, requiring, as it does, the preparation and roasting of four miniature pumpkins for serving. I usually don’t go to all that much trouble when it comes to presentation. But if you’re trying to impress your boss, or a date, the dish sounds like a winner.
Cream cheese makes almost everything better, including a spicy pumpkin roll cake. You make this one just like you would any jelly roll, cake first filled with a cream cheese and walnut filling. Once you’ve assembled the confection, you dust the whole shebang with powdered sugar.
Mexican bakeries have been popping up all over the Triad during the last few years, which is a development I couldn’t be happier about. Among the many treats available are empanadas often filled with apple or pumpkin. The turnovers are tasty and usually pretty cheap. ¡Viva pumpkin empanada!