Pumpkin: Beyond the pie


First Posted: 10/17/2011

It's the time of year when our vision is clouded with orange, but if you are used to thinking about pumpkin only as a dessert ingredient, it's time to consider pumpkin beyond the pie.The pumpkin is no different from any other winter squash. But while a butternut squash may have cooks thinking about soup, and an acorn squash, the perfect side dish, the pumpkin rarely gets considered in the same way.With pumpkin, it's pie, cookies, quick breads or pumpkin roll filled with gooey cream cheese frosting, when it could just as easily be pasta, soup, gratin or bruschetta.One of the easiest ways for home cooks to add power to their recipe arsenals is to start thinking about standard ingredients with new angles. When pumpkin is viewed as a healthy, creamy squash, there are plenty of ideas for cooking with it.In his book Essential Pepin, chef Jacques Pepin discusses how in his native region of France, pumpkin was not served as a dessert, but rather as a vegetable side, and often was cooked au gratin.His recipe is for a creamy, almost souffle-like dish, similar to the popular American sweet-potato casserole. Only this gratin, unlike many sweet potato dishes that are topped with sugar or nuts, is laced with Swiss cheese and topped with grated Parmesan. The savory side is a good accompaniment to steak, lamb chops or chicken, Pepin notes.Because of its soft texture, pumpkin helps cut the fat from recipes while adding creaminess.Pumpkin is fat-free, high in fiber and a good antioxidant. It's loaded with Vitamin A and is high in beta-carotene.Canned pumpkin works well in savory recipes, and allows cooks to put pumpkin-based soups and casseroles together quickly. However, it's not difficult to make pumpkin puree at home; it just takes a bit more time and planning.Start with traditional pie pumpkins, which are small and darker orange than the jack-o'-lantern style. You can find them at local pumpkin farms, in farmers markets and, at this time of year, in most grocery stores in the produce section.Scrub the pumpkin well and cut it in half, then scoop out the pulp and seeds (save the seeds for toasting separately). Place the halves on a baking sheet and roast them in a 350-degree oven until the flesh is very soft.Once the pumpkin cools, scrape the flesh from the skin, put in a food processor and pulse to puree. Strain for several hours or overnight, and use as you would canned pumpkin puree.Then try some out in these savory recipes:Creamy Pumpkin Pasta With Sweet Italian Sausage1 small onion, finely chopped2 cloves garlic, minced2 tablespoons salted butter2 cups canned pure (unsweetened) pumpkin puree2 cups canned chicken broth1/4 cup heavy whipping cream1/2 cup sour cream1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg1 teaspoon salt1/4 teaspoon white pepper2 tablespoons minced fresh Italian parsley1/4 cup shredded Romano (or Parmesan) cheese1 pound penne or rotini pasta1 pound cooked, crumbled sweet Italian sausageIn a large skillet, saute the onion and garlic in butter, over medium heat, until soft, not brown. Whisk in the pumpkin, broth, both creams and seasonings to taste. Simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened.Meanwhile, boil the pasta in salted water until al dente.Drain pasta and stir into pumpkin sauce, simmering 2 to 3 minutes more until thick. Stir in parsley and garnish with Romano, more parsley and sausage, if desired.Note: Go heavy on the Romano cheese for a richer taste. For a meatless option, omit sausage. For a lighter version, use light sour cream and half-and-half or fat-free half-and-half.Makes 6 to 8 servings.-- www.RecipeGirl.comPumpkin Gratin1 can (15.5 ounces) pure pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)3 large eggs1 cup heavy cream3/4 cup grated Swiss cheese3/4 teaspoon salt1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper1 teaspoon unsalted butter1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheesePreheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spoon the pumpkin puree into a food processor and add the eggs, cream, Swiss cheese, salt, and pepper. Process for 10 to 15 seconds to combine.Coat a 6-cup gratin dish with the butter. Fill the dish with the pumpkin mixture. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until set and lightly browned on top.Makes 4 servings.-- Jacques Pepin for www.epicurious.comPumpkin-Shrimp Bruschetta20 fresh or frozen peeled and deveined jumbo shrimp in shells1 cup canned pumpkin1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese, at room temperature (2 ounces)1 tablespoon lemon juice1 tablespoon honey1 cup arugula1/2 cup finely chopped red onion1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds (see note)1/4 cup bottled Italian vinaigrette salad dressing20 (3/4-inch-thick) slices baguette-style French bread2 tablespoons olive oil2 ounces Parmesan cheese, shaved (optional)Peel and devein shrimp, if desired, leaving tails intact. Rinse shrimp. In a large skillet, cook shrimp in a large amount of boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes or until shrimp are opaque. Drain well.Preheat broiler. In a medium bowl, whisk together pumpkin, goat cheese, lemon juice and honey; set aside.In a large bowl, combine shrimp, arugula, onion, pumpkin seeds and salad dressing; set aside.Brush both sides of baguette slices lightly with olive oil. Arrange on a large baking sheet. Broil 3 to 4 inches from the heat about 2 minutes or until toasted, turning bread over once.Spread pumpkin mixture on one side of toasted baguette slices. Top each with a shrimp and some of the arugula mixture. If desired, top each with shaved Parmesan cheese.Makes 20 appetizers.Note: To toast pumpkin seeds, place seeds in a dry large skillet; cover. Heat over medium heat about 5 minutes or until seeds are toasted, shaking skillet occasionally.-- www.bhg.comPumpkin And Gorgonzola Soup1 can (15 ounces) pure pumpkin puree1 1/2 cups water2 teaspoons instant chicken flavor bouillon1 teaspoon ground sage1 can (12 fluid ounces) evaporated milk3/4 cup (3 ounces) crumbled Gorgonzola cheese1 large green onion, finely choppedCook pumpkin, water, bouillon and sage in large saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until mixture comes to a boil.Stir in evaporated milk and cheese. Reduce heat to low; cook, stirring frequently, until most of cheese is melted. Sprinkle with green onion before serving. Season with ground black pepper, if desired.-- Adapted from www.thevery bestbaking.com

Pumpkin: Beyond the pie

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