Just because Halloween is over, it doesn’t mean that we are done with pumpkins.
What They Are: When you hear the word pumpkin, you probably think of something large, round, orange and ripe for carving. In reality, the word pumpkin can be applied to any hard-shelled winter squash of any shape, size, or hue. They are part of the gourd family, along with honeydew, cantaloupe, watermelon, zucchini and cucumber. Also, botanically they are a fruit, not vegetable — from the family genus Cucubita, which grow on vines and are classified as berries. Big berries.
What To Do with Them: When purchasing your pumpkin, look for gourds that are hard. If you can scratch the skin easily with your fingernail, it’s too young. Also skip any specimens with bruises, cracks, or other damage. Choose pumpkins that feel heavy for their size. And remember that for culinary uses, bigger is not better — smaller varieties are bred for cooking, not carving. You can store uncut pumpkins at room temperature for about a month. If you keep it refrigerated the shelf life can be up to 4 months. You can also steam pumpkin when it is in season and freeze for future use.
Pumpkin is versatile and can be baked, steamed, grilled or sautéed. Popular in breads, pies, pastas, soups, stews and curries.
Pumpkins are low in calories, high in fiber, Vitamin C, potassium, and antioxidants. And don’t forget the seeds — they are naturally high in protein and zinc.
What Some Chefs Are Doing With Them: Pumpkins are a natural in sweet applications: In NYC, Catch is featuring pumpkin pie doughnuts ¬— yeast doughnuts, glaxed with vanilla maple and filled to bursting with a pumpkin-infused cream, served with a scoop of autumnally spiced ice cream and topped with pumpkin seed streusel. Jeni's Ice Creams is scooping up Cinderella Pumpkin. The handcrafted soda maker Maine Root, based in Portland, pays homage to autumn with Pumpkin Pie Soda. Pizzeria Toro in in Durham, NC is serving up fried to order zeppoles with pumpkin custard. In Chicago, Graham Elliot is making an elegant pumpkin sorbet with duckfat powder, pepito brittle and candied kale. November is pumpkin month at Stephen Starr’s Jones in Philly, where pastry chef Christine Paciello has entire menu of pumpkin desserts, including a pumpkin sangria, pumpkin rice pudding with cranberry shortbread, pumpkin flan, and pumpkin whoopee pies.
At Los Angeles Indian gastropub Badmaash, chef/owner Pawan Mahendro is featuring pumpkin roasted with fennel, mustard seeds, ginger, and dried mango. At Toro, in Boston, chefs Ken Orringer and Jamie Bissonette also roast pumpkin to go along with crispy pork belly, crunchy Brussels sprouts, Chanteney carrots and kimchi vegetables. In Chicago, chef Andrew Zimmerman has several iterations of pumpkin on his menu: he combines it with coconut milk and Thai spices for a unique soup; mixes it with goat cheese for sweet and tangy croquettes; and makes a pumpkin butter to accompany the cheese plate. Chefs Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier of Arrows and M.C. Perkins grow pumpkins in the gardens at Arrows; right now those homegrown beauties are being put to great use in the earthy and aromatic pumpkin empanadas that they are serving at M.C. Perkins.
And don’t forget the seeds: At Border Grill Santa Monica roasted beets are served with pumpkin seed brittle, pomegranate and pumpkin seed vinaigrette. Chris Cosentino recently served up a salad of apples, pomegranates, pumpkin seed pesto & arugula. And at Restaurant Marc Forgione a kabocha squash ravioli is topped with white rabbit bolognese, and pumpkin seed gremolata.
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