The Joy of Pumpkin: 5 Recipes for Fall
I love, love, love pumpkins. I like to procure a small patch of pumpkins pretty early in the fall, then bake and stew my way through them over the course of a week or two.
But I absolutely refuse to make pumpkin pie anymore. I think it’s the most bland way to mask the true flavor of a rich and comforting seasonal vegetable. I prefer to let the pumpkin shine in recipes that highlight its meaty texture, vibrant color, and savory flavor. (Note: If you’re not married to pumpkin and want an easier cooking experience, try kabocha — an easy substitute with fewer seeds and pulp and an edible rind — or acorn squash, recommended by my friend Darlene Dean.)
This year, with my big, suburban kitchen, I went to town on a couple small, cantaloupe-sized pumpkins and made quite a few delicious meals out of them. Here are my 100% original recipes, thoroughly tested and wholeheartedly approved. Most of these recipes will work for two people; some, particularly the entrees, will leave you with leftovers. If you want to cook for a crowd, or you want a LOT of pumpkin around the house, go ahead and pick up a jumbo pumpkin or two.
It’s important to note that the first pumpkin recipe of the fall is always pumpkin stew. The reason pumpkin stew comes first is that you’ll need the whole, baked pumpkins’ golden flesh for the other recipes. If you want to space out your pumpkin-flavored culinary adventures, you can freeze the baked pumpkin flesh and use it later — I recommend cubing and/or pureeing the pumpkin and storing it in specific amounts in Ziplock baggies for easy thawing and reuse in later recipes.
A thick, hearty, chicken-based stew finds a home in a single large (or several small) pumpkins. This stew, with its flavorful vegetable blend, might remind you a bit of traditional, Virginia-style Brunswick stew, but its large chunks of chicken breast and Morrocan-spiced sauce will feel entirely new.
These muffins are light, moist, and amazingly tasty the morning after a full meal of pumpkin stew. They’re also great in gift baskets of baked goods. You can add dried fruit, nuts, or streusel to the recipe for a sweeter touch; you could also cut the vanilla and reduce the amount of sugar for a more bread-like accompaniment to a meat dish.
Stuffed with fresh herbs and caramelized onions, these pumpkin-filled baked dumplings are as quick-and-dirty as you want them to be. You can get away with using store-bought, canned biscuit or croissant dough in this recipe. They also reheat well in the microwave — just wrap them in a slightly damp paper towel and heat on 50% power.
Here’s a light but satisfying entree for fall. The orange pumpkin and green spinach will look cheery together, and a touch of savory cheese will make the stuffing rich and cohesive. What really pops on the palate, however, is the tangy/tart dots of dried apricot and/or cranberry in the stuffing.
This recipe is shortcut city — it’s complex in taste yet dead simple and hella quick to prepare. The secret weapon is mild Japanese curry mix, sold in blocks in the supermarket. Saute some veggies and chicken, crumble a curry block or two, then just add water. In 15 minutes or so, you’ll have a rich and savory curry that smells and tastes like a day’s worth of labor.
And on that note, Eston has informed me that he’s all pumpkined out. Poor kiddo. I, on the other hand, could eat pumpkin every day for a month and not get tired of it.
You may notice that most of these recipes aren’t particularly health-conscious. If, for example, the mention of butter sends you into a pearls-clutching tizzy, work out the substitutes (Egg Beaters, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter spray, skim milk, low-calorie breadcrumbs) and go for it. This is not the time of year to starve yourself; this is the time of year to start workin’ on your “Santa booty.”
If you’d rather look than cook, there’s a pumpkin-flavored Flickr set with pics from most of these recipes. Otherwise, happy cooking and bon appetit!
BONUS ROUND! My awesome boss Sharon just told me that she likes to put pumpkin and cooked apples in her oatmeal. I know what my midnight snack’s gonna be tonight… Perfect for fall. For winter, I like to do mandarin oranges and dried cranberries in oatmeal, too.