I know fall is in full swing when I see displays of pumpkins and mums greeting me at supermarkets, farmers markets and roadside stands. Whether you carve them, cook them or decorate your home with a perfectly shaped orange beauty, pumpkins take center stage.
Pumpkin 101: The word “pumpkin” is derived from the Greek word “pepon,” which means “large melon.” It is a squash and part of the cucurbita family. Six of the seven continents are able to grow pumpkins. Morton, Ill., is considered the “Pumpkin Capital of the World,” being the home to Nestle’s/Libby’s pumpkin processing plant where 85 percent of the world’s pumpkin is canned.
The Irish brought the tradition of carving a pumpkin to the United States. According to www.pumpkinfresh.com, “The largest pumpkin pie ever made was over 5 feet in diameter and weighed over 350 pounds. It used 80 pounds of cooked pumpkin, 36 pounds of sugar, 12 dozen eggs and took six hours to bake.
In early Colonial times, pumpkins were used as an ingredient for the crust of pies, not the filling. Colonists sliced off pumpkin tips; removed seeds and filled the insides with milk, spices and honey. This was baked in hot ashes, and is the origin of pumpkin pie. Pumpkins were once recommended for removing freckles and curing snake bites.
It is such a versatile ingredient because it can be baked, boiled, steamed, fried and roasted. The blank canvas is waiting for your culinary creativity. The roasted seeds are a healthy snack. Pumpkin seed oil is used to make salad dressing.
There’s more to pumpkin than lattes, ice cream and pies. I’ve noticed new pumpkin spice products making an appearance this season: pumpkin spice almonds, peanut butter, breakfast cereals, bagels and English muffins, pumpkin pie Pop Tarts, and even dog treats!
For this season’s pumpkin inspiration, I picked up “Pumpkin It Up!” by Eliza Cross (2016, Gibbs-Smith, $16.99). I found sweet and savory ways to enjoy pumpkin, both traditional and with unexpected twists.
From homemade pumpkin pie spice mix, classic pumpkin pancakes for a Sunday breakfast to a comforting pumpkin, corn and shrimp bisque to liven up dinner, a decorative and delicious autumn stew to a decadent pumpkin tiramisu for dessert, your pumpkin craving is covered. The versatility makes it the perfect ingredient to be the star in appetizers, soups, pastas, gratins, risotto, and of course, desserts. For the recipe for maple-roasted pumpkin and Brussels sprouts, visit https://bit.ly/2pGo2qg.
The author’s hints are helpful, too. A few examples:
“When picking out a pumpkin for cooking, look for the smaller pie-pumpkin varieties, which are sweeter and have a smoother texture than those grown for carving jack-o’-lanterns.”
“One 8-inch diameter pie pumpkin will yield about 3 cups of cooked, mashed pumpkin.”
“When buying canned pumpkin, look for cans labeled ‘solid pack’ rather than ‘pumpkin pie filling,’ which have added ingredients.”
Make family memories this season at a pick-your-own pumpkin farm. Then, come home and make a jack-o’-lantern and cook up a dish with the fresh picked squash.
In a large bowl, beat the cream and sugar until stiff peaks form. Add the mascarpone, pumpkin, and pumpkin pie spice; beat just until filling is smooth.
Line the bottom of a 9-inch by 23/4-inch springform pan with one package ladyfingers, breaking and overlapping to fit. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons apple cider. Spread half the pumpkin filling over the ladyfingers. Repeat a second layer with the remaining package of ladyfingers, remaining 2 tablespoons apple cider, and remaining filling. Smooth the top of the tiramisu, cover, and freeze for at least 4 hours or overnight.
To unmold, run a knife around the inside edge of the pan. Release pan sides and sprinkle with crushed gingersnaps. Makes 8 servings.
In a large pot over medium heat, heat the oil and sauté the onion, garlic and bell pepper until tender, 6-7 minutes. Stir in the pumpkin, broth, seafood seasoning, pepper, and corn; heat, stirring frequently, until mixture simmers. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring often, for 15 minutes. Add shrimp, increase heat to medium, and cook until shrimp are pink and opaque, 4-7 minutes. Serve garnished with green onions. Makes 8 servings.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large pot over medium heat and brown the beef. Drain the grease and add the water, potatoes, carrots, bell pepper, garlic, onion, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Stir in the bouillon and tomatoes.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. You may need to rearrange the racks in your oven so the pumpkin will fit.
Wash the pumpkin and cut a 6-inch circle around the top stem. Remove the top, trim the pulp from the underside, and reserve. Scoop out the seeds and stringy pulp. Place pumpkin on a sturdy baking pan and carefully pour the stew inside. Replace the top and brush the outside with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Bake just until pumpkin is tender, 11/2-2 hours. Remove from oven and cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes. Serve stew directly from the pumpkin, along with some of the cooked pumpkin Makes 8-10 servings.
“Filipindian Feast,” Thursday, 5 p.m., Sherkaan Indian Street Food, 65 Broadway, New Haven. The menu combines culinary forces, featuring Indian street food and Filipino-inspired BBQ, with cocktails inspired by the flavor profiles of both cuisines. Details at facebook.com/SherkaanCT.
Wine Dinner, Friday, 7 p.m., Madison Beach Hotel, 94 West Wharf Road, Madison, $125, inclusive of tax and gratuity. Alsatian-inspired courses complemented by Domaine Paul Blanck Alsatian wines. Vigneron Philippe Blanck is a special guest and will share his story and discuss wine pairings with each course. The menu features items such as tarte flambé, foie gras paté quenelle, Long Island striped bass, and a pork duo with braised pork belly and osso buco. For the third course, Ric Duques, the hotel’s owner, contributes the 1964 Château Lafite Rothschild Paulliac from the Bordeaux region of France. Menu, details and tickets at https://bit.ly/2VevmVU, thewharfmadison.com.
Oktoberfest, Saturday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m., Athletic Brewing Co., 350 Long Beach Blvd., Stratford. Features a 5K race, the brewery’s own nonalcoholic fall beers, live music and a selection of authentic German-style foods. All guests will receive an Oktoberfest stein; $35 (including food and beer); free for kids. Info and tickets at athleticbrewing.com.
Harvest Tribute Honoring Jacques Pepin, Sunday, 1-5 p.m. Harvest festival, 5 p.m.: Jacques Pepin statue reveal and tribute, 5:30 p.m.: farm cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, 7 p.m.: Setting Our Table dinner featuring Chef James Wayman. Stone Acres, 393 N. Main St., Stonington. Cost: $50 harvest festival and statue reveal (children under 12 free for harvest festival); $250 includes harvest festival, statue reveal and cocktail reception; $1,000 includes harvest festival, statue reveal, cocktail reception and seated four-course dinner. Info and tickets at www.jpfbenefit.org.
Chefs of Our Kitchen Series: Ryan Durant, owner and executive chef of Assaggio in Branford, and competitor for the title of “Sexiest Chef Alive” from People magazine/Food Network. Oct. 23, 6 p.m., Gateway Community College, 20 Church St., New Haven, 203-285-2617, $65 includes pre-event reception and three-course dinner with wine pairings. Mingle with Ryan at the reception and then watch his demonstration of the dishes being prepared as you enjoy dinner. Reservations required. Validated parking (bring parking ticket to event) at the Temple Street Garage. Proceeds benefit Gateway foundation. Tickets and series information at .gatewayfdn.org/cook-tickets.
Consiglio’s Mystery Dinner Party: “Eve’s Hollow” Oct. 25, 7 p.m. (doors open at 6 p.m.), Consiglio’s Restaurant, 165 Wooster St., New Haven, reservations at 203-865-4489, $65 includes dinner and show (beverages, tax and gratuity not included). An interactive comedy show that goes on throughout the evening during a three-course meal. Cast mingles table to table, dropping clues for a mystery only you can solve. Who will survive the hysterical crimes about to be committed? Dress in Halloween costumes to compete for top prize. https://bit.ly/32gXryX
Consiglio’s Demonstration Cooking Class: Nov. 6, 6:30 p.m., Consiglio’s Restaurant, 165 Wooster St., New Haven, 203-865-4489 (reservations required), $75 (beverages, tax and gratuity not included), Menu: Sausage, kale and tortellini soup; cranberries, goat cheese, walnuts over baby spinach with bacon tomato vinaigrette; cavatelli and braciole; pumpkin crème brulee. https://bit.ly/2Nd0xAg