Seasonal Sprouts is a column dedicated to exploring new and local ingredients, testing new recipes, and highlighting the culinary side of Friedman!
by Kelly A. Dumke
October may be done, but pumpkin season has just begun! Beyond the typical jack-o-lantern variety, pumpkins come in countless shapes, colors, sizes and flavors. As members of the cucurbita family, pumpkins are close relatives of squash, watermelons, and cucumbers. Cucurbita moschata (i.e., commonly canned and slapped with a Libby’s label) is used in your autumn pumpkin pies, while the Cucurbita pepo is the go-to jack-o-lantern.
This fall staple may only grace your doorstep or follow your Thanksgiving dinner enveloped in a tender pastry crust, but you might be surprised by the countless guises of this versatile vegetable. Whether you’re carving or cooking, here are some tips on picking the perfect pumpkin and some new recipes for a fall classic.
Smaller varieties with denser flesh often have higher sugar content, making them perfect for baking and roasting. Common varieties include the Small Sugar Pumpkin or ‘Sugar Baby’ and New England Pie Pumpkin.
Pumpkin shells typically dull as they age, but the flesh gets sweeter. When purchasing a pumpkin just make sure to avoid ones with bruises or blemishes on the outer shell.
Winter squashes, such as butternut, acorn, or kabocha, can often be great substitutes for pumpkin . They work well roasted, in soups, or sautéed.
Don’t shy away from canned pumpkin (i.e., pure canned pumpkin, not the sugary pie filling). It can be a great addition to your morning oatmeal or yogurt, a perfect filling for pasta when mixed with creamy ricotta, or even a fall swirl in a classic brownie.
Make my own ravioli?! Yes indeed! With help from easy-to-use wonton wrappers ($1.50 for 50 wrappers at the Asian Markets on Harrison Ave. near the Friedman campus), you can have homemade savory pumpkin ravioli on the table in 20 minutes! Garnish with a warm apple pesto or thyme butter sauce for a savory fall feast.
Ingredients (about 10 ravioli per person):
40 wonton wrappers
1 cup pure canned pumpkin
½ cup ricotta cheese (or try half ricotta, half goat cheese)
½ tsp. dried sage
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. black pepper
Combine pumpkin, cheeses, and spices. Fill a small dish with water and lay out your wonton wrappers (square or round). Brush the edges of the wonton wrappers with water and scoop about 1 to 2 tsp. of filling into the center of the wrapper. Fold the wrapper over the filling and press to seal. Continue with remaining wonton wrappers.
Bring a large pot of boiling water to a boil and season with a good amount of salt. Cook ravioli, about 5-6 at a time, until they float to the top. Remove from water with a slotted spoon and cover to keep warm while you cook the rest. Serve with one of the two sauce varieties spooned over the top and enjoy!
Warm Apple Pesto
1 medium-sized apple (any variety you like), chopped with peel
3 cloves garlic, crushed
½ cup red onion, chopped
2 Tbs. lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil
1 cup packed fresh spinach
2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
1 ½ tsp. salt and 1 tsp. black pepper
½ to 1 cup reserved pasta-cooking water, to thin the sauce
Heat 1 Tbs. oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté for 3-4 minutes, until they start to caramelize. Add the garlic and sauté another 30 seconds. Add the apple, salt, pepper, and lemon juice and sauté about 3 minutes until the apples are just tender.
Transfer the mixture to a food processor and add the remaining olive oil, balsamic, and spinach. Blend until smooth and creamy.
Before serving, stir in about 1/2 to 1 cup of the pasta cooking water until the pesto is your desired consistency. Serve over the Ravioli and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Thyme Butter Sauce
6 Tbs. butter
½ Tbs fresh thyme (1/2 tsp. dried)
½ tsp. salt
In a skillet over medium heat melt the butter and thyme together. Add the salt and allow to simmer for 2 minutes, turning off the heat before the butter begins to brown.
Toss the hot pasta with the butter sauce and serve immediately.
Add a fall flare to a Mediterranean favorite with this pumpkin hummus.
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 tsp tahini (or double the olive oil)
1 Tbs. olive oil
2 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg
¼ to ½ cup water
Add all ingredients, except the water, to a food processor. Blend and slowly add water, one tablespoon at a time until hummus is creamy. Scoop it up with pita, slather it on a sandwich, or dish it out on veggies.
Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
Take fall desserts to a whole new level with these tender, fluffy whoopie pies filled with a classic cream cheese frosting.
Ingredients (for the pies):
1 stick butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup canned pure pumpkin
1 Tbs. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
¾ tsp. salt
1 2/3 cup flour
Ingredients (for the cream cheese filling):
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
½ stick butter, softened
1 ½ cup powdered sugar
½ tsp vanilla
Directions (for the pies):
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk together melted butter and brown sugar until smooth. Whisk in the eggs, pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla, baking powder, the baking soda and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Fold in the flour.
Using a tablespoon, drop about 24 generous mounds of batter, spaced evenly, onto each baking sheet. Bake until springy to the touch, about 10 minutes. Cool.
Directions (for the filling):
Cream the softened butter with the cream cheese. Add the powdered sugar and the 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Use a mixer or some strong arms to combine all ingredients until smooth and creamy.
Spread the flat side of 12 cakes with the cream cheese frosting. Top each with another cake.
Kelly Dumke is a second year nutrition communication student and aspiring chef at heart.