Pumpkin Season

Pumpkins, photographed in Canada.
Image via Wikipedia

The pumpkin is a member of the gourd family, which is native to the Western Hemisphere. There is evidence to support that the natives of Mexico were eating gourds as early as 5500 BC.

When the Colonists arrived in North America, the Native Americans were growing pumpkins. It was after learning about these pumpkins did the Pumpkin Pie tradition begin during the Fall.

Large, round and orange, the pumpkin has a mild sweet flavor with edible seeds. The seeds are commonly known as pepitas.

Season
September through March.

How to Choose
Smaller sized pumpkins have a more tender and sweet flavor. The largest pumpkins available weigh over 100 pounds. Choose a pumpkin that is heavy for its size and shows as few blemishes as possible.

Storage
Store pumpkins at room temperature up to a month, or up to 3 months in the refrigerator. Any cut up pieces should be wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated up to 5 days.

Spices
Allspice, brown sugar, butter, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, ginger, nutmeg.
The spices traditionally used with pumpkin are considered warming spices in Asian medicine. This aids in digestion and gives a boost of energy. Too much can cause burning in the stomach and nervousness.

Preparation
Pumpkin can be prepared like any other squash, peeling skin if so desired.
Rinse and cut the squash lengthwise. Remove and discard the seeds and excess fiber. May peel skin if desired.
Stir-Fry: tender when pierced.
Bake: 400 degrees 30 – 40 minutes, uncovered.
Microwave: ½ the squash and microwave for 10 -12 minutes.
Boil: Cut into chunks and boil 7 – 9 minutes.
Steam: Cube and steam for 6 – 8 minutes.
Roast: 400 degrees for 30 – 45 minutes.

Wine Pairings
Depending on how you prepare your pumpkin and to what you are going to serve it with, try serving a Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc with your pumpkin soup; or a Sauternes, Vouvray, Moscata D’Asti, Auslesen or Zinfandel Blanc with your pumpkin pie.

Equivalencies
1 pound = 1 cup cooked and mashed

Nutritional Qualities
1 cup cooked = 80 calories, 2 grams protein, 1 gram fat, 18 grams carbohydrates, with riboflavin, Vitamins A & C.
Pumpkin contains some anthelmintic properties, which is helpful against prostate disorders, stomach problems, worms, nausea and morning sickness.

Spicy Pumpkin Cheesecake

(Vegetarian)

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 tbsp. canola oil
4 tbsp. maple syrup
1 pkg. Mori-Nu Lite Tofu (firm), pureed
8 oz. tofu cream cheese

1 cup canned or fresh pumpkin puree
1 cup refined cane sugar
3 tbsp. flour
1 1/2 tsp. Ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tbsp. light molasses
1/8 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp. Baking soda

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Coat the 9 or 10-inch spring form pan with cooking spray.

Mix the graham cracker crumbs, canola oil and maple syrup together and press into prepared pan.

Puree the remaining ingredients in a food processor and pour into crust. Bake for 50 minutes. Let cool for 30 minutes and refrigerate 5 – 6 hours or overnight before serving.

Source: “The Art of Tofu” by Akasha Richmond, Morinaga Publications 1997

Great Ghost Pumpkin Cookies

20 Servings

2 cups flour
1 cup quick cooking rolled oats, uncooked
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup Libby’s canned solid-pack pumpkin
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, oats, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; set aside. Cream butter; gradually add sugars, beating until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla; mix. Alternate additions of dry ingredients and pumpkin, mixing well after each addition. Stir in morsels.

For each cookie, drop 1/4-cup dough onto lightly greased cookie sheet; spread dough into a ghost shape using a thin metal spatula. Or make a quick ghost pattern of heavy paper. Make 2 or three poses for realism. Bake 20-25 minutes, until cookies are firm and lightly browned. Remove from cookie sheets; cool on racks. Spread with white royal icing. Trim brown face features with tube icing.

Yields 19-20 large cookies.

Cream of Pumpkin Soup

8 Servings

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 onion, roughly diced
4 cups pumpkins, pureed canned or fresh
3 quarts chicken stock, or low sodium canned chicken broth
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
3 cups milk, and/or whipping cream
1/3 cup walnut oil

MELT BUTTER IN A 2-QUART POT over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion softens, about 10 minutes. Add the pumpkin and salt and continue to cook, stirring, another 15 minutes for fresh pumpkin, 5 minutes for canned. Add the stock, salt, coriander, curry and pepper. Cover, increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 15 minutes. Remove from heat and place in a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Combine puree, milk and walnut oil. Cover, bring to the boil and cook 2 minutes. Serve piping hot.

Pumpkin Stuffed Pumpkins

8 Servings

8 each mini fresh pumpkins
2 each eggs
16 ounces canned solid-pack pumpkin, not pie filling
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup half and half
1/2 cup orange juice
2 cups cream, whipped
2 teaspoons grated orange zest

Rinse petite pumpkins in cold water. Pierce with a knife in several places. Place into a baking pan. Bake @ 375 degrees for 45-60 minutes, until tender. Remove from oven, cool. Remove and discard tops from pumpkins. Scoop-out and discard seeds and strings. Combine eggs, pumpkin, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and salt in a food processor. Process to a smooth puree. Add half & half and orange juice, pulse to blend well. Pour to within 1/2-inch of the top of prepared shells. Bake @ 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until set in the center remove from oven, cool. Place into individual dessert cups. Place a dollop of whipped cream on top of each. Garnish with grated orange zest. Serve at room temperature.

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