Posted on September 27 2022
The leaves are changing, the air is cool and crisp, and everyone's favorite fall food is back. Pumpkin is the star of the season, made famous by pies and latte flavors, but there are many other ways to add this delicious gourd to any meal.
Pumpkin Mac and Cheese
Add a little autumn spice to the ultimate comfort food. To prepare pumpkin mac and cheese, the first step is to make a roux, which is made from equal parts butter and flour. Melt the butter, then add the flour and cook for a few minutes until bubbling. Slowly whisk in cream, milk, or stock and allow the mixture to thicken. Then, add a few dollops of pumpkin puree, and a dash of pumpkin spice if desired, followed by the cheese. Gouda, fontina, and sharp cheddar pair wonderfully with the subtle sweetness of pumpkin, but any good melting cheese will work. Mix in cooked pasta and voila: pumpkin mac and cheese!
Everyone knows the classic potato gnocchi, but pumpkin gnocchi are an amazing seasonal take on this beloved pasta dish. To prepare pumpkin gnocchi, the first step is to make choux pastry. Choux pastry is an outlier in the pastry world: it is prepared hot, then allowed to cool prior to finishing cooking.
To make it, heat up 1 cup of water, 1 cup of pumpkin puree, 4 tablespoons of butter, and 3 tablespoons of pumpkin pie spice in a deep saucepan until boiling. Reduce heat to medium-low, then add 3 cups of flour while stirring vigorously. The mixture is done when it begins to pull away from the sides of the pot. Remove from heat and pour into bowl of a stand mixer. Begin mixing on low heat to allow some heat to release, then add 3 eggs, one at a time, to the mixture. When the eggs are fully incorporated, turn the mixture out into a well-oiled bowl and refrigerate 2 hours, or until cool.
When the pumpkin choux pastry is cool, it can be rolled out like standard potato gnocchi. Working small portions at a time, flour the surface, then roll it into ½ inch logs and then cut with a knife or dough scraper into 1-inch gnocchi. Set aside finished gnocchi on a bed of flour until all gnocchi are cut. The gnocchi at this point can be cooked, or frozen to save for later. To cook the gnocchi, boil salted water in deep saucepan, then add small quantities of gnocchi at a time and allow to cook for around 1 minute, until they float to the top. Once finished, remove and add directly to sauce, or let cool on a greased sheet pan until ready to add to sauce. They can also be sauteed after this step, which adds a lovely crisp to the outside to contrast with the creamy inside.
One of the best ways to use up a whole pumpkin is to make pepitas. Pepitas are a traditional Mexican snack made from the seeds of pumpkins and other specific squashes. To make them, scrape the seeds out of a whole pumpkin, then rinse in water to remove leftover pulp. Drain and let dry on a paper towel for at least 2 hours, but no more than 24 hours. Toss the dried seeds with olive or sunflower oil, then season with salt, plus any array of other spices: for spicy pepitas, cayenne pepper and cinnamon, or for sweet pepitas, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and sugar can be used. Roast at 250 degrees for an hour until light golden brown. Let cool, then start snacking!
A mainstay at brewpubs and gourmet restaurants, pumpkin bisque is a deceptively easy soup to make. To make it, begin by sweating shallots on low heat in vegetable oil in a deep saucepan. Add curry powder, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg and let the spices bloom for a few minutes. Add cream and pumpkin puree, then the secret ingredient: cooked rice. The true definition of a bisque is a soup thickened with cooked rice, which creates both a deliciously subtle umami flavor as well as a soup that reheats beautifully with no separation.
When all ingredients are added and have begun to thicken, remove from heat. Allow to cool for 10 to 15 minutes, then puree in a blender until smooth. Passing the soup through a strainer is recommended, but not required--it can help ensure consistent texture throughout. Top with crème fraiche and a sprinkle of pepitas and enjoy a bowl full of fall goodness.
Last but certainly not least, pumpkin turnovers are a great alternative to the classic pumpkin pie. They are also much easier to make than pumpkin pie, requiring only a handful of ingredients and 30 minutes from prep to completion. Mix a cup of pumpkin puree with a ½ cup of cream cheese, 2 eggs, ½ cup of brown sugar, and a dash of pumpkin pie spice to create the filling. Pull the puff pastry from the freezer and let thaw briefly, no more than 5 minutes, then spoon 2-3 tablespoons of filling into the center of the puff pastry squares. Fold over and seal by pressing the edges with a fork. Brush with melted butter or egg wash and bake at 375 degrees for 10-15 minutes until puffy and golden brown. Let cool briefly then revel in this deliciously simple seasonal dessert.
Pumpkin is a versatile fall food and worthy of use in more than just pie. Its subtly sweet, earthy flavor shines in sweet and savory dishes alike and is sure to delight at the dinner table. Add it to the menu this fall and enjoy this scrumptious star of the season.
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