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CHEF'S CORNER

 
THE GREAT PUMPKIN
By: Deirdre Cooper

 

 

Just the picture of a perfect pumpkin evokes immediate images of autumn, falling leaves, a chill in the air and jack-o-lanterns. It is also an integral part of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner in the form of pumpkin pie. Now the love affair with pumpkin has spread to other dishes and includes the flavor of pumpkin spice in everything from martinis and coffee to pasta sauce.
 
Pumpkins probably originated in Mexico as a member of the squash family. They were cultivated by Native Americans and introduced to the Pilgrims as a great food source and were likely served at the second Thanksgiving. Pumpkins stored well over the long winters and were used in a variety of ways. The whole thing was utilized – the dried shells were used for storage of grain, beans and seeds. Pumpkin strips were roasted over an open fire or boiled and dried. Pumpkin seeds were used as medicine, the blossoms and leaves were added to stews. The Pilgrims were also known to make pumpkin beers, fermenting a combination of persimmons, hops, maple sugar and pumpkin for the brew.
 
A favorite dessert of the Pilgrims was probably the original pumpkin "pie", all baked in the shell which was filled with milk, honey and spices and baked whole in a fire until the inside turned to pudding. They couldn't make enough of them. Today's convenience of canned pumpkin which has no additives makes all of these recipes so easy to make. The following recipe uses the actual pumpkin as a wonderful side dish.
 
 
Crusted Pumpkin Wedges
 


 

From Ottolenghi's "Plenty" cookbook
 
1 1/2 pounds pumpkin cut into slices about 3/8" thick
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
3 tbsps dried white breadcrumbs
6 tbsps finely chopped parsley
2 1/2 tsp finely chopped thyme
Grated zest of 2 large lemons
2 cloves garlic
salt and white pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tbsp chopped dill
 
1. Preheat oven to 375. Lay the pumpkin slices, cut side down on baking sheet that has been lined with parchment.
 
2. Mix together in a small bowl the Parmesan, breadcrumbs, parsley, thyme, half the lemon zest, garlic, pinch of salt and some pepper.
 
3. Brush the pumpkin generously with olive oil and sprinkle with the crust mix, making sure the slices are thickly coated. Pat the mix onto the pumpkin slices.
 
4. Place the pan in the oven and roast for about 30 minutes or until tender. If topping starts to darken before the pumpkin is soft, cover lightly with foil. Serve with sour cream on the side.
 
 
Cumin Pumpkin Soup
 


 

From The Food Network Kitchens
 
1 can (15 oz) pure pumpkin
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 tsp ground cumin
2 bay leaves
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Popcorn, pumpkin seeds, croutons for garnish
 
In a medium saucepan, whisk together pumpkin, broth, milk and cumin. Add bay leaves and set pan over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, remove bay leaves and adjust seasonings. Garnish as desired.
 
 
Tortellini with Pumpkin Alfredo Sauce
 


 

Courtesy of Food Network
 
Kosher salt
2 packages (9 oz) cheese tortellini
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 small shallot finely chopped
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
Pinch of grated nutmeg
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese and more for topping
Freshly ground pepper and chopped fresh parsley for garnish
 
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the tortellini and cook as directed. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water and then drain pasta.
 
Meanwhile, heat the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and cook, stirring until slightly soft. Add the pumpkin and nutmeg and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in the cream and simmer, stirring, until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cheese and cook until thick. Season with salt and pepper.
 
Add the tortellini to the skillet and toss with the sauce, adding some of the reserved cooking water to thin if needed. Divide among bowls and top with cheese and parsley.
 
 
Pumpkin Spice Bars
 


 

4 eggs
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
15 oz can pure pumpkin
2 cups sifted all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
 
Frosting
 
8 oz package cream cheese softened
1/2 cup unsalted butter softened
2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
 
Preheat oven to 350.
 
Using an electric mixer at medium speed, combine the eggs, sugar, oil and pumpkin until light and fluffy. Stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda cinnamon and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and mix on low until combined and batter is smooth. Spread the batter in a greased 13 x 9 baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes, let cool and cut into bars.
 
Frosting: Combine the cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the sugar and mix until combine. Stir in vanilla. Spread on cooled bars.
 
 
 

Deirdre is a culinary enthusiast who enjoys traveling, gardening, and needless to say works wonders in the kitchen. Deirdre, a native New Yorker, now resides in Ambler with her husband John, and can often be found entertaining family and friends. Enjoy!
 
 
 
 

2017
 
Jan.  | Feb.  | Mar.  | Apr.  | May  | Current Recipe
 
 
2016
 
Jan.  | Feb.  | Mar.  | Apr.  | May  | Jun.  | Jul.  | Aug.
 
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2019 South 26th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19145 · Phone: 215.468.0518 · Fax: 215.468.0818 · E-mail:
info@philadelphiacatering.com
 
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