This weekend's iron chef ingredient: pumpkin. Now please help me do it right!
October 25, 2008 9:15 AM   Subscribe

Help me cook with pumpkin. More information than you require inside.

I have a couple of gatherings this weekend to which I am requested to bring food. I'm looking for savory recipes, not so much sweet, and I'm hoping to make things sort of fall/Halloween themed by using pumpkin.

I've been investigating recipes online and in my dad's Cooking Light magazines. I have a lot of questions now.

Parameters: I have access to Whole Foods (which carries pumpkins as well as various types of squash). I do NOT want to use canned pumpkin (which, oddly, is the only thing Cooking Light suggests using to cook). Completed food must be capable of surviving a ~30 minute subway ride and 10 minute walk tonight and/or a 20 minute car ride tomorrow. (So, like, soup is hard, as is anything that must be served immediately). There will be 10-15 people tonight (adults) and up to 30 people tomorrow (adults and small children).

So my questions:
(1) Purchasing pumpkin. I read in some places that Jack-o-lantern type pumpkins are no good but then some previous AskMe questions have people from non-US countries saying things like "oh yeah, we have slices of grilled pumpkin on the side for breakfast." Are we talking about different pumpkins here? Can I buy the big orange pumpkins that I see everywhere -- and which I saw in grocery store produce sections year-round in Mexico -- and successfully cook with them, or should I stick with butternut squash or something?

(2) What sort of cheese goes well with pumpkin? I've found a few recipes with things like goat cheese and feta, but I'm not such a fan of either of those. Does anyone have experience with something like cow's milk brie with pumpkin that has turned out well? (Modify to substitute other types of squash for "pumpkin" depending on your answer to question 1)

(3) I have a cheap-o blender but not much else for food processing (which I see in many pumpkin/squash recipes). What else can I do to make pumpkin/squash go from cubes to mash, if I need to? Can I cook it down (like I do with applesauce or mashed potatoes) and leave it a little chunky, or is processing necessary?

(4) Any recipes you personally recommend? I have a few things in mind -- mostly involving filo dough -- but I am open to other possibilities if you've made something you think is great. (I too can Google, so just pointing me to lists of recipes is not as helpful...)

(And if heresiarch is reading this, yes, at least half of this is for your thing tonight. I hope you appreciate my dedication.)
posted by olinerd to Food & Drink (23 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: 1. Yep, different pumpkins. The jack-o-lantern type pumpkins have far less natural sugar, and much less delicious pumpkiny flavor, than the ones you want to cook with, which will generally be much smaller. Ask at Whole Foods for a 'sugar' or 'pie' pumpkin -- they'll help you get the right thing.

2. This is pretty fantastic. Any of the cheeses she mentions would be a good complement.

3. If you want to use mashed/pureed pumpkin, make sure you roast it until it's really squishy, then mash it (and whatever you can accomplish with a fork will be fine), then let it sit for about 30 minutes and drain off any liquids. Pumpkin holds a lot of water, and it will make other things watery if you don't prep your puree this way. If you try cooking it like you do applesauce or mashed potatoes, I'd suggest letting the puree sit in a strainer at least overnight.

4. Check out #2 (not sure it suits your travel needs, though). Alternatively, I think chunks of roasted pumpkin (chunk flesh, toss with olive oil, salt & garlic, roast at 400F until fork-tender), toasted hazelnuts, and blue cheese in phyllo pockets sounds pretty phenomenal, but I don't have any particular recipes to suggest.
posted by amelioration at 9:30 AM on October 25, 2008

Cannelloni! This recipe seems like a good place to start.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 9:36 AM on October 25, 2008

Best answer: How funny, I was just getting online to look up more pumpkin recipes for a harvest-themed dinner. I already had one good one which I'll share here, it's from "Simple Cooking" by John Thorne. It has lots of garlic and also Parmesan, which is a good match if you're still looking for cheeses too.

Pumpkin Tian
One 3-4 lb pumpkin
1/2 cup flour
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme (or 1/4 teaspoon dry)
2 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Remove seeds, string and rind from pumpkin and cut into 3/4 inch cubes. Toss cubes in a colander with flour so the cubes are coated but the excess flour escapes. Coat the inside of a casserole dish with half the olive oil, add the pumpkin and other ingrediants and toos to mix. Drizzle the rest of the oil on top. Bake for 2 to 2 1/2 hours. The top with get brown and caramelized and the inside will melt in your mouth. Yum.
posted by cali at 9:54 AM on October 25, 2008

I've never actually made this, but I have eaten it several times at the local Afghan restaurant, and it's delicious: Kaddo bowrani (Afghani pumpkin)
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 9:54 AM on October 25, 2008 [3 favorites]

pumpkin soup.

i'm more of an on-the-fly chef myself, but a solid simple recipe can be found here. (There's also one by Jamie Oliver, but it's a little fancy-pants for my tastes ;)
posted by tamarack at 10:05 AM on October 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: amelioration's already earned best answer, but I'll chime in with some additional info.

1) Sugar pumpkins. They're a lot smaller than jack-o-lantern pumpkins, but very dense because they have much thicker walls, which is the edible part.

2) Any cheese will go with pumpkin. My suggestion to you, though, is that you're likely going to want a cheese that will cook well, a hard cheese with a good amount of flavor. I'd suggest a parmesan or asiago for flavor, Ricotta, jack, mozzarella and other mild cheeses are good for adding richness, body and texture. I think that brie would probably cook down into an unappetizing puddle unless it was added after the main cooking process was done.

3) This is how I've cooked pumpkin and other winter squash: cut in half vertically, clean out the seeds and strings, lay the flat side down on a cookie sheet or casserole pan with just enough water to cover the bottom, bake for 45 minutes @ 375 or until you can easily poke a fork all the way through the pumpkin. At this point you'll be able to peel the skin off with a butterknife. Once skinned, mash the pumpkin with a fork.

4) I'm personally fond of pumpkin lasagna. I've also had pumpkin ravioli before, and it was fantastic. But really, you can substitute pumpkin for butternut squash in just about any recipe. I'd suggest cruising around
posted by lekvar at 10:13 AM on October 25, 2008

I made a nice pumpkin risotto recently. The smaller pie pumpkins are about 7-9" in radius, and I quartered one and roasted it before chopping it into bits to add to the risotto (I added it with the first addition of broth). I stirred in some goat cheese right at the end. It was yummy. I also roasted the seeds, intending to use them as a garnish, but I forgot to put them on before I ate it. :)
posted by sevenyearlurk at 10:30 AM on October 25, 2008

I present my recipe for the best ever roasted squash, which is actually a riff on Laurie Colwin's version of John Thorne's above-mentioned squash tian.

I use butternut squash, which I find a lot easier to peel than pumpkin; it's harder skinned, but has no grooves or ridges. But if you're determined to use pumpkin, it'll be fine. Not just fine --- the best ever!
posted by Elsa at 10:40 AM on October 25, 2008

(Incidentally, my dish uses the same ingredients as Thorne's and Colwin's, but the final product is quite different, as described in the linked entry. The squash or pumpkin in my recipe roasts up into crispy-creamy little nuggets of goodness, rather than a molten tian.)
posted by Elsa at 10:43 AM on October 25, 2008

My favorite squash recipe is this pumpkin corn bisque. The title is a bit of a misnomer, since it is really made with butternut squash.
posted by Macduff at 11:16 AM on October 25, 2008

Best answer: As soon as I saw this thread I wanted to tell you about Dorie Greenspan's "sketch" of a pumpkin recipe, but the first answer (by amelioration) already links to it (item 2). I have to emphasize how great this is -- it can be sweet or savory, and since you're looking for savory I also recommend frying a little bacon and onions along with some garlic and mixing that in with the bread and cheese and other ingredients that you stuff into the pumpkin. It's really amazing.

I tried this with a cheese pumpkin (looks like this), which are not as bright orange as standard pumpkins but really really tasty and with less of the stringy goop which you have to scrape out. Whatever you end up making, consider this variety if you can find it as the flavor is lovely -- much better than the standard carving pumpkin. Then you can separate out the seeds and put them on a tray in the toaster oven with a little oil and salt for a bonus snack.
posted by tractorfeed at 11:19 AM on October 25, 2008

Also I think the Greenspan pumpkin would travel well (as long as you made it in a dutch oven or big casserole dish with a lid) -- just prebake it for a while, take it out to cool, carry the whole thing to your event, then pop it in the oven there when you arrive to warm it up.
posted by tractorfeed at 11:21 AM on October 25, 2008

Response by poster: Oh man, I'm drooling. Thanks guys. I'm sure I'll give all of these a shot over the next few weeks (I need Thanksgiving stuff, too) and I hope the party guests tonight and tomorrow appreciate it as much as I do!
posted by olinerd at 11:28 AM on October 25, 2008

Hubbard squash, also known as a Hubbard pumpkin, is by far my favorite. Its smooth, rich, and very flavorful flesh and beautiful deep orange color make for a delicious, satisfying soup. For my money, it's far superior in flavor and texture to your typical pumpkin, though a little harder to find in a regular grocery store. Check out your local farmer's market, I'd say.

Here's my recipe:

1 medium sized Hubbard squash - choose one that is heavy for its size, as this indicates that it is fresh and full of moisture, and has a high flesh to seed ratio
1 large vidalia onion, chopped
2 ribs of celery, chopped
1 granny smith or fuji apple, cored and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
10 or so sprigs of thyme, or 2 or 3 sprigs of sage, your choice
1/2 stick of butter, cut into pats
olive oil
plenty of chicken stock (or vegetable stock or water, for a vegetarian alternative)
juice of half a lemon

Halve squash and remove seeds completely. Place halves on a baking sheet and brush with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast at 375 degrees for about an hour until squash is tender. Set aside to cool.

In a 7 quart dutch oven or similar heavy pot, heat some olive oil and a couple of pats of butter. Add onion, celery, garlic and apple and allow to saute for a few minutes until just brown. Add salt and pepper, stir, and allow to saute for another 30 seconds or so. Add enough stock (or water) to the pot to cover vegetables, add your thyme or sage, and cover. Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.

When squash is cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh into a bowl being careful to remove the skin as you go. Add your squash to the pot and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes more. Taste and adjust salt and pepper. Remove from heat and set aside to allow to cool a bit. Remove thyme or sage stems.

Ladle soup mixture into a food processor or blender in batches and process until smooth. Soup will thicken considerably during this step. Pour smooth, blended soup back into your pot and add enough water to thin it to desired consistency. Add remaining butter and lemon juice and taste again - adjust salt and pepper to taste. Bring soup back to a simmer for about five minutes and then serve with crusty bread and, if desired, a few sage leaves fried in olive oil sprinkled on top. A dollop of creme fresh also wouldn't kill you.

Also, for what it's worth, bleu cheese and pumpkin are great friends.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 11:41 AM on October 25, 2008

Apologies for not catching your "no soup" requirement, so excited was I to share my favorite squash soup recipe with everybody.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 11:47 AM on October 25, 2008

Ooh, I remembered another neat pumpkin recipe - this is a sweet, not a savoury, but it's quite a change from the pies people are used to. I learned to make it at a cooking class in Thailand.

You need:
one small pie pumpkin (~1.5 kg)
8 beaten eggs
1 cup coconut milk
125 g palm sugar (or substitute brown sugar)

Cut the top off the pumpkin as if you're carving a jack-o-lantern, and retain it. Don't make the opening too big. Scoop out the pulp and the seeds, leaving the 'meat' of the pumpkin as intact as you can. Rinse out and pat dry.

Then, beat together the eggs, coconut milk and sugar, and pour into the pumpkin. Replace the lid.

Place the pumpkin into a large steamer and cook for 30-45 minutes, until the custard is firm and the pumpkin meat is tender (test with a skewer). Remove the pumpkin from the steamer and chill it overnight, then cut into thick wedges and serve.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 11:50 AM on October 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Here's an easy, fun thing to do with Jack-Be-Little pumpkins, the tiny ones that kids often paint for Halloween. They're about the size of potatoes, so treat them like potatoes, and microwave them for side dishes.

Make deep knife cuts around the stem, where you would open up and "gut" a jack o'lantern pumpkin. Put it in the microwave for about 5 minutes, or until tender. You will hear it hiss and steam. Take it out, let it cool just a moment -- it is very hot -- then cut and lift the top out. Put it back in if it's not tender; it should be falling in half. Scoop out the seeds and stringy material. Put butter pats on the flesh, then serve with cinnamon, salt and sugar to taste -- just as you would mash up your baked potato with butter, salt and pepper at the table.

This is also a good way to prepare Jack-Be-Little pumpkins for mashing up into cookies or pies.

Happy happy pumpkin!
posted by Countess Elena at 2:05 PM on October 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Anything you can make with winter Squash, you can make with pumpkin.

The way that I get pumpkin puree is: Cut a pumpkin up into biggish pieces, scoop out the seeds, then steam them for 20 minutes. The peel comes off fairly easily then, and you can then run the meat through a blender. Voila.

I just made pumpkin biscuits that were quite lovely -- same principle as buttermilk biscuits, only using pumpkin puree instead of buttermilk.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:07 PM on October 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

The Japanese way of preparing kabocha squash is pretty good. Kabocha is pretty delicious in Japan, but I've found the kabocha grown here in Canada to be less sweet and flavorful, and with less of a firm texture when cooked, so instead you can substitute "sweet mama" pumpkins if you can find them.

Anyway, wash your kabocha carefully. Cut in half, remove the stem and the seeds (but not the pulp), and then cut into bite-size chunks. Don't cut too small, or the pumpkin will dissolve when cooking.

Fill a small pot with water - the pumpkin should be packed in, and the water should just go over the top of the pumpkin. I should say that before you fill the pot with water, add to it sugar, mirin cooking wine, soy sauce and some sort of stock (fish, seaweed, chicken or beef) to taste.

Simmer until tender, but be careful, because if you simmer too long the pumpkin will turn into mush
posted by KokuRyu at 9:54 PM on October 25, 2008

In the fall I love to make Shepherd's Pie with a squash/potato topping. Usually it's an acorn squash and a couple of potatoes. Sometimes I use pumpkin instead of squash and that's good too. If you want the recipe, I've got a Word file.

For getting the squash/pumpkin to mash smoothly, I used to boil it but now I've found that a pressure cooker cooks it much faster and gives it a velvety smooth texture. It's less lumpy than boiling. It might be nice to roast it a bit and then pressure cook it.
posted by i_love_squirrels at 10:08 PM on October 25, 2008

Response by poster: Just an update...

I found "Sugar pie pumpkins" at Whole Foods.

Last night I made phyllo dough rolls with bits of roasted pumpkin, hard sheep's milk and bleu cheese (I made both varieties), and toasted hazelnuts. They were very well-received.

I'm making the Greenspan recipe right now using Comte cheese, minced shallots/garlic/hen of the forest mushroom, and liberal amounts of salt and pepper mixed in with the bread. Haven't tried them yet but it smells amazing.

Thanks again for your recipes, everyone!
posted by olinerd at 2:10 PM on October 26, 2008

Australians and Brits tend to use the word "pumpkin" for things that in America we would call "squash." So when you see someone overseas talking about roast pumpkin, they're definitely NOT talking about the big orange ones.
posted by web-goddess at 6:43 PM on October 26, 2008

Pumpkin/Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette! (

Cheese -- I do think that the tanginess of Goat cheese complements the sweetness of pumpkin quite well. If you don't like the texture of something fresher (like a chevre), see if you can find an aged goat cheese -- more of a grating cheese -- instead.
posted by chefscotticus at 8:03 AM on October 27, 2008

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