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Canned or fresh pumpkin puree works in sweet or savory dishes

Young Sophie Ramsey wanders through a maze of pumpkins at the Church of the Redeemer pumpkin patch in Biloxi in 2012.
Young Sophie Ramsey wanders through a maze of pumpkins at the Church of the Redeemer pumpkin patch in Biloxi in 2012. Sun Herald file

Now that you have picked the perfect pumpkin, what are you going to do with it?

If doing a Jack-o-lantern, the insides still need to be cleaned, the seeds and stringy fibers. What about the flesh of the pumpkin? Is it too much to handle? Or do you not want to be bothered? Canned pumpkin puree, not the pie filling, works well, too, and it is easier.

It just seems awful to waste all that good pumpkin meat just for a Jack-o-lantern that lasts a week or so. While the meat of large pumpkins does not have as much flavor, seasoning the pumpkin meat with cinnamon and nutmeg helps. This type of pumpkin also takes longer to cook.

According to Martha Stewart, sugar pumpkins and cheese pumpkins are two widely available varieties that are good for cooking and baking, thanks to their dense, sweet flesh.

Pie pumpkins, which are smaller than the carving pumpkins, make flavorful puree that is used in pies, cakes and savory dishes.

The pie pumpkins weigh about 3 pounds and make about 2 cups of cooked puree. If stored at room temperature, uncooked, whole pumpkins can last a month. Stored in the refrigerator, pumpkins can last up to three months. Once cut, pumpkin pieces should be wrapped tightly and refrigerated and used within five days.

Don’t forget about the pumpkin seeds; they are great to roast for snacks or as toppings for muffins.

In the Oct. 7 column, I shared how to cook a pumpkin to make getting the flesh out easier for pumpkin puree. There are three methods, boiling, baking and microwaving. After the pumpkin is cooked, all that needs to be done is scrape out the meat and put in a food processor or blender to puree.

Some of today’s recipes use canned pumpkin and a couple use the fresh puree. Do whatever works best for you.

PUMPKIN HUMMUS

4 (6-inch) pita breads cut in 8 wedges

Cooking spray

2 tablespoons tahini (sesame seed paste)

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper

1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree, not pie filling

1 garlic clove, minced

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place pita wedges on baking sheets; coat with cooking spray. Bake at 425 degrees for 6 minutes or until toasted.

Place tahini and next 7 ingredients (through garlic) in a food processor, and process until smooth. Add parsley, pulse until blended. Spoon hummus into a serving bowl, sprinkle with toasted pumpkin seed kernels, if desired. Serving size: 3 wedges pita and 3 tablespoons hummus per person. – From www.geniuskitchen.com/



CAJUN PUMPKIN SEEDS

1 cup pumpkin seeds

1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning

Paprika for color

Dash of salt

1 dashes Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon butter, melted

Rinse seeds. Dry with a paper towel, but not too dry.

Toss with seasoning. Combine butter and Worcestershire sauce and stir into seasoned pumpkin seeds.

Place on baking sheet and bake at 300 degrees for 45-60 minutes until brown and crunchy. – Fromwww.geniuskitchen.com/



HEIRLOOM PUMPKIN AND SQUASH PIE

1 9-inch pie shell

2 small pumpkins and/or winter heirloom squashes, such as Triamble, red kabocha or butternut (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled and cut into wedges

Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling pumpkin and squash

3 large eggs, plus 2 large egg yolks

1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons brandy

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Lightly sweetened fresh whipped cream, for serving

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Use frozen pie crust or you can make your favorite pie crust. If making your own, roll out dough to a 1/8-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Fit dough into a 9-inch pie plate, and trim crust to a 1-inch overhang. Fold edges under, and crimp as desired. Freeze until firm, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, make the filling: Drizzle pumpkin and squash wedges with olive oil, and roast on a rimmed baking sheet until tender (times will vary).



Line crust with parchment, leaving an overhang on all sides. Fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until edges of crust begin to turn golden, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and remove weights and parchment. Bake until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes more. Let cool on a wire rack.



Peel pumpkin and squash, and transfer flesh to a food processor. Puree until smooth.



Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Whisk pumpkin and squash puree, eggs, egg yolks, heavy cream, sugar, brandy, sage, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves, nutmeg, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper in a bowl.

Pour filling into pie shell, and smooth top using an offset spatula. Bake until just set but still slightly wobbly in the center, about 1 hour (filling will continue to set as it cools). Let cool on a wire rack. Serve slightly warm, at room temperature, or chilled, with whipped cream. – From Martha Stewart

Andrea Yeager can be reached at ayeager51@cableone.net and Cooks Exchange, 205 DeBuys Road, Gulfport, MS 39507

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