October 16, 2013

The Maine Ingredient: Make the most of pumpkins’ spell in the spotlight

The temperature has dropped and now everyone craves pumpkin-flavored everything.

By Anne Mahle

Like clockwork, the temperature has dropped, I finally turned on the heat in the house and now I want pumpkin-flavored everything.

Last week, the pumpkins in the garden were uninteresting and ignored. This week, they’ve moved to the front row of my house, garden and kitchen.

ROASTED WHOLE PUMPKIN

Pumpkin comes in all shapes and sizes. Treat all winter squashes and pumpkins the same when it comes to roasting and extracting the flesh. To give you a sense of yield, one small to medium pumpkin weighing 41/2 pounds yields 41/2 cups of flesh.

1 small whole pumpkin

Salt, pepper and olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the pumpkin in half, removing the seeds and pulp. Place on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt, pepper and olive oil. Roast for 1 to 11/2 hours or until the center is tender. Larger pumpkins will take longer.

Let cool and remove skin from the flesh, discarding the skin. If the pumpkin is stringy, you can use either a potato masher or a food processor to smooth things out, depending on how you’ll be using the flesh. If you’d like to freeze some, pulse in a food processor briefly to smooth out any lumpy bits.

Use for pumpkin soup, biscuits, cookies and any other goodies for which you may have used canned pumpkin in the past.

PUMPKIN CUMIN AND CARDAMOM SOUP WITH ALMOND MILK

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 cups diced onions; about one large onion

4 cloves garlic, smashed

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 teaspoon kosher salt

3 cups (24 ounces) pureed pumpkin

4 cups chicken or vegetable broth

1 cup almond milk

Several grinds of fresh black pepper

Garnish with toasted pecans and diced pears

Heat a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and then the onions. Saute the onions for 10 minutes or until they are soft and translucent. Add the garlic, cumin, cardamom and salt. Saute for another 1 to 2 minutes and then add the pumpkin. Saute the pumpkin, stirring frequently until the bottom of the pot begins to brown. Add the stock and milk and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer for 30 minutes.

At this point, you can chill and reheat the following day or serve immediately with toasted pecans and diced pears as a garnish.

Makes 10 cups.

PUMPKIN BISCUITS

Kind of like sweet potato biscuits, only Yankee-style.

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

1/4 cup milk

1 to 11/2 cups (8 to 12 ounces) pureed pumpkin, depending on how moist the pumpkin is

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Sift together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. This is an important step because you want to add air to the mixture so the biscuits are as fluffy as possible.

Cut the butter in with a pastry knife (or your fingers) until the mixture is the texture of coarse meal. Add milk and pumpkin, stirring until a soft dough forms, adding more pumpkin as needed to pull the mixture into a ball. Do not overmix. This is very important; if you overmix you will probably get hard tack instead of fluffy biscuits.

Turn out onto a floured board and knead 5 times.

Roll or pat out the dough until it is 1/2-inch thick. Cut with a floured 2-inch biscuit cutter.

Bake on an ungreased cookie pan for 12 to 15 minutes.

(Continued on page 2)

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