As cooler temperatures set in and the city becomes decorated by the changing colours of the leaves, it is time to indulge in one of autumn’s most decadent culinary pleasures: pumpkins.
With Halloween around the corner, pumpkins can easily be purchased in grocery stores all over the city. Some are painted, others carved and some are even used to decorate inside the home.
Filled with seeds, pumpkins are similar to squashes, tomatoes and cucumbers, and are scientifically considered fruit. However, in culinary terms a pumpkin can also be referred to as a vegetable. The distinction does not really matter, though, so long as we agree that its unique taste and culinary possibilities make it a worthy autumn ingredient.
Not all pumpkins are the same and finding the right one is important. The most popular choice is the sugar pie pumpkin and it is recommended to purchase the smaller, sweet pumpkins that have dark orange flesh. These are perfect for baking, cooking, or boiling.
Pumpkin seeds done spicy, sweet and simple
To start off, the pumpkin must be emptied of its seeds. These seeds can make a tasty and healthy treat, but the prepackaged seeds at your local supermarket are loaded with sodium. Instead, make your own at home this season.
1. Remove the seeds from the pumpkin and separate from the stringy insides.
2. Soak the seeds in cold water to clean them off. Once they are clean, place them on a towel and let dry.
3. Preheat oven to 350 F and coat any flat cooking pan with a low-fat cooking spray
Spicy: For seeds with an extra kick, place seeds on tray and sprinkle with a touch of cayenne pepper, dried thyme and a touch of sea salt.
Sweet: For a sweeter version, sprinkle with cinnamon and a touch of sugar.
Simple: For a more classic flavouring, place the seeds on oiled tray and sprinkle some salt.
1. Bake for approximately 10 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy.
2. Once baked, let cool for approximately 5 minutes before indulging in crunchy goodness.
Preparing the pumpkin for cooking
Now that the pumpkin has been emptied, it must be baked and pureed in order to be used in any recipe.
1. Preheat oven to 375 F
2. Cut the pumpkin in half and make sure to remove the stem section and any stringy pulp you may have missed
3. In a shallow baking dish, place the two halves face down, covering with tinfoil
4. Bake for approximately 1 hour or until the pumpkin is tender
5. Remove pumpkin and let cool
6. Once cooled, scoop the cooked pumpkin from its skin and puree or mash it
*Note: if you are in a rush, you can cut the pumpkin into chunks and microwave on high power for about 7-10 minutes. Make sure to stop the microwave every so often and stir.
A traditional pumpkin pie with a twist
Nothing that can compare to grandma’s homemade pumpkin pecan pie cake, which, unlike most pie recipes, does not have a crust.
– 2 cups of pureed pumpkin
– 1Â½ cups of evaporated milk
– 3 large eggs
– 1Â½ cups of sugar
– 4 tsp pumpkin pie spice (this can be made at home combining 2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tsp ground ginger, 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg and 1/2 tsp ground allspice)
– 1 pkg of yellow cake mix (can be replaced with pecan or vanilla pound cake mix as well)
– 1 cup of chopped pecans
– 1 cup of melted butter or margarine
– Whipped cream
*Note: For a healthier alternative, use two eggs and use unsalted butter.
1. Preheat oven to 350 F
2. Grease bottom of 9″ by 13″ by 2″ pan
3. Combine pumpkin, evaporated milk, eggs, sugar, pumpkin pie spice and salt in large bowl
4. Stir until blended and pour blended ingredients into the pan
5. Sprinkle the dry cake mix evenly over pumpkin mixture
6. Top with pecans and drizzle with melted butter or margarine.
7. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until golden
8. Cool completely and serve with whipped cream topping.
Pumpkins come around for only a couple months a year so be sure to save and savour them them. Pumpkin purÃ©ee can be kept in the refrigerator for about four days and frozen for up to six months.