The Versatile Vegetable


Fall has arrived and so has Pumpkin season. As one of the most popular crops in the United States, 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkins are produced each year in the top pumpkin-producing states of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, California, and Pennsylvania. From pumpkin lattes to pumpkin beer to pumpkin bagels, the pumpkin craze has grown into a multi-million dollar food segment. Restaurants’ pumpkin-inspired limited-time offers are up 234% from 2008 to 2012, while overall limited-time menu offers have grown 143% over the same period, according to Datassential Menu Trends. Although it’s early, menu mentions of pumpkin for 2013 are already up 6% compared with last year.

If you love pumpkins as much as I do, then you’ll be happy to know that they are very versatile in their uses for cooking. There are hundreds of different varieties of pumpkins and as you wander around your favorite Farmer’s Market or grocery store, you’ll notice that there are large pumpkins, small pumpkins, sugar pumpkins, white pumpkins, and so on. Variety type aside, you want make sure you choose a smaller pumpkin. If you’re able to find a sugar variety pumpkin, go with that as the name implies, it is slightly sweeter. Field pumpkins make great jack-o-‘lanterns, but are much too stringy for baking. Much like produce, the darker the orange skin on the pumpkin the riper the flavor is on the inside. Every four pounds of pumpkin will yield about 1½-2 cups of homemade pumpkin puree. So you if you choose an eight pound pumpkin in your grocery aisle, your end result will be around 4 cups of puree.

Baking a Pumpkin

With a sharp kitchen knife, cut the pumpkin in half. Discard the big stem, and take out all the stringy pulp. Save the seeds!

Take a baking sheet and lightly grease with butter, canola oil, cooking spray etc. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. On the baking sheet place the pumpkin halves skin side up, with the flesh touching the pan.

Cover everything with foil, and place in the oven until the pumpkin is tender. Approximately 1½-2 hours.

Once the pumpkin is tender, allow it to cool. Then take a spoon and scoop out all the flesh from the skin.

Discard the skin, and mash up the flesh you scooped out with a masher, food mill, food processor, or spoon.

Microwave Technique
Cut the pumpkin in half. Discard the stems and stringy flesh while saving the seeds. Place the pieces in the microwave on high power for about six minutes per pound. Every 3-4 minutes, open the microwave and turn and move the pieces around. Once finished, the pumpkins will be extremely hot. Remove and allow to cool or to expedite the process, pop them in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes.

Scoop the flesh away from the skin, and mash up with whatever method you prefer.

Double Glazed Pumpkin Scones

2 Cups All Purpose Flour
3 TBSP Sugar
4 TBSP Brown Sugar
1 Egg
3 TBSP Half and Half
1/3 Cup Fresh Pumpkin Puree
6 TBSP Butter (Very cold)
1/2 TSP Kosher Salt
1 TBSP Baking Powder
1/2 TSP Cinnamon
1/2 TSP Nutmeg
1/4 TSP Ground Ginger
1/4 TSP Ground Cloves
**If you don’t have all the ground spices, substitute 11/2 TSP of pumpkin pie spice.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and grease a baking sheet or line it with parchment paper. Combine the spices, baking powder, flour, sugar. and salt into a large bowl. Using two butter knives, place the cold butter into the flour mixture and cut it up into it. It should resemble large crumbs. Set aside. In another bowl combine the half and half, egg, and pumpkin. Mix together and pour the mixture into the dry mixture and gently fold it together just until the dry ingredients are well integrated. Don’t over mix. Lay down a floured surface and form the dough into a ball and pat it down. Using your hands, form the dough into a tall rectangle that’s about 9 inches tall by 3 inches wide. With a sharp knife, cut the dough into three sections width wise; you’ll now have 3 pieces. Then using the same knife, cut each piece diagonally, so the end result is 6 triangle pieces. Place on the baking sheet and bake 14-15 minutes until lightly brown. Remove and allow to cool.

Sweet Glaze
1 Cup Powdered Sugar
2 TBSP Milk

Mix together the milk and powdered sugar until it is smooth. Once the scones are cool, pour some of the glaze on each scone. Using the back of a spoon, smooth it out so it is nice an even on top. Let it dry for 45 minutes.

Spicy Glaze
1 Cup Powdered Sugar
2 TBSP Milk
1/4 TSP Cinnamon
1/8 TSP Ground Nutmeg
Pinch of ground ginger
Pinch of ground Clove
**If you don’t have all the ground spices, substitute 1/2 TSP of pumpkin pie spice.

Combine the sugar, milk, and spices and mix until smooth. Using a whisk or spoon, drizzle the glaze on top of the previous glazed scones. For best presentation results, let the second glaze dry for another 45 minutes before eating.

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Rinse the seeds under cold water while simultaneously removing all the pulp and stringy material. Spread the seeds on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Spray the pumpkin seeds lightly with a cooking spray. Place in the oven for 25 minutes making sure to stir two times while roasting, preferably every ten minutes. Cool before eating.

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Jay P. Obertance is a food, quality, and entertainment addict; a gourmand/chef with a passion for fine dining and a love of company to enjoy and share it with. As his motto goes, “Life is too short to eat mediocre food.”