If you’ve only had pumpkin pie or bread made with canned pumpkin, or think pumpkins are only good for Jack-o’-Lanterns, we have some work to do here. Fresh pumpkin in season, and roasted, steamed,or boiled pumpkin that has been frozen make our favorite native cucurbit available year round. And the options for using pumpkin are numerous. Many recipes which call for sweet potatoes or butternut squash are equally delicious when made with pumpkin.
One of my personal savory favorites involves using the leftovers from one recipe as input to another. Claudia Roden’s recipe for sweet potatoes with onions and tomatoes can be made using cubed pumpkin instead. If there are leftovers, puree (my family’s preference) or mash the mixture, and use the result in place of the cubed butternut squash in Mark Bittman’s curried coconut-butternut squash soup recipe. I only add sufficient coconut milk to add creaminess and a not quite obvious hint of coconut.
When I was living in Kolkata, India, fresh food vendors worked the residential streets every morning, whilst singing or chanting the day’s offerings. Our cook (a sainted woman) battered thinly sliced fresh pumpkin and fried it in the much the same manner we southerners prepare okra or green tomatoes. She also prepared a number of dishes featuring cubes of pumpkin paired with a variety of other vegetables, fish or shrimp, seeds, and spices.
Three of my favorite non-pie pumpkin based sweets are sourdough pumpkin mincemeat bread, pumpkin flan, and pumpkin bundt cake. The recipe I use for the pumpkin mincemeat quick bread came from Rita Davenport’s 1979 gem of a cookbook, Sourdough Cookery. The recipe listed here is very similar, if not identical.
Pumpkin pairs well with not so traditional ingredients in sweet baked goods. Pumpkin chocolate chip bread, muffins, and cookies have been all the rage at local farmers’ markets for years now. I was skeptical about the combination at first, but was immediately won over by pumpkin chocolate chip bread. Sometimes I’ll make a basic pumpkin bread recipe, but substitute Indian jaggery or palm sugar, golden raisins, pistachios, and cardamom for the more traditional ingredients. The color, texture, and flavor of this loaf is amazing. I’ve even made pumpkin banana bread (and soup).
There is so much variety among flan recipes and one of my favorite restaurant pumpkin flans featured grated pumpkin and the requisite caramelized sugar atop a vanilla flan. Try the recipe below, and then look for more flan recipes pairing pumpkin with coconut milk, cream cheese or maple syrup.
One more, just in case you’re not convinced yet. Pumpkin bundt cakes are so comforting and versatile. Fresh and dried fruits, such as dried cranberries, or cherries, or fresh blueberries, or orange peel are wonderful additions to pumpkin bundts (and muffins, and bread). The internet offers a myriad of recipes for these comforting treats. Below is a recipe for a pumpkin buttermilk bundt with a brown butter glaze. If we had an oven here in Kolkata, I’d be making that one today.
Give these recipes a try, preferably with pumpkin that you’ve prepared yourself. It really does make a difference, but if you must use it, canned pumpkin is better than no pumpkin at all. After you are comfortable with a particular recipe, let your imagination guide you to create your own pumpkiny masterpieces. Be sure to check out all the pumpkin recipes at Southern Living’s website – I’ve had very good luck adapting many of their recipes to suit my family’s adventurous tastebuds. Now I’m craving pumpkin walnut pancakes!
(Header image of Thai Pumpkin Seafood Curry ©paul_brighton – Fotolia.com)
Header Image: This pumpkin coconut curry soup is a winter favorite. With just enough coconut milk to add depth, but not overpower the other flavors, this soup is an intriguing taste treat, and very easy to make. (Image ©Mara Zemgaliete – Fotolia.com)