Recipe by Chef Kelly Unger
I am a pumpkin spice latte, pumpkin spice everything, anything made with pumpkin kind of girl. Pumpkin bread, cookies, cake, pumpkin ravioli, pumpkin pasta sauce, pumpkin soup, stew, curry, pumpkin anything and pumpkin everything. Give it to me sweet and give it to me savory. My name is YES when the question is pumpkin. Raymer’s Homemade Candies makes a pumpkin seed peanut brittle that is to die for! Perfectly spiced, rich and buttery, I will arm wrestle you for the last bag of it.
And talk about food deserving of an oil portrait, pumpkins and their many varieties, certainly are! Rouge Vif d’Etampes, Long Island Cheese, Cinderella, Galeux d’Eysines, Queensland Blue, Jarrahdale, Hubbard, Kabocha, Black Futsu and Winter Luxury to name just a few.
The word pumpkin can be a little confusing. There are many types of Winter squash and the round, orange or white Winter squash is usually referred to as pumpkin. Rich in Vitamin A, fiber and antioxidants, pumpkin’s health benefits are worth a second look. Any orange fleshed variety of Winter squash will be high in beta-carotene, similar to a carrot. The color will tip you off to that health benefit. And pumpkin’s high beta-carotene content “acts as a natural sunblock. It also contains vitamins C and E, as well as lutein and zeaxanthin, which can help keep your skin strong and healthy.” according to Healthline.com https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/pumpkin#TOC_TITLE_HDR_10
And don’t forget the seeds! Pumpkin seeds have similar health benefits with the addition of a healthy fat, magnesium and zinc. If the hassle of rinsing seeds keeps you from roasting them when you cut into a pumpkin, let me tell you, you shouldn’t rinse the seeds! They are coated in beta carotene containing orange goo and lots of flavor from that goo. Just pull the seeds away from the fibrous netting, place the unrinsed seeds on a baking sheet, in a single layer, and sprinkle them with a little salt or seasoning of your choice and roast them for about 20 minutes or so, until they’re crispy, at 350 degrees.
I like to make large batches of pumpkin puree for multiple purposes. When it comes to roasting pumpkins or any Winter squash, after I have removed the seeds, I like to roast with the skin on. I cut larger pumpkins in quarters and brush with a neutral oil, like grapeseed. You don’t want to use olive oil because you want the flexibility to use your pumpkin puree for baking as well as savory recipes. I like to make sure there is an inch or two between pieces, placed cut side up on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, so the air can circulate and the pumpkin can brown properly to add flavor. If the pumpkin wedges are touching each other and you’ve got too many on the baking sheet, they will steam in the center of the tray and only the edges will brown, if at all.
Once you’ve got your pumpkin brushed with oil on the baking sheet, place it in a 375 degree oven for 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the size of your pumpkins or Winter squash. They are done when they are fork tender and lightly browned. As soon as they are cool enough to handle, use a large serving spoon to scoop the pumpkin flesh out of the skin and into a food processor, working in batches. A food processor is really needed here because the pumpkin is so fibrous. A blender will not do the job properly. You will also need to add some tap warm water to each batch (about ½ cup) again because the pumpkin is so fibrous. Add just enough water to keep the pumpkin spinning in the processor. Puree until somewhat smooth. I like to leave a few small pumpkin pieces in there, but that’s just me. The flavor payoff (and health payoff) in your recipes will be worth the effort. I store my puree in 3 cup or larger Ball jars in the refrigerator, and it will last for two to three weeks. Now you’re ready to make cake, muffins, pancakes, pasta, soup, smoothies, whatever your little pumpkin spice heart desires.
This week I’m sharing my recipe for Pumpkin Muffins with Streusel Topping. When using your freshly made pumpkin puree, these muffins are perfect for breakfast because they are still vibrant with antioxidants, beta carotene and vitamins. They also make a great Fall dessert with the addition of chocolate chips. You can omit the streusel topping and ice them instead with chocolate buttercream for a really delicious Fall dessert. I used to be a pumpkin purist. But over the past few years I have come to appreciate the wisdom of the chocolate-pumpkin pairing. So I make these muffins both ways. And talking about them so much has made me really hungry for them so I will be making these muffins this week! I hope you enjoy them! Cheers to pumpkin!