Pumpkins are everywhere these days.
Their seasonal harvest is now, and while their edible virtues are often overlooked in favor of decorative properties, I urge you not to miss out on their nutritional and flavorful benefits.
A serving of pumpkin contains a mere 49 calories and zero fat, but delivers 3 grams of fiber and, hold your horses, 200 percent of your recommended daily allowance of vitamin A, 19 percent of vitamin C and 8 percent of iron.
And pumpkin seeds are veritable powerhouses of nutrients. One cup of these small but mighty seeds contain 110 percent of the recommended daily allowance of iron, 31 percent of zinc and 12 grams of protein.
I’ve been having a great time experimenting with pumpkin recipes — some traditional, others a bit offbeat — so give them a try before winter arrives and these gorgeous orbs disappear until next year.
Great Pumpkin Gratin
This recipe was sent to me by a former neighbor who developed a passion for cooking in her 40s after a successful career as a hedge fund manager. Her pumpkin gratin was a million-dollar dish. Served with a bottle of crisp white wine and a simple green salad, this is a perfect casual autumn supper.
1 medium pumpkin, 4-5 lbs.
1½ cups grated Gruyere cheese
1½ cups cubed bread from a day-old baguette or crusty Italian bread
1½ cups vegetable broth
1½ cups half-and-half
1 teaspoon nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil to coat pumpkin
Toasted bread for serving
Preheat your oven to 300 degrees, and remove all but the lowest oven rack. The pumpkin must fit in the oven without hitting the top.
Cut the top off the pumpkin, leaving a 3- to 4-inch hole. Scoop out the seeds (save them) and the loose, stringy pulp. Sprinkle the inside of the pumpkin with salt and pepper.
Layer the cheese and bread inside the pumpkin in alternating strata. In a medium bowl, mix the broth and half-and-half with nutmeg and a bit more salt and pepper. Pour it over the cheese and bread in the pumpkin and allow it to absorb. There should be about a gap of about three-quarters of an inch at the top of the pumpkin.
Replace the top of the pumpkin, and place the pumpkin on a rimmed baking sheet. Brush the outside of the pumpkin with olive oil, and bake for two hours, or until the pumpkin flesh is tender.
Serve with toasted bread directly from the pumpkin, like a fondue.
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
The seeds that you scraped from the pumpkin provide a crunchy, healthy snack — nice with a cocktail in lieu of nuts, or sprinkled on a salad.
Seeds from a pumpkin
1-2 tablespoons canola oil
1-2 teaspoons of your favorite spice blend: Jane’s Krazy Mixed-Up Salt, Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, Tony Chachere’s, Montreal steak seasoning, chili powder, curry powder, etc.
Heat your oven to 350 degrees.
Rinse the pumpkin seeds thoroughly to remove all pulp. Spread the seeds on a rimmed baking sheet.
Toss the seeds with oil and seasonings to coat all evenly. Roast for around 30 minutes, stirring occasionally so the seeds brown evenly.
When done, the seeds should be browned and crisp. Serve when they are cool enough to eat.
This is great for breakfast, with a cup of tea in the afternoon or, if you ask my son, topped with vanilla ice cream for dessert. I also like it lightly toasted and spread with cream cheese. Note: If your spice rack does not contain all of the spices called for below, you can eliminate any or all — or substitute a teaspoon of the all-encompassing pumpkin pie spice for the list below.
1½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1 stick butter or margarine, softened
1 15-ounce can pumpkin
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon vanilla
Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan.
Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.
Mix the remaining
ingredients in a large bowl. When thoroughly blended, add the flour mixture and stir until uniform.
Pour the mixture into a prepared pan and bake for 55 to 60 minutes until done. Cool, remove it from the pan and serve as desired. This keeps several days, but it probably won’t last that long.
Makes 1 Loaf
Pumpkin Peanut Butter Oatmeal
This porridge packs a punch — it’s a healthy, sustaining breakfast that will hold you until lunchtime without any hunger pangs.
The following recipe serves one, but can be easily multiplied.
And it keeps in the fridge for several days, so if you need to prepare breakfast a few days ahead and zap it on a rushed weekday morning, this is the dish for you.
1 cup water
½ cup rolled oats
¼ cup canned pumpkin (unsweetened)
1 tablespoon peanut butter
Sprinkle of cinnamon
Honey to taste
In a small saucepan, boil the water. Add the oats and cook for about four minutes until nearly done.
Add the pumpkin, peanut butter and cinnamon. Stir well, and cook for another minute or so until blended.
Remove it from the heat, pour it into a serving bowl and add honey to taste.