cucina bene; mangia bene (the beauty and versatility of pumpkin)
Every fall, we buy a large Cinderella pumpkin (rouge vif d’etampes) at the farmers’ market in which I roast, puree, and drain of all water so we can use the pulp for pie, soup, risotto, bread, etc. This year has been no exception; I bought a 33 lb. beauty and ended up with 4 lbs. of pulp after I finished processing it. Many people ask why I bother since it is easier to just buy canned pumpkin, but I love going through the process; it’s part of our autumn celebration.
This week, I made pumpkin panna cotta for one of my clients (and I did use canned pumpkin). I love panna cotta (an Italian style flan that uses gelatin instead of egg), and am always looking for new recipe ideas. This particular recipe is a delicious alternative to pumpkin pie and is very easy to make. The only drawback is that is must be refrigerated overnight, so it’s best to make it the day before:
Ingredients (Makes 12 4oz. servings and can be easily halved or doubled):
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
3 1/2 cups half and half
1/2 cup milk
1 cup pumpkin puree (canned or fresh)
1/4 cup maple syrup plus more for drizzling
2 packets gelatin
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, or pistachios)
Lightly butter 12 4 oz. ramekins and set aside. Mix gelatin with milk and set aside to allow gelatin to dissolve. Heat half and half, all spices, sugars, maple syrup, and vanilla extract over medium heat until it reaches scalding point (bubbles on the side of the pot will appear). Remove from heat and whisk in milk/gelatin mixture. Pour into ramekins and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight. Serve with a drizzle of maple syrup and a spoonful of chopped nuts.
Pumpkin can also be used to make a delicious soup; it can be topped with crispy pancetta or caramelized onions for a savory approach, or chopped apple or pear sautéed in butter for a more unique approach. Combine 1 qt. of chicken or vegetable stock with 2 cups of pumpkin puree and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper and add the topping of your choice for a quick and healthy meal. Round it out with a slice of whole-grain bread and a mixed green salad. If you are feeling decadent, you add a little cream to the soup, but it’s just as good without it.
Pumpkin can be added to risotto for a delicious result when combined with Parmesan cheese. Try roasting pumpkin slices in the oven with olive oil, a little balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper. Serve it as a side dish instead of potatoes.
Pumpkin contains beta carotene and potassium in addition to tasting good, so whether you buy fresh or canned, put a little pumpkin in your next meal and celebrate autumn!