On Your Table: You carved ’em, now cook those pumpkins

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And it’s time to go beyond just pie

By Cathy BranciaroliFood Correspondent, The Times

Carved pumpkins from the Chadds Ford October Great Pumpkin Carve donated by H.G. Haskell of SIW Vegetables on Route 100.

Carved pumpkins from the Chadds Ford October Great Pumpkin Carve donated by H.G. Haskell of SIW Vegetables on Route 100.

Pumpkins make for many a sweet treat like pies and other baked goods this time of year considering the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, but they have many other benefits.   They are loaded with antioxidants including Vitamin A, which strengthens eyesight, potassium, iron and let’s not forget toasted pumpkin seeds, which are just plain tasty and healthy snacks.

At last month’s annual Pumpkin Carve in Chadd’s Ford, families gathered, and carved enormous pumpkins in a contest for the most artistic rendition. This year was no exception. Although I was not able to attend, when I stopped by H.G Haskell’s vegetable stand on Route 100 on his last day of the season, I was able to view the completed masterpieces which were on display by the man who grew and donated the pumpkins from which they were carved.   They were extravagant.

So rather than provide yet another recipe for a sweet pumpkin dessert, considering that there are endless ways to make pumpkin for a sweet treat, today I urge readers to try something savory. Savory pumpkin dishes are hearty, seasonal and can be vegetarian additions to a family dinner. There’s nothing like a creamy pumpkin pasta dish to get you excited about fall, and nothing like a spicy pumpkin soup to warm you from the inside. Pumpkin puree is delicious in everything from pastas to soups to casseroles, it lends a subtle sweetness that is the perfect counterpoint for salty Parmesan or spicy pepper sauces.

Let’s bring on the pumpkin for two perfect fall dishes.

First off, my favorite pumpkin soup recipe. This soup has been a popular and longtime staple at Hockessin’s Back Burner restaurant featuring Kennett Square mushrooms along with the creamy fall pumpkin broth. The soup is available in frozen quarts at the Back Burner To Go cafe/shop in Hockessin. It’s next door to the Everything But the Kitchen Sink store, also located in Hockessin Corner off Old Lancaster Pike. The soup has a velvety texture and the softened mushrooms add a touch of earthiness.

PUMPKIN MUSHROOM SOUP (Adapted from The Back Burner Restaurant)

Ingredients:

1/2 pound sliced fresh mushrooms

1/2 cup chopped onion

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

1 tablespoon curry powder

3 cups chicken broth

1 pound can of Libby’s canned pumpkin unsweetened puree

1 tablespoon honey

Dash nutmeg

Salt and pepper

1 cup heavy cream

Preparation:

Sauté mushrooms and onion in butter until softened. Stir in flour and curry. Gradually add the broth, then the pumpkin, honey and seasonings to taste. Stir, while cooking, for 15 minutes. Add cream and heat through without boiling. Top with a dollop of sour cream if desired. Add fresh, chopped chives as a topping.

Next, as an Italian-American I am very fond of risotto, which isn’t as hard to prepare as folks believe. For one thing, it doesn’t need to be stirred constantly as one reads in many cookbooks. Just a gentle stir on each addition of broth will take care of matters. This version is simple to prepare. The important choice is to select Arborio rice, which becomes very creamy when properly prepared. This risotto is creamy, light and packs a scrumptious punch of pancetta. It’s a whole new take on the traditional version. Vegetarian? Leave out the pancetta and this recipe is still guaranteed to be full of flavor.

Pumpkin Risotto

Ingredients:

4 to 5 cups low salt chicken or vegetable broth

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 large clove garlic, minced

¼ cup diced pancetta (optional)

1 cup Arborio rice

½ cup dry white wine

fresh sage leaves or rosemary sprigs

1 cup canned pumpkin puree

6 tablespoons coarsely grated Parmesan cheese

⅛ teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preparation:

Heat the stock to a simmer while preparing the recipe.

Saute onion and garlic in olive oil until onion begins to soften. Then add the pancetta and cook until browned. Stir in rice to coat well; add wine, and cook until wine has evaporated.

Add 1 cup of the stock to the rice; reduce heat so that mixture simmers. Stir often, cooking until most of the liquid has been absorbed by the rice. Repeat with another cup of stock, Add stock until the rice is almost tender but still has some bite to it.

Stir in the pumpkin, cheese, salt, pepper and herbs, and stir until mixture is hot.

Cathy Branciaroli writes about her adventures in the kitchen on her award-winning blog Delaware Girl Eats

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