In the words of our elders who were around during the depression: Waste not, want not.
Don't throw the guts and the pieces you carved out away just yet! All of the pumpkin "guts" (seeds and membranes) can get made into stock and roasted pumpkin seeds, and the eyes, noses, ears and grins that are cut out of the pumpkin are good edible stuff, too.
When I was a kid, I remember "Little Nonni"–my father's mother Mary– and all 4'9" of her stoic Sicilian self taking the pieces of pumpkin face that we kids were cutting out from the newspapered floor. In a few minutes there was golden breaded and fried chunks of pumpkin on a field of warm tomato sauce, blanketed by a snow of grated Romano cheese, and ready to eat.
I have recreated that simple recipe and have added three more–goin' round the world, using pumpkin as the centerpiece of these recipes.
Pumpkin StockRemove the membranes and seeds from the pumpkin or squash you are using. Put them in a heavy pot and cover with water by at least 2 inches. Add a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Cook at a moderate boil for 15 minutes and reduce to a simmer. Cook for one hour, adding a little more water if necessary to keep the squash covered. Strain, squeezing the flavor out of the pulp. Use for soups, stews and making risotto.
Pumpkin Fritters Fra DiavoloMy Grandmother Mary was a true Sicilian– and she loved to fry vegetables. As kids, when we cut our jack-o-lanterns, the noses, eyes, mouths and other dismembered sections were deftly encrusted in lightly seasoned breadcrumbs, kissed by the oil and allowed to steam in the delicate casing. Yes, pumpkin is one of my favorite veggies to fry alla Nonna! Serve these on a pool of zesty tomato sauce and hit them with a quick grating of Locatelli Romano while they are still hot. This recipe gets a *4 on the Ric-ter scale.
1 medium 3-4 pound pumpkin
flour, eggs, and plain bread crumbs as needed
grapeseed or vegetable oil for frying
salt and pepper
1-16 oz can organic tomatoes, crushed
1 small hot pepper or a pinch of crushed red pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 pinch of dry oregano
2 tablespoons chopped parsley (optional)
Locatelli Romano cheese or other very sharp grating cheese
In a medium pot or large skillet, add the olive oil, garlic and hot pepper. When the garlic begins to sizzle and get golden edges, add the tomatoes and oregano. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and gently simmer until you have finished your frying. This can also be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Cut the top off of the pumpkin and scrape out the seeds and guts. Reserve for "stock."
Wedge the pumpkin and carefully shave off the skin with a sharp knife. Slice into ¼ thick slices.
Set up a breading station:
- one pan of flour seasoned to taste with salt and pepper
- one dish with two eggs scrambled with ¼ cup of cool water
- one pan of unseasoned bread crumbs
Working with one hand, dip and coat a piece of pumpkin in flour and shake off the excess. Now dip in egg wash, shake off that excess too, and finally coat in breadcrumbs. Lay on parchment or waxed paper. Continue until all pumpkin is breaded.
In a cast iron skillet, heavy wok or Dutch oven, heat one inch of oil to about 325-335 F. Keep a lid on hand to snuff out any flare-ups.
Fry pieces until golden on one side, carefully turn and finish for about 60 seconds. Line a cookie sheet with paper towels and put each piece on the paper to absorb any remaining oil.
Line each of four plates with hot tomato sauce. Arrange hot pumpkin slices on the plates attractively and garnish with a generous grating of Romano cheese and parsley... Amazing!
El LocroEl Locro is a South American stew that always features pumpkin, squash, and corn and sometimes also has potatoes, pork, and even cheese. This rendition is vegetarian, hearty and rich. If you want to add a couple of pigs feet or ham hock, I won't stop you!
olive oil as needed
2 cups pumpkin, peeled and seeded (you can really use any winter squash here)
2 cups potatoes, peeled and diced
1 medium onion, chopped
2 clove garlic, smashed
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped
1 fresh hot chile of your choice, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon paprika
1 can (16 ounces) white beans, drained and rinsed
1 can 28 oz Posole ( Hominy) or fresh or frozen corn
1 can (16 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes, crushed in a bowl
8 cups water or “pumpkin Stock” see below
1/2 cup cilantro, minced
Salt and black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cup cheddar or jack cheese, grated
Using a box grater or the grating attachment on a food processor, shred the 2 cups of squash set aside. Dice the rest into large stew chunks, about 1” square.
In a Dutch Oven coat the bottom with a olive oil. Heat olive oil to medium. Add the onion and bell pepper. Cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, jalapeno and paprika. Continue cooking, stirring, for 2 minutes or until the spices mellow. Add the squash, white beans, posole, potatoes, tomatoes, water, salt, and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat, set on the cover askew, and simmer the stew for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally, or until the squash is very tender.
Add the cilantro and cream. Stir in the cheese a little at a time to melt. Serve Hot!
Pumpkin MulligatawnyThis most popular Indian lentil soup has been made so many ways, one never really knows how authentic their version is. The recipe I have been preparing for the last 25 years is based on the soup made at India Pavilion in Central Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The soup there is smooth with red lentils and has a nice lemony accent. Chunks of pumpkin add texture and brightness.
1 medium onion, diced
2 1"x1" cubes of ginger
5 medium garlic cloves
1 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 cup ghee or vegetable oil
juice of two lemons
3 cups red split lentils
3 cups cubed pumpkin, about 1" cubes
1/2 gallon water with a touch of chicken or vegetable bouillon or chicken stock or vegetable stock
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Puree first six ingredients in processor with 1/4 cup of water to make a paste.
In a heavy pot add ghee or oil and heat gently. Add the aromatic paste and sauté until a beautiful aroma is released. Do not brown.
Add lentils and stir to coat thoroughly. Add stock and bring to a boil. Add the pumpkin. Reduce to a simmer and cook until lentils turn golden and begin to melt. Add cilantro and lemon juice. Adjust salt of needed.
Serve in bowls with grilled pita or nan.
Thai Pumpkin CurryThis is one of my all time favorite dishes. It is real Southeast Asian comfort food, mildly spiced, nicely perfumed and rib-sticking at the same time.
4 cups pumpkin cut into large 1-1/2” chunks
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 large shallot, chopped
2 cloves garlic chopped
4 tablespoons Thai Masaman curry paste (available in Asian markets or online)
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced onto coins
1 sweet bell pepper, seeded and medium dice
2 cup peeled, cubed potatoes
3 cups vegetable or chicken broth or water
2-14 oz cans coconut milk
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 kaffir lime leaves (optional)
juice of one lime
1 small bunch fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1 small bunch of mint, roughly chopped
4 scallions, sliced into rounds
In a heavy casserole, add the onions, crushed pepper, shallots, garlic, carrot, peppers and curry paste.
Sauté and stir until it all is wilted and coated with curry. Add pumpkin and potatoes and toss to coat.
Add all remaining ingredients except the herbs. Bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Cook covered for 35-40 minutes or until pumpkin is cooked through.
Serve in bowls, garnished with cilantro, mint and scallions
Jamaican Pumpkin RiceThis is the ultimate side for Jerk, oxtails and curry.
1/4 stick butter
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic minced
1 white onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped scallion, white and green parts
3 cups water or chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 cups pumpkin, cubed and peeled
1 cup water
1 scotch bonnet pepper, left whole but scored
1 1/2 cups long grain or basmati rice
In a Dutch oven, melt the butter with the oil and sauté the garlic, onion, and scallion until they are limp. Add a cup of stock (water may be used in place of stock) and bring to a boil. Add the salt, pepper, allspice, thyme sprigs, and pumpkin (yam or squash may be substituted). Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for about an half an hour, stirring occasionally. The pumpkin should be tender. Add more stock if necessary.
Remove the thyme sprigs and add the remaining stock and water. Bring to a boil and add the rice. Stir once. Put the hot pepper on top of the rice. Lower the heat and cover. Simmer for approximately 25 minutes or until the rice is fully cooked and all the liquid has been absorbed. Let rest covered for 10 minutes before serving.
You can remove the pepper or serve it to your best “friend."