Pumpkins, Not Just for Carving

pie-pumpkins-croppedWhat’s October without pumpkins, right? As fun as it is to pick these bright orange mounds straight from the patch and carve them into jack-o’-lanterns, it is even more exciting to cook with them. Their texture is similar to that of a butternut squash and, when roasted, they are incredibly soft and sweet.

I’m a little bit of a pumpkin nut.   If something has pumpkin in it, you can bet I’m going to take a bite (or two).  My love affair with this shiny orange squash began many Halloweens ago when my father toasted up the leftover seeds from carving with just a touch of olive oil and salt.  Simple and delicious.

As soon as I could cook I began making pumpkin breads, muffins, pies and other sweet treats.  But lately, I’ve been experimenting with the savory side of pumpkin.  Think pumpkin lasagna, rich, creamy and oozing with fall deliciousness.   Or try tossing Bertagni pumpkin ravioli (currently at Feast!) in a brown butter sauce with crispy sage leaves, toasted Feast! hazelnuts and loads of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.  How about serving a hearty, vegetarian pumpkin and black bean chili (recipe below) at your next football gathering?  Getting hungry??

Now I must admit, my early culinary endeavors relied heavily on canned pumpkin puree (gasp!).  However, it is quite simple to incorporate the real thing in to any of your seasonal recipes.  Come in to Feast! to get your local pie pumpkins from Singing Earth Produce and give it a try!

Pumpkin and Black Bean Chili (courtesy of Savuer.com)
1 small pie pumpkin
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (28 oz) plum tomatoes, chopped
2 cans (19 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 bottle (300 ml) stout (such as Guinness or Dragon)
2 tbsp brown sugar or maple syrup
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp each cinnamon
2 chipotle peppers, finely minced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels

Pour the olive oil into a large heavy-bottomed pot set over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and squash, and continue cooking for another 5 minutes, or until onion is golden. Stir in tomatoes, beans, beer, brown sugar, spices and chipotle peppers. Bring the chili to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 25 minutes or until the pumpkin is tender. Stir in red pepper and corn, and continue simmering for another 5-10 minutes or until corn is bright yellow and peppers are soft.  Serve piping hot with your favorite chili garnishings – grated cheddar, sour cream, chopped cilantro, green onions or all of the above (which is my personal preference).

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