Pumped Up for Pumpkin

Sherrel Jones shares ideas and recipes for pumpkin.
BY SHERREL JONES sjones@opubco.com Published: October 24, 2012
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Pumpkin season is here, meaning my front and back steps will be lined with plenty of pie pumpkins that decorate today and satiate tomorrow.

Since pumpkin is my husband's favorite pie flavor, about once a week I cut a pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds and roast it upside down to get what's needed for filling. I've even gotten my guy to enjoy just the custard filling without the less healthy crust.

To pick the best pumpkins for pie, choose from those 6 to 10 inches across. Multicolored beauties like the green Cinderella-shaped ones also roast beautifully and have thick meaty flesh to make pies, soups, breads and other pumpkin treats.

Roasted pumpkin pulp also freezes beautifully. When I have plenty of pumpkins from the garden, I try to roast them and harvest the pulp to have on hand in the freezer to satisfy our pumpkin cravings through the winter. Simply scoop out the pulp and fill freezer bags with it.

I put a generous 2 to 3 cups into quart-size freezer bags as this amount is just right for most recipes. Some water in the flesh comes out as the pulp thaws. This concentrates the pulp and makes it even better. The bags should be sealed removing as much air as possible. The filled bags are placed flat on a baking sheet and frozen. Each bag flattened and full of filling is about ¾-inch thick. They fit in the freezer easily stacked together.

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Pumpkin Drops

These little cookies are yummy and easy to make with fresh or canned pumpkin. This recipe makes about 50 cookies.

1 cup (2 sticks) softened butter

1 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1 cup pumpkin (canned or fresh)

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

½ teaspoon ginger

Cinnamon Icing

3 cups confectioner's sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

6 to 8 Tablespoons water

Preheat oven to 350-degrees.

Prepare liquid ingredients:

Combine butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add eggs and pumpkin and mix until well blended.

Prepare dry ingredients: Measure and blend flour with soda and spices. Combine with liquid mixture mixing on low speed just until well blended. Using a teaspoon drop dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet spacing about 2 inches apart. Bake 10 to 12 minutes until firm.

Cool on wire cooling rack.

Make icing: Place sugar and cinnamon in mixer. Add 5 Tablespoons of the water and blend. Add additional water by Tablespoons until mixture is smooth and satiny. Frost cookies. Icing should flow like a thick glaze.

Cooking notes: If using fresh pumpkin, allow pumpkin flesh to drain between several layers of paper toweling to remove excess water before measuring and using. I use a small cookie scoop for consistency when placing dough on baking sheet. Place a baking sheet under cooling rack to catch any excess icing that may drip off cookies. Incorporate ½ cup of pumpkin seeds, chopped walnuts or pecans into dough for a little extra crunch.

Source: Sherrel Jones

Pumpkin Soup Umbrian Style ‘Cinderella Soup'

Makes 7 to 8 cups of soup.

This wonderful soup brings back lovely memories of an autumn stay in Umbria, Italy. A small group of food writers and writing coaches rented a wonderful stone home on an Umbrian hillside. This soup is wonderful. Make it as thick or thin as you like by adjusting the amount of chicken or vegetable stock. The blender does most of the work for this lovely soup. Pumpkins remind me of Cinderella almost as much as Halloween.

Prepare 3 to 4 cups pumpkin

3 to 4 pumpkins (yellow or white, sugar or pie pumpkin) split in half, seeds removed.

Place cut side down on silicone mat or buttered foil. Bake in 350-degree oven until soft and fragrant 30 to 45 minutes. Remove from oven, turn halves cut side up and allow to cool. After about 15 minutes turn pumpkin halves cut side down again. The skin will separate from the flesh easily after about 10 minutes. Or scoop out the flesh.

REMAINING INGREDIENTS

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 generous cup chopped onion

3 chopped sage leaves

½ cup chopped celery

¼ cup Marsala wine

2 cups chicken stock

1 cup cream or half and half

fresh grated nutmeg

Heat butter and olive oil over medium heat. Sauté onions with sage leaves and celery. When onions are transparent, deglaze saute with a splash of Marsala wine and add chicken stock. Stir to incorporate the liquid with the onions and transfer the mixture to the blender.

Add the cooked pumpkin mixture. Blend to make a smooth puree. Place smooth liquid in large heavy pan and heat to simmering. Add cream or half and half with a bit of fresh grated nutmeg. Bring up to temperature slowly until the soup is steaming hot, but not boiling. Taste and adjust seasonings. You can add Italian seasoning, additional cream, or small amount of garlic salt to accent the flavor if you like.

Serve with a garnish of swirled olive oil, a sage leaf, a dollop of sour cream and/or toasted pumpkin seeds. Alternatively, garnish each bowl with olive oil swirl and crushed Amaretti cookies.

Cooking notes: A couple of small pumpkins or one good medium sized pumpkin will work. Butternut squash may be used if you can't get the pumpkins, or the squash can be used entirely. For a sweeter soup, add 1 medium-sized peeled and chopped Granny Smith apple to the saute.

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