I Hate Pumpkin
There, I said it. I don’t really mean it, tho. What I should really say is that I do not like pumpkin spice—which is absolutely everywhere these days. (Do they really have to add it to Frosted Flakes??? For more abominations, see Pumpkin Spice Watch 2018.) Pumpkin spice mix has a combination of the following: cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and allspice. On their own, each is fine. Cinnamon Toast, Ginger Beer, Creamy Pasta and Cheese (with a hint of nutmeg), Clove-Studded Ham, and Jamaican Allspice Cookies are all wonderful, just to name a few good foods made with those spices. Even if they team up with two or sometimes three of them together, there is usually not a problem. The wet Jamaican Jerk seasoning I make for Jerk Chicken has allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg in it and I am not offended, mainly because it also has freshly-grated ginger, scallions and garlic in it. And cinnamon and cloves along with green tea make a wonderful Cinnamon and Clove Tea, or so I am told.
Now I will have a taste of Pumpkin Pie at Thanksgiving, and I will make Pumpkin Pie for other people, but I would rather have Sweet Potato Pie, or better yet, Bourbon Pecan Pie. One thing that I will never understand is why ruin potentially good beer by adding pumpkin spices. I say potentially good beer because you cannot taste the beer, it may have been good without the pumpkin, but we will never know. I have completely banned pumpkin beer at my GameFeed–along with fruit wines, but that is a story for another day. So enough about pumpkin spices.
What I do want to talk about is pumpkin. I had a little leftover plain canned pumpkin from an event I did last weekend and instead of just feeding it to our Black Lab (because my wife said our neighbor said it is really good for dogs), I made pumpkin raviolis. I used uncooked wonton wrappers (also left over from a different event), which are phenomenal to use for raviolis. I minced some shallots, added some Parmesan cheese and parsley along with a little garlic and mixed it with the plain pumpkin. They were good because there wasn’t any pumpkin spice in them. It is so simple.
I also have a Roasted Pumpkin Bisque recipe that I love to make and it has been really popular the times I have taught it in classes. As a matter of fact we will be making it during the Holiday Wine Dinner class I will be teaching December 2nd at Smoky’s Club here in Madison. It has onions, garlic, white wine, thyme, bay leaves, roasted pumpkin and chicken stock as the main flavors. Again, NO pumpkin spice! One other recipe I love to make and eat is a Beef and Pumpkin Stew. I have used lamb for this recipe as well as venison (whitetail deer meat) with equal success. It is rarely a bad idea to add meat to any vegetable. I start with onions, garlic, white wine, browned meat cubes, tomatoes and chunks of pumpkin along with a really good stock (see my recipe here), plus other good stuff I am sure.
The type of pumpkin I use to cook with varies. I have cleaned and used large carving pumpkins in recipes because I didn’t want to waste a good pumpkin, but I do like smaller pumpkins as they seem to me to be more tender. (Most grocery stores sell small pumpkins labeled “pie pumpkins.” Here’s a useful blog about which pumpkins to cook with.) Similar to winter squashes, if I want chunks, I peel and seed the pumpkin before dicing it up and adding it to a recipe. If I want soft-cooked flesh I cut the pumpkin into quarters or even smaller slabs, scoop out all the seeds, rub a little oil on the flesh and season it with salt and pepper. I then place it on a parchment-lined sheet tray flesh side up, put it in a preheated 375 degree oven, and roast it until it is golden brown and tender. You can even eat it just like that.
I love savory foods, as you may have noticed. I don’t really have a sweet tooth, particularly after a good meal. That being said, I make a Pumpkin Mousse that even I like because it doesn’t have any of the pumpkin spices in it. Although go ahead and add some, if ruin it you must.
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
¾ cup sugar
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon melted butter
¾ cup heavy whipping cream
Method: Stir together the pumpkin and sugar until smooth and creamy. Add the cream cheese and stir that until smooth and creamy. Add the vanilla and melted butter. Combine completely. Whip the cream and fold it into the mixture. Chill. Serve with my Scandinavian Sugar cookies.