The moment that first leaf changes from green to yellow to red, we’re calling it: It is officially pumpkin season! In other words: It’s time to eat (or drink!) all of the giant orange fruit you can get your hands on. But instead of indulging in pumpkin flavored things from coffee shops and restaurants, you can pack in maximum flavor and stretch your own creativity by making pumpkin-flavored treats yourself.
Puréed pumpkin is the base of lots of delicious dishes, from traditional pumpkin pie to fantastic fall soups. Canned pumpkin is perfectly acceptable, but to really get into the season, make your own pumpkin purée. The process is easy and the result? Delicious!
First, buy an edible pumpkin (or squash/gourd), slice in half, and remove all the seeds and guts. Place the cut side down on a baking sheet and roast in a 400 degree oven until soft (a knife will go in easily). Let it cool for a bit before scooping the flesh out of the skin. You now have your own pumpkin to use in dozens of different ways. If you won’t be using it within a few days, don’t worry: it freezes well for year-round use. In fact, you can keep your puréed pumpkin on hand for quick and delicious pumpkin-avocado breakfast smoothies. Make the energy-boosting drink by blending 1/2 cup of your purée with 1/4 of an avocado, 1 ripe banana, 2 cups of fresh spinach, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon or nutmeg, and 8 ounces of your favorite nut milk (almond, cashew, or hazelnut all work beautifully with the pumpkin and avocado).
Who said pumpkin’s only for autumn, anyway?
Pumpkin butter is basically a spreadable pumpkin pie (minus the crust) in a jar. Fill a roasting dish with 2 cups of pumpkin purée, ⅔ cup of brown sugar, your favorite pumpkin pie spices (think cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, and ginger), and a few tablespoons of butter for richness. Roast at 350 degrees for an hour, making sure to give it a good stir every 15 minutes. It’s done when the mixture has thickened and browned slightly.
Then, it’s ready for a million different applications. Try it over ice cream, on top of a bagel with cream cheese, as a cake filling, or just eat it by the spoonful (it’s okay; we won’t tell). Go crazy and make a pumpkin pie milkshake with vanilla ice cream, milk, pumpkin butter, and chunks of pie crust. You can also use its sweetness as a foil for a savory or more neutral dish, spreading it, for instance, on a tortilla and topping it with avocados and other taco fixings.
The butter will store in the fridge for a few weeks, or in the freezer for a year.
Getting thirsty? That means it’s time for a pumpkin cocktail! Use some of the pumpkin butter you just made for a twist on a Moscow mule (vodka, ginger beer, and lime) by using bourbon, ginger beer, lime, and a few tablespoons of pumpkin butter. For a more tart cocktail, add a splash of cranberry juice. For a non-alcoholic variation, just leave out the bourbon. This autumn-in-a-glass cocktail is sure to warm you up from the inside out.
Pumpkin stands up perfectly to the strong flavors of an Indian curry, and it lends a little sweetness to the dish. Make your own spice blend by combining some garam masala, ground cumin, ground coriander, ground turmeric, cinnamon, and some hot pepper for heat. Use the spice blend to sauté some onions and finely chopped garlic, then add pumpkin purée, cooked chickpeas, and your favorite chopped vegetables (cauliflower and potato pair well), along with some chicken or vegetable stock and coconut milk. Cook until vegetables have softened and the curry has thickened slightly. Serve the pumpkin curry with a few thin slices of avocado on top.
Don’t throw away those seeds! Practically every part of the pumpkin is edible, and their seeds are some of the tastiest parts. Rinse the sticky pumpkin guts off the seeds, let the seeds (or “pepitas”) dry off overnight, and then get ready to roast!
Toss the seeds with a little olive oil and your favorite spices. You can go sweet, with cinnamon and ginger, or savory with chipotle powder and garlic or kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Then, spread the seeds in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake them in the oven for about 40 minutes at 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
Once they’re ready, you can snack straight from the tray. If you’re okay with delayed gratification, add the pepitas to your favorite dishes for a little extra crunch. They go great with guacamole or a salad with spinach and goat cheese. Make a seasonal pesto for pasta or sandwiches by replacing pine nuts with pumpkin seeds and basil with cilantro.
AVO TIP: Need an idea for a tasty and gorgeous fall salad? Check out this fabulous recipe!