Pumpkin time

FAIRBANKS — If you’re anything like me, you might be ready for “pumpkin spice” to come to an end.

There are the lattes (which really aren’t that good, let’s be honest). There are the endless baked goods. There’s even a blasphemous pumpkin spice carbonated drink I saw when I was meandering the aisles at a Fairbanks grocery store.

Don’t you miss the days when there was just pumpkin pie?

The hard part, for me, is that I actually love pumpkin. Savory pumpkin dishes are my jam (note to self: create a pumpkin jam). Pumpkin is great in soups, especially; just about any soup that calls for butternut squash can be turned into a pumpkin soup instead.

So I spent the month of September researching some recipes involving pumpkin that aren’t just your pumpkin spice cookies and pumpkin pies. I’ve included some of my favorites for you to try. With Thanksgiving right around the corner, some of these could make great updates to your spread. (Note to self: look into pumpkin spread. Like pumpkin butter? Will workshop later.)

A friend of mine living in Italy informed me that Italians actually make ample use of the gourd — and that pumpkin spice is unheard of. She said they use it in raviolis, soups, pastas and more. I found a plethora of Indian and Thai dishes incorporating pumpkin, as well. And though I didn’t get a chance to try out all the recipes, they all sounded absolutely delicious.

My No. 1 is the pumpkin risotto. I made it with a friend of mine and we paired it with some pan-seared scallops and, of course, pancetta. The meal was perfect because the risotto is a little on the sweet side, and saltiness of the pancetta and the cayenne we put on the scallops really helped cut the sweetness.

The tricky part about cooking pumpkin is actually finding pumpkin that you can cook. There are carving pumpkins galore, but I couldn’t track down any quality candidates to cook with. I read a lot online about primo cooking pumpkins, and the consensus seems to be that the best are smaller, about 4-8 pounds. There are a cornucopia of pumpkin varieties, but here in Fairbanks I could only find the big crates of carving pumpkins.

I settled on canned pumpkin puree. It worked perfectly and, frankly, probably cut down on a lot of my work. If you love pumpkin, toss the pumpkin spice latte and give one of these recipes a shot.

Nicolien Buholzer is a native Clevelander living in Fairbanks. She doesn’t have too much experience cooking food, but she does have a lot of experience eating it. Have any cooking tips or tricks? Email her at nicolien.buholzer@gmail.com or tweet her at http://twitter.com/nicobuholzer.

Pumpkin risotto

Ingredients

1 1/4 cups pumpkin puree

2 tablespoons heavy cream

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

pinch ground clove

1/4 cup hot vegetable broth

6 tablespoons butter, divided

4 to 5 cups vegetable broth

1 medium yellow onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

2 cups Arborio rice

2 tablespoons mascarpone cheese

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced

salt and pepper to taste

Directions

•  Stir together first six ingredients in a small pot, bring to a simmer for about 5 minutes.

• Remove from heat, pour into blender with the 1/4 cup broth, salt and pepper and blend.

• Keep the motor running and add 4 tablespoons of butter, one tablespoon at a time. Blend until smooth.

• Heat remaining 4 to 5 cups vegetable broth over stovetop.

• In a large pan over medium heat, melt the remaining butter and sauté onion and garlic.

• Add the rice and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes; every grain should be coated in oil and have a little white dot on it.

• Add broth one ladle at a time, stirring frequently and waiting until liquid has evaporated/been absorbed before adding another. Continue until rice is al dente, about 15 to 20 minutes.

• Stir in the pumpkin puree, mascarpone, and Parmesan until smooth. Add in thyme and salt to taste.

Note: The risotto is on the sweet side so it works well paired with something on the salty side. I added a hefty pinch of cumin for a little kick, and cooking up some pancetta or bacon and folding it into the risotto could be an excellent addition as well.

Adapted from original recipe via spoonforkbacon.com.

Pumpkin beer bread

Ingredients

3 cups flour (I used half wheat, half all-purpose)

1 tablespoon baking powder

2 teaspoons pumpkin spice

3 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup pumpkin puree

1 12-ounce bottle pumpkin beer

Directions

• Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9x5 bread pan and set aside.

• Stir everything but the beer together until combined. Slowly add beer, stirring continuously.

• Pour into bread pan, bake 50 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the bread comes out clean.

Note: A little extra nutmeg and salt and a pinch of cumin cut a little bit of the sweetness from this bread. And yes, I know I cheated and this recipe expressly has “pumpkin spice” in it, but I loved this enough to let it slide.

Original recipe via gimmesomeoven.com.

Pumpkin gnocchi with butter sage sauce

Ingredients

1 pound pumpkin puree

2 1/4 cups “00” flour

1 cup Parmesan cheese and 1 tablespoon Romano cheese, grated

3 tablespoons amaretto cookies, crushed fine

1 whole egg

1 egg yolk

1 teaspoon salt

For the sauce

1 teaspoon butter

3 sage leaves

1 cup chicken or vegetable broth

Handful Parmesan cheese

Directions

• Beat the eggs in a large bowl.

• Add in the pumpkin puree and mix well.

• Add salt and amaretto, then fold in cheese.

• Add in the flour and, with your hands, mix the dough well to form a homogenous ball.

• Pat some flour down on a surface, cut a piece of dough and roll it into thin, round strips. Cut the strips into one-inch pieces and, with two fingers, press on each piece and roll it to you to form a pocket for each gnocchi. Sprinkle each gnocchi with flour to keep from sticking to each other.

• Put butter and sage in a small pot and allow the butter to melt. Add some broth and let it simmer for 2 minutes.

• Add the gnocchi, stir well, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Add cheese and let it melt.

Note: I like a little spice in my life and add a little bit of red pepper flakes or a dash of Sriracha to basically all my pastas. Obviously, a cheesy gnocchi dish isn’t meant to knock your taste buds down, but hey, a little spice is good for digestion, right?

Original recipe via cookingwithnonna.com.

Crockpot turkey, white bean and pumpkin chili

Ingredients

2 pounds ground turkey

1/2 teaspoon olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon chili powder, to taste (I prefer a little extra)

2 bay leaves

2 teaspoons cumin

1 teaspoon oregano

2 cans white northern or navy beans

1 can pumpkin puree

1 4.5-ounce can chopped green chiles

2 cups low sodium, fat-free chicken broth

Directions

• Heat a pan over medium-high heat, spray with oil, and add turkey. Cook until white, about 5 minutes. Transfer to crock pot.

• Heat oil in pan and sauté onion and garlic about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the cumin and sauté another minute. Transfer to crock pot.

• Add remaining ingredients to crock pot, cover, and cook on high 4 hours or low 8 hours.

Note: I top my chili with a little plain Greek yogurt or sour cream, a ton of cheese, and — stay with me here — a healthy dose of applesauce. It’s a weird Buholzer tradition to add apple sauce to chili, but just trust me and give it a shot. The fruity sweetness really will take your chili to the next level. Plus a couple shakes of your favorite hot sauce, of course.

Original recipe via skinnytaste.com.

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