This past weekend had me scrounging in the closet for something with long sleeves. The simple act made me almost giddy. At my house, the teasing dip in temperatures sparked talk of firewood. I even found myself checking the kitchen cabinets for hot chocolate fixins.
Call me susceptible, but the transition of seasons triggers a Pavlovian response. Bring on the extra quilt, the smell of woodsmoke and the rustic flavors of autumn — the apples, squash, sweet potatoes, clementines, cinnamon and cider. The most versatile fall food, however, may be the pumpkin. Its taste enhances dishes from sweet to savory. Today, we’re sharing sweet.
The site allaboutpumpkins.com tells us the word pumpkin originated with the Greek word “pepon,” meaning large melon. Gradually the French, English and later Americans had their way with the word, morphing it into pumpkin.
Early Native Americans roasted pumpkin strips over cooking fires long before European explorers came on the scene. Pumpkins played a significant role in getting Native villages and later colonial settlements through long, cold winters when other foods were scarce. Their prevalence seems borne out in the verse below:
“For pottage and puddings and custards and pies
Our pumpkins and parsnips are common supplies.
We have pumpkins at morning and pumpkins at noon
If it were not for pumpkins we should be undoon.”
Pilgrim verse, circa 1633
Modern man won’t come “undoon” without pumpkin, but the autumn crop packed with vitamins A and C, folate, potassium and disease-fighting crotenoids will be starring in menus and tablescapes (and on porches) for weeks to come. Mother Nature, with a lot of help from industrious farmers, gifts it to us just in time for seasonal stews and chilis, holiday pies, cookies, breads and muffins.
You can even drink your pumpkin: Vivian Levine of Summerfield, Florida, turned it into a shake. Her pumpkin pie shake recipe was a finalist in a myrecipes.com contest. One online reviewer called it “a cold piece of pumpkin pie in a glass.”
An apple-pumpkin galette makes a pretty, open-faced pie. (Galette is a term used in French cuisine to designate types of freeform crusty cakes.) Flavors of nutmeg, ground cloves, brown sugar and even a kick of bourbon blend to turn this dessert with Granny Smiths and baking pumpkin into a dish with a homespun look.
Mini pumpkin cheesecakes make a bite-sized sweet that would work for autumn socials from bridge parties to bonfires.
Yes, mid-week temps are back up, but patience: Even the Deep South has crisp, cool days and nights ahead — and plenty of ways to enjoy the big, orange fruit of fall.
APPLE PUMPKIN GALETTE
Total time: 2 hours
1 1/2 pounds sliced peeled baking pumpkin (or kabocha squash)
3 large Granny Smith apples (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled, cored and sliced
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3 tablespoons flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons bourbon or whiskey
2 tablespoons coarse decorating or turbinado sugar
(Source: my recipes.com)
PUMPKIN PIE SHAKE
Makes 4 servings
2 cups vanilla reduced-fat ice cream, softened
1 cup fat-free milk
2/3 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
3 tablespoons frozen fat-free whipped topping, thawed
Pumpkin pie spice (optional)
(Source: Vivian Levine, myrecipes.com)
MINI PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Ready in: 2 hours, 40 minutes
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
1/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
24 mini graham cracker pie crusts
1 1/2 cups whipped cream
1 pinch ground cinnamon, or taste
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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