Every fall, I start to crave pumpkin recipes the moment October hits. To me, the savory squash marks the changing seasons as much as turning leaves and a cozy new scarf. I used to ring in autumn with an inaugural loaf of pumpkin bread…until last year, when my husband found a piece of eggshell in his slice and has since refused to eat it. (Still don’t know how that got in there…must have been a set-up!) So this year, I’ve decided to reintroduce pumpkin in very different savory dishes, like this perfect pumpkin risotto and roasted pumpkin salad. And it just so happens they’d make a fantastic little menu for the dinner party I’m hosting for friends next weekend…sans eggshells, of course!
Perfect Pumpkin Risotto
*image & recipe courtesy of Design*Sponge
For the Pumpkin Puree and Roasted Pumpkin Cubes
- 1 large or 2 small eating pumpkins
- 2 t. extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 t. freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 t. coarse sea salt
- 1/4 t. cinnamon
- 1/4 t. finely minced fresh rosemary
- pinch of white pepper
- 1 firm ripe pear
For the Risotto
- 3 C. vegetable stock
- 3 T. butter
- 1/2 C. diced onion
- 1 1/2 C. arborio rice
- 1/2 C. white wine or sherry cooking wine
- 1/2 t. finely minced fresh rosemary
- 1/4 t. freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 1/2 C. pumpkin puree (above)
- 1 C. roasted pumpkin cubes (above)
- 1/2 C. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 C. heavy cream
- freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste
- sprigs of rosemary to garnish
* The pumpkin portion of this recipe can be prepared in advance and stored in sealed containers in the fridge for 2-3 days or frozen.
Preheat oven to 400 F. Cut the pumpkin(s) in half and scoop out the seeds with a large spoon. Place one half of the pumpkin cut side down in a baking dish. Fill with about half an inch of water. Place in oven and bake until a fork slides through the skin easily and the flesh is very soft, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and use tongs to place the pumpkin cut side up on a cool surface to let off some of the heat. Allow to cool (use a dish towel if you’re in a hurry), scoop out the soft flesh with a spoon and place in a food processor or blender. Process until smooth. Set aside. You can freeze any extras in a freezer bag for use later.
While the first pumpkin half is baking, prepare the second half of the pumpkin by cutting the uncooked flesh into small cubes. Line a baking sheet with foil and place pumpkin cubes on it. Drizzle with oil and toss to coat evenly. Add the nutmeg, salt, cinnamon, rosemary, and white pepper. Wash, halve, core and dice the pear, leaving the skin on, into smaller pieces than the pumpkin. Add the pear to the pumpkin on the sheet and toss everything with your hands to combine all the ingredients. Place in the oven and bake until tender and golden at the edges, about 25 minutes.
Once the pumpkin is well on its way to being done, begin to work on the risotto. Put the vegetable stock in a medium saucepan over low heat to come to a simmer. Melt the butter in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the rice and stir for about two minutes until it is thoroughly coated with the butter and toasted a bit. Add the wine and let everything simmer for another minute or two until the wine has evaporated.
Set a timer for 18 minutes. Add about half a cup of hot stock to the risotto and stir con-stantly until it is absorbed. Add another half cup of stock and repeat this process, ad-justing the amount of liquid you add to the needs of the rice, until 18 minutes is up. The closer the rice is to being done, the less liquid you will need to add. Add the pumpkin puree, nutmeg, rosemary, and a final bit of stock, if necessary, and stir vigorously to combine. When risotto has once again become thick and creamy, add the roasted pumpkin cubes and grated cheese and stir again to combine. Finally, finish the risotto by stirring in the heavy cream and adding pepper and salt to taste. Serve immediately while hot, garnishing with addition grated cheese and a sprig of rosemary on each plate. *serves 6
Roasted Pumpkin Salad
*image & recipe courtesy of 101 Cookbooks
- 3 cups of pumpkin (or other winter squash), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
- extra-virgin olive oi
- fine grain sea salt
- 12 tiny red onions or shallots, peeled (OR 3 medium red onions peeled and quartered)
- 2 cups cooked wild rice*
- 1/3 cup sunflower seeds
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 tablespoons warm water
- 1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped
Preheat oven to 375. Toss the pumpkin in a generous splash of olive oil along with a couple pinches of salt, and turn out onto a baking sheet. At the same time, toss the onions with a bit of olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and turn out onto a separate baking sheet. Roast both for about 45 minutes, or until squash is brown and caramelized. The same goes for the onions, they should be deeply colored, caramelized, and soft throughout by the time they are done roasting. You’ll need to flip both the squash and onion pieces once or twice along the way – so it’s not just one side that is browning.
In the meantime, make the dressing. With a hand blender or food processor puree the sunflower seeds, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and honey until creamy. You may need to add a few tablespoons of warm water to thin the dressing a bit. Stir in the cilantro, saving just a bit to garnish the final plate later. Taste and adjust seasonings (or flavors) to your liking – I usually need to add a touch more salt with this dressing.
In a large bowl, toss the wild rice with a large dollop of the dressing. Add the onions, gently toss just once or twice. Turn the rice and onions out onto a platter and top with the roasted squash (I’ll very gently toss with my hands here to disperse the pumpkin a bit). Finish with another drizzle of dressing and any remaining chopped cilantro. *serves 4