season’s favorite gourd is both versatile and well-traveled
By B.A. Nilsson
It’s not exactly on the order of Halloween pumpkin smashing,
but the noble gourd rated a mention in Shakespeare’s Merry
Wives of Windsor as those titular wives plotted to humiliate
the fat, randy Falstaff. “Go to, then,” says Mrs. Ford, as
her friends help her set up an assignation. “We’ll use this
unwholesome humidity, this gross watery pumpion; we’ll teach
him to know turtles from jays.”
The Greeks called it a “pepon,” or large melon; this got Gallicized
into “pompon” before Shakespeare got hold of it. Early American
settlers changed the second syllable to “-kin,” itself a version
of the German “-chen,” and still used as an instrument of
maternal torture in such formations as “my little lamb-i-kin.”
For all that European travel, the pumpkin itself seems to
have originated in Central America; certainly the recipes
that have endured are known to have crisscrossed the American
continents for several thousand years. Now it’s grown in every
continent except Antarctica.
Several varieties of gourd qualify to be called pumpkins.
They belong to the family of curcurbita, which also
claims the squash and cucumber. Cucurbita moschata look
like butternut squash (and are related to them) and provide
the meat you find in canned pumpkin products. Your jack o’
lantern is carved from cucurbita pepo, while the half-ton
monsters are of the species cucurbita maxima. Cucurbita
Mixta includes the cushaw melon, and there are many colorful
varieties of pumpkin arriving on the scene. You’ve probably
seen the white ones; red (rouge d’etant) and blue aren’t
Pumpkins need little garden coddling except for a long growing
season (here in zone five, we start seeds under grow lamps
in late spring) and the occasional turn of the fruit as it
languishes in the field. As with other squash varieties, the
blossoms make a worthy delicacy. They’re great as a sauté,
deep fried, and in soup.
Were pumpkins part of that first Thanksgiving? Probably—or
at least soon thereafter. They were too much a Native American
staple to go unused. In fact, they proved useful to Native
Americans as more than just food: You could weave mats and
the like out of dried pumpkin.
Not surprisingly, then, some of the more interesting pumpkin
recipes come from books that focus on this country’s indigenous
population. Foods of the Southwest Indian Nations by
Lois Ellen Frank (Ten-Speed Press, 2002) gives a well-informed
overview of tradition and current practice, with recipes geared
to the home cook.
Pumpkin Corn Soup with Ginger-Lime Cream can be served
in a small pumpkin, if you’re ambitious. Prepare your pumpkin
meat by quartering the squash, removing seeds and fiber (but
cook the seeds for snacking) and baking the quarters, inside
down, for 45 minutes in a 350-degree oven. When the meat has
cooled, scrape it from the skins and blast it through your
food processor. Two pounds of pumpkin should yield two cups
of cooked meat.
Cook three cups of corn kernels until soft, then send them
through a food processor. Season the corn purée with two cloves
of garlic (finely chopped), salt and white pepper, and add
three cups of chicken stock. Bring this to a boil over medium
heat, and add the pumpkin. Stir and cook for another 10 minutes.
Peel and grate a tablespoon of fresh ginger, and combine it
with the juice and zest of two limes. Add a half-cup of heavy
cream. Use a dollop of this as a garnish when you serve the
The recipe for Tesuque Pumpkin Cookies comes from the
Tesuque Pueblo just north of Santa Fe. Cream together two
cups apiece of sugar and shortening; add two cups of cooked
pumpkin, two beaten eggs and two teaspoons of vanilla extract.
Separately combine four cups of flour, two teaspoons baking
soda and small amounts of salt, nutmeg and allspice. Add the
dry to the wet ingredients, a little at a time. Stir in two
cups raisins and one cup chopped walnuts.
Drop the mixture by the tablespoonful on a greased cookie
sheet, and bake for 12 to 15 minutes in a 350-degree oven.
Pumpkin pie began as a confection baked right inside the pumpkin;
Here’s a variation from a new and wonderful book titled Foods
of the Americas by Fernando and Marlene Divina (Ten-Speed
Press, 2004): Baked Pumpkin with Corn and Apple Pudding can
be served with ice cream or whipped cream.
Working with a 350-degree oven, dry 1/2 cup cornmeal on a
baking sheet, then toast 3/4 cup pine nuts. Cut around the
stems of four four-inch pumpkins and save those tops; scrape
out the seeds.
Combine three coarsely chopped green apples, 1/2 cup apple
cider, and 1/2 cup milk in a saucepan and bring to a boil,
then simmer for 10 minutes. Pass the mixture through a sieve
and purée the pulp, then add it to the liquid again over medium-high
heat. Add the cornmeal, 1 cup of mixed dried fruit, 1/2 cup
maple syrup (or honey) and season with mace, allspice and
cinnamon. Stir it with a wooden spoon as it simmers for five
to seven minutes, then add the pine nuts.
Distribute the pudding mixture among the pumpkins, replace
the tops, and bake in an inch of water for 35 to 40 minutes,
until the pumpkins are fork-tender. Serve warm.
This is also one of the few recipes that allows the more nutritious
aspect of the pumpkin to come through: The gourd is rich in
vitamin A and potassium.
At my house, several pumpkins decorate the porch right now
and we’re about to embark on our annual fight over what’s
to be cooked and what’s for show, with the opposing factions
trying to claim the nicest-looking ones. Having but one child
in the family means that the Court of Appeals is made up of
three, with the tie-breaking vote almost invariably going
to Mom. Still, I’ll try to have some cookies and soup on hand
should you find yourself in the neighborhood. Just look for
the porch that’s crawling with pumpkins.
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp, authors of The
Book Club Cookbook, will be at the Schenectady
County Public Library (Clinton and Liberty Streets,
Schenectady) from noon-5 PM Sunday, Oct. 17, to
discuss and sign their book. The event is a fund-raiser
for the Capital Campaign to expand the downtown
library to include a new children’s center, gallery
and performance space. Samples of food made by
area restaurants from The Book Club Cookbook
recipes will be offered for sale. Gelman and
Krupp interviewed book-club members all over the
country to see what they were reading and eating;
the result is a collection of 100 entries, each
focusing on a literary masterpiece. . . . The
Hudson Valley Council of Girl Scouts will
hold its third annual Cookie Cuisine event from
6-9 PM Tue, Oct. 26 at the Italian-American Community
Center (Washington Ave. Ext., Albany). Honorary
Chair Carmine Sprio, Ric Orlando and a host of
talented culinary teams take on the challenge
of preparing gourmet entrées and desserts using
Girl Scout cookies. This year’s participants include
the Arlington House, Aromi D’Italia, Capital District
EOC, Carmine’s, Crowne Plaza, Magnolia’s, New
World Home Cooking, Real Seafood, SUNY Cobleskill
and 333 Café. Tickets are $35; pony up $75 and
you’ll be part of the honorary committee. For
reservations, call Sharon Smith 489-8110, ext.
105. . . . Remember to pass your scraps to Metroland
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very much enjoyed eating dinner at Daniel's
at Ogdens. You review described my dining
experience perfectly. This wasn't the case
with Pancho's. I much prefer Garcia's or
Lake View Tavern for Mexican fare. I agree
that a restaurant can have an off night
so I'll give the second unit on Central
Avenue a try.
yes I miss the star ratings, bring it back.
Second, I haven't had a chance to visit
Poncho's yet, but I especially like reading
would travel to Amsterdam to this restaurant
- it's not that far away. People traveled
from all over to eat at Ferrandi's in Amsterdam.
From his background, I'm sure the chef's
sauce is excellent and that is the most
important aspect of an Italian restaurant.
Sometimes your reviewer wastes words on
the negative aspects of a restaurant. I'm
looking forward to trying this restaurant
- I look forward to Metroland every Thursday
especially for the restaurant review. And
by the way Ferrandi's closed its Amsterdam
location and is opening a new bistro on
Saratoga Lake - Should be up and running
in May. It will be called Saratoga Lake
Bistro. It should be great!
comments about the Indian / Pakistani restaurants
being as "standardized as McDonald's"
shows either that you have eaten at only
a few Indian / Pakistani restaurants or
that you have some prejudices to work out.
That the physical appearances are not what
you would consider fancy dancy has no bearing
on the food. And after all, that is what
the main focus of the reviews should be.
Not the physical appearances, which is what
most of your reviews concentrate on.
A restaurant like The Shalimar, down on
Central Avenue, may not look the greatest,
but the food is excellent there. And the
menu has lots of variety - beef, lamb, vegetarian,
chicken, and more..