Please Pass the Pumpkin

Fall favorite packs a nutritional punch all year long

Please Pass the Pumpkin
As well as its many nutritional benefits, pumpkin is an often overlooked source of fiber. With three grams per one-cup serving and only 49 calories, it can help with weight loss by keeping you feeling full for longer on fewer calories, says clinical dietitian Parul Kharod. And don’t forget the pumpkin seeds! They are a good source of fiber, protein and iron.

Pumpkin is a victim of its own success. When leaves begin to turn, the seasonal squash shows up in everything from pumpkin ale to whoopie pies. But once the weather warms, pumpkin gets a pass.

Dan Hoskins, chef de cuisine at Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen, says the restaurant has tried to put pumpkin on the menu several times, but no dish has been as popular as the pumpkin bisque served on Thanksgiving. In that one day, the restaurant will go through 20 gallons of the stuff.

“People enjoy the idea of pumpkin, but it’s not something they’ll bite on,” said Hoskins. “Except for this soup, they really like this soup.”

The versatile vegetable also suffers because it’s linked with the spice. Pumpkin pie, bread and cheesecake are all fantastic, but the squash shines in savory situations. The year-round availability of the canned product makes pumpkin easy to incorporate in a variety of dishes.

“People don’t think about it when it’s not in season,” said Mario Huante, owner of Chef Mario’s catering and personal chef services. “But we use it all year, and it sells.”

Pumpkin purée adds moisture to his healthy take on hamburgers, and takes a starring role in some of Huante’s Paleo treats.

“Pumpkin is especially nice for Paleo sweets and breads because it is naturally somewhat sweet and requires less honey or maple syrup,” said Holly Hopkins, general manager at Chef Mario’s. “The dense, moist consistency makes a great base for Paleo baking and helps as a binding agent since we don’t have the advantage of gluten in Paleo.”

According to Parul Kharod, clinical dietitian at WakeMed, pumpkin is also a nutritional powerhouse — boosting the immune system, promoting healthy vision, and reducing the risk of cancer and heart disease.

“Pumpkin is a rich source of antioxidants vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta carotene. These nutrients are all important for eye health and to prevent degenerative damage,” she said. “A diet rich in beta carotene and antioxidants is important to prevent cancers, especially prostate and colon cancer.

“It’s also high in potassium, which helps lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of stroke, protect against loss of muscle mass, and preserve bone mineral density.”

So when you are out picking pumpkins for your seasonal décor, add a second or third for the dinner table — no need for the whipped cream.

Editor’s Note: Included below are recipes for Chef Mario’s Roasted Vegetables and Parul Kharod’s Creamy Pumpkin Pasta Sauce.

To assemble this picture perfect meal, chef Mario Huante suggests making the gremolata first, then start the veggies roasting while you prepare the burgers. To serve, place a stack of the roasted veggies on the plate to form a platform for your burger. Top with one or two patties, depending on size. Spoon the gremolata on top of the burgers, letting the orange-flavored oil drip down into the veggies. Garnish with one or two basil leaves.

To assemble this picture perfect meal, chef Mario Huante suggests making the gremolata first, then start the veggies roasting while you prepare the burgers. To serve, place a stack of the roasted veggies on the plate to form a platform for your burger. Top with one or two patties, depending on size. Spoon the gremolata on top of the burgers, letting the orange-flavored oil drip down into the veggies. Garnish with one or two basil leaves.

Paleo Pumpkin Basil Burger With Hazelnut Orange Gremolata
Courtesy of Chef Mario’s
Makes 12 3-ounce patties

2     pounds lean ground beef or turkey
3/4     cup pumpkin purée
½     cup onion, minced
1    tablespoon garlic, minced
¼     cup fresh basil, julienned (reserve a few
basil leaves for garnish, if desired)
2     eggs
2     teaspoons Sriracha chili sauce, or to taste
1     teaspoon ground ginger
1     teaspoon granulated onion
1     teaspoon granulated garlic
1     teaspoon turmeric
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, and using clean hands, mix thoroughly. Form the mixture into 12 patties.

To sear your burgers, heat a nonstick pan over medium heat. Depending on the size of your pan, you will have to cook several batches. Place the patties in the pan, and cook on each side 1 to 2 minutes. Move to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Continue cooking until all the patties have been seared.

Place the pan of burgers in the oven, and cook for 12 to 15 minutes or until a thermometer reads 155 degrees F. If you use ground turkey, the internal temperature will need to come to 165 degrees F.

To serve, top with hazelnut orange gremolata (recipe follows).

Hazelnut Orange Gremolata

1      cup hazelnuts
1      teaspoon fresh garlic, minced
Zest and juice from 1 orange
1     teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
2     tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
2     tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Toast the hazelnuts in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool. Meanwhile, add the remaining ingredients to a bowl and whisk gently to combine. Set aside. Remove the skins from the cooled hazelnuts by rubbing them between paper towels or by placing them in a plastic bag and rubbing them together. It is OK if a few skins remain. Pulse the nuts briefly in a food processor for a rough chop consistency. Stir hazelnuts into reserved mixture.

Roasted Vegetables 

2 sweet potatoes, peeled
2 carrots, peeled
1 medium zucchini
1 medium yellow squash
1 red bell pepper
1 red onion
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 350 F degrees.

Cut the sweet potatoes, carrots, zucchini and summer squash into wedges approximately 3 to 4 inches long and ½ inch wide. Cut the pepper into strips approximately ½ inch wide. Peel the onion and cut into ½ inch wedges. Place the zucchini, summer squash, pepper and onion in one bowl. Add the sweet potatoes and carrots in a separate bowl. Toss each bowl of veggies with some of the olive oil, salt and pepper.

Place the sweet potatoes and carrots on a parchment lined baking sheet, and bake for 20 minutes.

Remove from the oven, and give them a stir. Add the rest of the vegetables to the sheet pan and continue baking for 10 to 12 minutes, or until sweet potatoes and carrots are fork tender.

Pumpkin bisque is a seasonal favorite at Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen. The Cary restaurant goes through 20 gallons on Thanksgiving Day.

Pumpkin bisque is a seasonal favorite at Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen. The Cary restaurant goes through 20 gallons on Thanksgiving Day.

Pumpkin Bisque
Courtesy of Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen
Makes 3 quarts (12 8-ounce servings)

2     tablespoons cornstarch
½     cup dry sherry
2     sticks unsalted butter
4     cups diced yellow onion
1     teaspoon nutmeg
1    teaspoon ground cinnamon
½     teaspoon cayenne pepper
½     teaspoon granulated garlic
½     teaspoon dried thyme leaves
4     cups peeled and diced pumpkin
2     quarts vegetable stock
2     teaspoons salt or to taste
10     ounces heavy whipping cream

Combine cornstarch and sherry; set aside. Melt butter in a sauce pot. Add onions, nutmeg, cinnamon, cayenne, garlic and thyme and sauté until onions are golden. Add pumpkin and vegetable stock. Simmer until pumpkin is tender. Place in blender or food processor; purée and force through a medium strainer. Return to the sauce pot and add salt, cornstarch-sherry slurry and heavy cream. When heated through, remove from heat. Portion into soup bowls and garnish with a drizzle of spiced crema (recipe follows).

Spiced Crema
Makes 1¼ cups

1     cup sour cream
¼     cup buttermilk
¼     teaspoon ground cloves
¼     teaspoon nutmeg
¼     teaspoon allspice
¼     teaspoon ground cinnamon
1½     teaspoons lemon juice

In a bowl, whisk all ingredients together.

Pumpkin Recipes

“Paleo has been a big seller for us for a couple of years,” said Holly Hopkins, general manager at Chef Mario’s. These pancakes can be a bit tricky she says, because the sugars used in Paleo cooking tend to brown faster than white sugar. A finish in the oven helps them turn out tasty.

Paleo Pumpkin Pancakes
Courtesy of Chef Mario’s
Makes 20 to 24 pancakes

½     cup canned pumpkin purée
½     cup almond milk
½     cup water
1     teaspoon cider vinegar
2     tablespoons real maple syrup
2     teaspoons vanilla
1     cup almond meal (flour)*
¼     cup coconut flour
1     tablespoon ground flaxseed
1     teaspoon baking soda
2     teaspoons baking powder
¼     teaspoon salt
2     teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
4     eggs

Heat oven to 325 degrees F.

Whisk pumpkin, almond milk, water, cider vinegar, maple syrup, and vanilla together until thoroughly combined. Then, add the dry ingredients (almond meal through pumpkin pie spice) to the pumpkin mixture, and whisk until all of the dry mixture has been incorporated.

Let the pumpkin mixture rest for about 5 minutes to allow the coconut flour time to be absorbed into the liquid. Crack the eggs into a separate bowl and whisk vigorously until they are slightly frothy (1 to 2 minutes). Add in the egg mixture and stir to combine.

Heat a nonstick pan over medium-low heat. Spoon the batter into the pan, and if needed, spread into a pancake shape. Let cook on the first side until small bubbles appear and the top surface seems slightly dry. Be careful, these pancakes will brown quickly. If they seem to be burning before you flip them, reduce the heat a little. Flip the pancake and let cook on the other side for approximately 45 seconds.

Remove from pan and place on a parchment- or foil-lined baking sheet. Your batter will continue to thicken as it sits; if needed, add a tablespoon of water to thin slightly. After the pancakes have been cooked and placed on the baking sheet, place in the oven for 5 minutes to ensure the pancakes are cooked all the way through.

*Note: Chef Mario’s uses house-ground almond meal from toasted almonds with the skins on. Most commercial almond flour is made from blanched almonds and is quite light in color.

CREAMY PUMPKIN PASTA SAUCE
Courtesy of Parul Kharod, clinical dietitian at WakeMed
Makes 3 cups sauce

3/4 cup pumpkin purée
1 cup raw cashews, soaked in water at least 6 to 8 hours and drained
1 cup low sodium vegetable broth
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper or paprika
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Blend all ingredients in a blender or Vitamix for a smooth creamy sauce. Add to cooked whole grain pasta. For a variation, add half of a roasted red bell pepper or ¼ cup chopped sun dried tomatoes packed in oil.

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