I was shopping at Whole Foods a couple of weeks ago, when on impulse, I picked up one can of pumpkin (the store had strategically positioned the display at the end of the aisle). Since then, every time I opened the cupboard, this lonely can was staring me in the face, and I was determined to find something to do with it. The obvious solution would have been to make a pumpkin pie, but I’m not a fan of pumpkin pie. I do, however, love apple pie, my mother’s apple pie in particular, but I digress.
A solution arrived in the form of Warren Brown, founder and owner of Washington DC’s CakeLove and Love Cafe, who appeared on the Today Show this morning. Yes, he offered his recipe for pumpkin pie, but even better, he prepared his take on Pumpkin cheesecake. Now, that’s a pumpkin dessert about which I can get excited. And there was a Pumpkin clove pound cake with Cream cheese icing, which sounds pretty fabulous as well. In fact, they both have such great potential that I’m not sure which dessert to choose for my single can of pumpkin.
The cheesecake recipe is included below, and here’s the link to the Today Show site where you can find the recipes for all three desserts. And, if you’ve not heard of Warren Brown, he has an amazing story to tell about how he found his passion. It’s an inspirational a read.
But, back to food … pick your perfect pumpkin dessert and get cooking!
Recipe: Pumpkin cheesecake
- For the graham cracker crust
- 3 ounces unsalted butter, melted
- 5 ounces graham crackers, crushed into powder
- 3 tablespoons super fine granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon dry ginger
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
- For the pumpkin cheesecake
- 1 1/2 pounds Philly brand cream cheese
- 10 ounces (1 1/4 cups) super-fine granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon dry ginger
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon cloves, freshly ground
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice (powder)
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 15-ounce can of pumpkin (unsweetened)
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons dark rum (optional)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- 5 eggs (large)
- 1 cup heavy cream
To make the graham cracker crust:
Pre-heat the oven to 300 degrees and set the rack on the middle shelf.
Stir to combine graham crackers through salt in a bowl. Drizzle melted butter over ingredients and mix until evenly moistened.
Spray bottom and interior sides of one (1) cake pan (9-inch-by-3-inch) or individual baking dishes with non-stick spray.
Scoop crust ingredients into pans and press down evenly until smooth. Use a flat bottom tool for best results (we use a baking mallet).
Bake until fragrant and browned at the edges, about 15 minutes. Remove and cool on counter.
To make the cheesecake:
Prep ahead of time to remove some of the water content from the canned pumpkin:
Double fold plain white paper towels on a cookie sheet. Scoop pumpkin onto the towels and spread to height of 1/2 inch. Cover with single layer of paper towel; let sit for 30 minutes.
Whisk to combine the pumpkin, lemon juice and vanilla extract in a medium bowl. Set aside.
In a stand mixer with the flat beater, beat to smooth out the cream cheese on slow to medium speed for about 1 minute.
Combine sugar through salt in a medium bowl and whisk to blend.
Scrape cream cheese from sides, reduce mixer to lowest speed, add sugar mixture one third at a time. Allow each scoop to incorporate thoroughly before proceeding. To avoid aerating the batter, don’t run mixer on higher speeds than low.
Add the pumpkin mixture 1/4 cup at a time, waiting between additions for the contents to combine with the base batter.
Add the eggs one at a time, waiting between additions for the contents to combine with the base batter.
Add the cream in a slow drizzle. Stop the mixer, scrape the sides and run on low for another 20 seconds.
Pour the batter into the prepared pans filling no more than 3/4 of the way. (The 9-inch-by-3-inch pan should hold one recipe with room to spare at the top. Higher pan helps protect from undue browning across the top.)
Place the filled cake pan in a roasting pan with high sides and place on the rack in the preheated oven. Pour enough steaming water between the cake pan and roasting pan to come about 2/3 up the side of the cake pan. Bake until the center is slightly wobbly when the pan is shaken, about 80 to 90 minutes.
Turn off heat, prop oven door ajar, and leave alone for 60 minutes.
Remove pan from water bath and cool on the counter until it’s room temperature. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
Remove from the cake pan by warming the bottom, either over an open flame for a few seconds or in a water bath. Place parchment, plastic wrap or wax paper over top of the cake before inverting to remove the cake. Quickly turn over to place on a cake plate.
Serve chilled with freshly whipped cream or ice cream of choice.
October is such a good month. It makes me think of pumpkins and leaves turning and long walks and Halloween. In terms of what you’ll find at the local farmers’ market, think vegetables and fruits resulting in hearty, richly flavorful recipes.
Broccoli, pumpkins, spinach lettuce, sweet potatoes, and winter sqaush.
Apples, cranberries, grapes, and pomegranate.
I covered a fantastic pumpkin recipe, from the Today Show, in my last post, “Pumpkin Risotto – The Perfect Fall Dish.” If you like pumpkin and like risotto, this is for you.
Sweet potatoes are covered by Epicurious.com, with a Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Fried Sage and Shaved Chestnuts recipe that looks amazing, and they’ve got one for Pomegranate, Beet, and Blood Orange Salad that I am going to give a try. (Don’t forget, if you buy a bunch of beets, keep and saute the beet greens.)
And, lastly, there’s an unbelievably flavorful recipe in which you can put that winter squash to use. What exactly is meant by “winter squash“? About.com has the answer, including photos, so you can identify them at the market or grocery store. In the case of the recipe below, Moroccan Chicken with Rice, winter squash means butternut squash. Give this one a try. Your taste buds will thank you.
Moroccan Chicken and Rice
This one-pot chicken and rice jumble gets an autumnal boost from butternut squash and is laced with the fragrant perfume of a variety of mixed dried spices. It’s not a spicy dish but is wonderful served with Harissa, a North African spicy pepper paste.
1 onion, chopped
2 tsp (10 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
2 skinless, boneless free-range chicken breasts, cubed
1/4 tsp (1 mL) each ground cinnamon, cumin seeds, garlic powder, ginger, turmeric, and sea salt
2 cups (500 mL) chicken broth
2 cups (500 mL) butternut squash, chopped*
1 cup (250 mL) basmati rice (can use wild rice and/or quinoa)
1/4 cup (50 mL) raisins (can use dried cranberries or cherries)
In a large, wide saucepan or Dutch oven (or deep skillet), saute onion in oil until translucent, 3 to 5 minutes.
Add chicken and sprinkle with seasonings. Stir-fry until spices are fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.
Pour in a little chicken broth. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up and stir in brown bits from pan bottom.
Add remaining stock and stir in squash, rice, and raisins. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer, stirring halfway through, until rice is tender and chicken is cooked, 18 to 20 minutes. Garnish with sliced green onion.
* Speedy Squash Tip: When chopping butternut squash, with its characteristically tough skin, the going can be slow. But here’s a trick: microwave the whole squash, on high, for 2 minutes. This creates steam inside which softens the skin, making it easier to peel.
Yes, I know, you hear the word “risotto” and you immediately think “endless stirring” or “too difficult” or “not worth the effort.” I am here to be you to tell you that none of these things is true.
You can believe me, because I used to feel exactly the same way. That was until I was living in South London and had a flatmate who thought nothing of using whatever happened to be in the cupboard or refrigerator to cook up a pot of the tasty stuff, usually while coming and going from the kitchen, and generally doing other things. Of course, my competitive side emerged; if she can do it, so can I. And I discovered, I could. And you can too.
While I have a couple of favorites (shrimp with fennel, and mushroom), there was a cooking segment on this morning’s Today Show which got me on the risotto theme, so I’ll stick with their suggestion for today. It sounds amazing, it’s healthy, and it’s seasonal to boot: Pumpkin Risotto, courtesy of Beau MacMillan, executive chef of Sanctuary on Arizona’s Camelback Mountain. The recipe is included below.
The one piece of advice I will give – picked up while watching a video of Mario Batali preparing risotto – is, as you add the stock (the liquid) to the arborio rice, do not let it absorb all the way before adding more; leave a little excess liquid when you add the next ladle. I don’t know why it works, but it does. Your risotto will be al dente (as it should be).
Recipe: Pumpkin risotto
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup onion, finely chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 cups Arborio rice
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 4 cups hot chicken stock
- 2 cups fresh pumpkin juice
- 1 each medium pumpkin, peeled, roasted and pureed (reserve one cup)
- 1 cup diced pumpkin
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan
- 1/2 cup mascarpone
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 2 ounces fried sage
- 2 ounces sage pesto
In a medium-size heavy saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.
Add the onion and bay leaf and saute, stirring continuously, just until softened, which takes about three to four minutes.
Add the rice and continue to stir, using a wooden spoon, to coat the rice with the oil.
Add the white wine and continue cooking, stirring often, until it has been absorbed by the rice.
Add the diced pumpkin and pour in small amount chicken stock and pumpkin juice and stir.
Cook and allow rice to absorb. Repeat until all the liquid has been used.
Stir in the pumpkin puree and the diced pumpkin and reduce the heat to very low so that the risotto doesn’t simmer anymore.
Stir in the parmesan, mascarpone and butter to give the risotto a nice, creamy finish. Spoon it immediately into heated shallow serving bowls.
Garnish with fried sage and a dollop of sage pesto.