Pumpkin takes walk on the savory side

  • Fri Oct 21st, 2016 11:15pm
  • Life

By Nick Kindelsperger

and Joseph Hernandez

Chicago Tribune

It’s hard to make it through fall without stumbling over a bright orange pumpkin, but that doesn’t mean many end up on your dinner plate. Besides the ubiquity of pumpkin pie, most pumpkins end up as decorative items — carved up as jack o’ lanterns or displayed as some colorful harvest scene. This is a shame, because they are extremely versatile in the kitchen, working well in both savory and sweet dishes.

You just need to make sure to buy the right kind. Avoid the enormous basketball-size pumpkins used for carving, because they are fibrous and flavorless. Instead, look for what are referred to as pie pumpkins (or sugar pumpkins), which are smaller — usually about 2 pounds. When cooked, the flesh becomes tender and sweet, which pairs extremely with these creative recipes.



Prep: 30 minutes

Cook: 35 minutes

Makes: 12 tacos

Recipe by Nick Kindelsperger.

1 pie or sugar pumpkin (about 2 pounds), peeled, cut into ¾-inch cubes

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 pound Mexican chorizo

1 to 2 chipotles en adobo, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

Shredded red cabbage

1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted

Handful fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

12 corn tortillas, warmed

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Toss pumpkin cubes with 2 tablespoons olive oil, cinnamon, salt and cumin. Place on a parchment paper-lined rimmed baking sheet. Transfer to the oven; cook, 10 minutes. Flip pumpkin pieces with tongs or a spatula. Cook, flipping pieces every 10 minutes, until they are tender, 30 to 40 minutes total.

2. Meanwhile, pour remaining tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet set over medium heat. Add chorizo; break sausage apart with a wooden spoon. Cook until chorizo is lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Add chipotles and garlic, stir well and cook until very fragrant. Add roasted pumpkin to the skillet; stir until the pieces are evenly coated with the chorizo.

3. Serve pumpkin and chorizo filling in corn tortillas topped with a sprinkle of cabbage, pumpkin seeds and cilantro.

Nutrition information per taco: 287 calories, 20 g fat, 6 g saturated fat, 33 mg cholesterol, 16 g carbohydrates, 2 g sugar, 11 g protein, 668 mg sodium, 2 g fiber


Prep: 1 hour, plus resting time

Cook: 45 minutes

Makes: 8 servings

Recipe by Joseph Hernandez. You will have extra filling. It freezes well. Use it in salads, as a side dish or in a quesadilla.


3 cups flour

1 tablespoon salt

6 ounces (about 3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons) vegetable shortening

4 tablespoons cold butter, cut into cubes

1/2 cup ice water

2 tablespoons white wine, optional


1 pie or sugar pumpkin (about 2 pounds), halved, peeled, cut into ¾-inch cubes

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon oregano

1 tablespoon paprika

1 red bell pepper, seeded, chopped

2 tablespoons kosher salt

1/3 cup vegetable or chicken stock or broth

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 1/2 cups ricotta

1 large egg lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for brushing

1. Whisk together flour and salt in a large bowl. Cut the shortening and butter into the flour with your fingers or a pastry blender until the mixture yields course, pea-size lumps. Slowly add water (and wine, if using), mixing until just incorporated. Turn out the shaggy mix onto a lightly floured surface; gather it into a ball, kneading with the heel of your hand until a soft dough forms, being sure not to overwork it. Wrap in a dish towel; let rest in the refrigerator, 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile heat a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pumpkin until just tender, about 5 minutes; drain.

3. Cook onion and garlic in the oil in a large skillet over moderate heat, stirring, until onion is softened, about 3 minutes. Add oregano, paprika and red pepper; cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add pumpkin, salt and stock. Heat to a boil; lower heat to a simmer. Cook, covered, 5 to 8 minutes. Uncover pan and simmer, stirring occasionally, until liquid is evaporated, about 3 minutes. Taste mixture; add additional salt, if needed. Cool filling completely. Mix black pepper into ricotta; set aside.

4. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Roll the dough into a log about 12-by-2 1/2 inches; slice it into 12 equal pieces. Working with one slice at a time, roll dough pieces into circles about 8 inches in diameter and 1/4 inch thick. Put at least 2 full tablespoons of the pumpkin mixture onto each circle, followed by a tablespoon of ricotta. Leave a rim of bare pastry about 3/4 inch around the edge; brush the rim with a little water. Fold pastry over the filling; shape into half-moons. Seal the edges by pinching with your fingers or using the tines of a fork. Repeat with remaining dough.

5. Place the empanadas on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush with egg wash; poke three small holes into each with a toothpick so steam can escape during baking. Bake until pastry is nicely browned and the filling is piping hot, 20 minutes. Serve immediately with your favorite salsa.

Nutrition information per empanada: 531 calories, 26 g fat, 9 g saturated fat, 41 mg cholesterol, 62 g carbohydrates, 3 g sugar, 12 g protein, 1,582 mg sodium, 3 g fiber


Prep: 35 minutes

Chill: 2 hours or overnight

Cook: 45 minutes

Makes: 8 servings

From “Palestine on a Plate” (Interlink, $35), coming in November, by Joudie Kalla, who writes that the dish is from her aunt, who lives in Amman, Jordan. We suggest starting with the juice of 1 lemon (about 3 tablespoons), then adding more to taste.

1 large pie pumpkin (about 2 pounds)

1 whole head garlic, cloves separated, skin on

Sea salt

1 bunch fresh thyme

Olive oil

1/4 cup Greek yogurt

3 tablespoons tahini

Juice of 1 to 4 lemons

1 pomegranate, seeded

Fresh mint sprigs

Pita bread, warmed

1. Heat the oven to 415 degrees. Cut the pumpkin into crescents, removing the seeds. Place pumpkin on a baking sheet along with the garlic. Season with salt; scatter with thyme sprigs. Drizzle generously with olive oil. Roast until golden, 45 minutes. Allow pumpkin to cool before removing the skins and draining them of any excess water.

2. Transfer pumpkin to a food processor or blender; squeeze in the garlic cloves from their skins, discarding skins. Process together; add the yogurt, tahini, lemon juice and salt to taste. Mix well. Add more salt to taste, if needed. Refrigerate in a covered container to thicken, 2 hours or overnight.

3. To serve, top with pomegranate seeds and mint; serve with pita bread.

Nutrition information per serving: 135 calories, 7 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 1 mg cholesterol, 17 g carbohydrates, 8 g sugar, 4 g protein, 182 mg sodium, 2 g fiber