Pumped About Pumpkin…

I have a feeling I’ll be hearing “step away from the pumpkin!” very, very soon.

Carving didn’t happen this year. Cooking did. A lot of it. Plus, that container of unused orangey-goodness in my fridge means there will be more of it.

For some reason, I think my eyes have been secretly looking for ways to use it.

We were at Whole Foods and in the refrigerated section there was this big shelf of all kinds of ravioli. Sadly, there was an empty space dedicated to pumpkin ravioli. The other shoppers were lucky they didn’t hear “rampage in aisle 7” over the loudspeaker. I was THAT bummed out. So what did I do? Attempt to make it on my own.

Going off advice, the website kind – not the phone call kind (sadly), from Giada DeLaurentiis, I used egg roll wrappers. I concocted my own pumpkin-ricotta filling and got going. You can try this if you have more patience than egg roll wrappers. I had to use water to get them to close up (dip your fingers in a small dish, run along the edges, top another wrapper and crimp with a fork to seal). When boiled they had a soft, filmy consistency, almost like what you’d expect from a jelly fish. But, they were tender, not rubbery. I promise I’m not trying to turn you away. They just weren’t your typical toothsome ravioli. The filling, though, was yummy. I made a brown butter to go on top of it. To do that, just put a whole stick (no, I’m not a grey-haired woman from Savannah – though, that wouldn’t be too bad!) in a pan and let it cook. It will start to bubble and then turn brown. When it starts turning brown, turn off the heat. Sprinkle in some garlic powder and bam!, you’ve got brown butter. It’s a stout, nutty drizzle of richness. It’s great on pasta.

Since the ravioli were falling apart in the boiling water, I opted not to use all the filling. We had an heirloom tomato and fresh mozzarella stacker with it, plus a slice of mushroom pesto pizza (Whole Foods), so we weren’t starving. By the way, I put slices of prosciutto on a foil-lined baking sheet and cooked it at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until it was crispy. I broke it up and served it atop the pumpkin ravioli… Good contrast of texture and flavor! Prosciutto is expensive, but I got this bunch on sale.

The leftover pumpkin-ricotta mixture led to a pizza of my own.

When I was just starting out on my cooking adventures (years ago), I made (or attempted to make) a butternut squash and pesto gratin, by Giada DeLaurentiis (I love her, duh!). After nearly burning a hole through a pot while trying to steam the squash, I put the dish together and really didn’t like it. I think I bought a bad pesto, or something. Anyway, the point is that squash (or pumpkin) and pesto clearly go together. They’re like Laverne and Shirley. In the right setting with the right supporting cast, you’ll have a hit.

I used pesto (jar from grocery store, but I recommend Giada’s at Target) instead of red sauce, added some prosciutto and big dollops of the pumpkin-ricotta mixture. Spread the pesto on a pizza crust (I used whole wheat – the kind that’s already baked), leaving a border for the “crust”. Top with big slices of fresh mozzarella cheese. Lay small pieces of prosciutto on top of the cheese. Between the cheese, drop dollops of the pumpkin-ricotta mixture. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes. Delicious. It was great cold, too. My only complaint is that the prosciutto didn’t completely crisp-up. So, next time I might cook the prosciutto in the oven separately while I prepare the pizza and then just put it on the cooked pizza. See what you think!

In my next blog I’ll tell you how I used the other pizza crust that came in the pack.

The pumpkin-ricotta mixture would be great for stuffed shells, manicotti or lasagna. You may want to add an egg and double the recipe. Or, if you have a pasta machine, make your own ravioli. It really is a fantastic filling.

Going back to playing ‘eye spy’ pumpkin… We were in Greenville yesterday and passed by Strossner’s (which could also be called Cloud 9). On the sign, they were advertising pumpkin pound cake. So what did I do? First, I resisted the urge to go inside and instead, I created a pumpkin cake. I bought a regular cake mix and substituted canned pumpkin for the oil. Pumpkin pie spice, ground ginger and orange zest also went into the batter. The cake was fluffy and moist, much more so than a traditional oil-infused batter. For the icing I combined a can of cream cheese icing, orange zest, pumpkin pie spice and mini chocolate chips. Chill the cake and serve. Who needs soup, THIS was mmm, mmm good!

The cake only used 1/3 cup of the pumpkin. That means there’s a lonely little container of puree in my refrigerator. So, I’m gone dishing to find a way to use the rest. I’m pump(kin)ed! Are you?!

Tip: Taste everything before you serve it. The icing for the pumpkin cake was a bit bitter because of the orange zest. I added powdered sugar to help and it worked (thanks for the suggestion, B). Even if you’re not eating what you’re serving (making a different dish for the kids) taste it. You should want to eat what you’re serving. If you don’t like it, they won’t either.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Mary Lu Saylor says:

    Mike, I’m a pumpkin freak too. I sneak it into all sorts of things where you might find sweet potatoes or butternut squash. I love all 3 with apples and nuts or onions. One of my favorite quick recipes when I dont have time to invest in the kitchen I take a can of pumpkin and a box of devils food cake mix. Add a few chopped walnuts and a few chocolate chips. It’s like a unique cupcake that doesn’t need frosting.
    I can’t wait to try your pizza idea!

  2. gonedishing says:

    I LOVE your devils food and pumpkin idea. I could eat my weight in walnuts. I’ll have to try it!

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