Pumpkin Reigns Supreme Among the Foods of Fall
by Karen Carzo
Tuesday, October 08, 2013

(All recipes are included at the end of the segment.)

Although the East Coast recently experienced summer-like weather, fall is indeed upon us.  With its arrival comes the harvesting of a cornucopia of fruits and vegetables, including winter squash, pumpkin, eggplant, savory cabbage, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, black truffles, turnips, apples, cranberries, pomegranates and pears - to name just a few! For inspiration on creative uses for these foods, Great Places contacted some of the Tri-State area’s top caterers for ideas.  While they all agree that this season presents a bounty of delicious and versatile foods, the clear favorite is the pumpkin. 

“Pumpkin brings fall to everyone’s palate,” says Ally Vitella, Partner and Creative Chef at Franco Vitella Catered Affairs.  “It’s the beginning taste of the holiday season, and everyone seems to have a memory associated with its flavor.” 

Chef Julian Alonzo of Neuman’s Kitchen Events & Catering agrees that October is the month of the pumpkin and that it’s a perfect time to take advantage of them because they don’t last long.  “Pumpkin is pretty versatile and it can be used in both sweet and savory ways,” Chef Alonzo says. “I am definitely a fan of pumpkin and I always have fun using it in new dishes this time of year.”   Chef Alonzo shares a recipe that includes another seasonal delicacy – black truffles - in his Pumpkin Risotto with Pancetta and Black Truffles.

At On The Marc – The Events Company, you’ll find pumpkin turning up in a variety of dessert items such as funnel cakes, pumpkin mousse on ginger snap cookies, and – of course – pumpkin pie. “Pumpkin has a savory side, too,” says owner Marc Weber. “Right now, our favorite recipe is a roasted pumpkin and arugula salad.”  When serving this at your event or dinner party, Marc suggests serving it with a “floral and buttery glass of Viognier.”

“Pumpkins are fun to work with because, in a world where you can pretty much get anything all year round, they are still considered local and a seasonal item,” says Chef Abe de la Houssaye of The Upper Crust Events, Catering & Design.  “We serve our pumpkin soup in pumpkin bowls, which, like a Jack-o-Lantern, take some time to create.  However, we know that the visual element is an important part of cooking and presentation.” 

Creative Chef Ally Vitella also uses the pumpkin shell as a dish for her easy-to-make Pumpkin Whipped Cream Dip, which is served with another seasonal favorite - apples.

Pumpkin Risotto with Pancetta and Black Truffles
Chef Julian Alonzo, Neuman’s Kitchen

2 lb bag of Arborio rice
2 qt. Vegetable Stock
4 Shallots (Finely diced)
½ cup EVO
2 Cheese Pumpkins (Small diced)
1 Butternut Squash (Small diced)
1 cup Pumpkin seeds
1 lb. Butter
5 Sage leafs, 2 sprigs of parsley and thyme
½ cup Parmesan cheese
3 oz. Pancetta
1 Tb. Black Truffle oil
S/P to taste
2 small Soup pumpkins (for serving the risotto in)

Sweat shallots in a pot with olive oil then add rice stirring constantly. Bring vegetable stock to a boil in separate pot and slowly add to rice stirring constantly. While the risotto starts its first budding stage add diced pumpkin and squash. Cook the rice and vegetables stirring constantly for about 20 minutes until the risotto is tender to the bite with a creamy texture, then add all your final ingredients leaving the butter and cheese until the final touch. Cook the pumpkin for about 15 minutes at 350 degrees until tender then serve your great tasting risotto inside the pumpkin.

Roasted Pumpkin and Arugula Salad
Marc Weber, Owner, On The Marc – The Events Company

Ingredients for Roasted Pumpkin:
2 cups of fresh pumpkin- peeled and diced into large cubes
1 TBSP Canola Oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Ingredients for Maple Vinaigrette:
1 TBSP maple syrup
1 juice of half a lemon
3 TBSP apple cider vinegar
9 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp cracked pepper

4 cups arugula

Preparation for Pumpkin:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Toss pumpkin in oil, salt and pepper.  Place on baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes or until fork tender.  Allow to time to cool, about 15 minutes.

Preparation for Vinaigrette:
In medium mixing bowl add all ingredients, minus olive oil.  Whisk together.  Continue whisking and add olive oil in a steady stream until combined.
 Add arugula to a large serving bowl.  Add roasted pumpkin and 4 TBSP of dressing.  Toss and serve immediately.  Serves 4.


Pumpkin Soup
Chef Abe de La Houssaye  The Upper Crust
Prep Time: 15 minutes – 1 hr if preparing pumpkin bowls
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Level: Intermediate

Approximately  3 to 4  pound pumpkin , seeded and quartered
1/4lb butter melted - unsalted, for brushing
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
3 cups vegetable broth (or chicken broth)
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Pomegranate seeds for garnish
Pumpkin seeds for garnish (raw or toasted with Cajun seasonings or curry powder)
Crème fraiche for garnish

Note: If you wish to serve soup in a pumpkin bowl you will need one small pumpkin per person – cut the top off – and seed it (you can use these seeds to garnish or buy pumpkin seeds) – cover cut part with plastic wrap until service.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Place the quartered pumpkin spaced a bit, skin side down, onto a half sheet pan, brush the flesh of the squash with a little butter and season with 1 tablespoon of the salt and 1 teaspoon of the white pepper. Place in the oven and roast for 35 to 40 minutes or until the flesh is soft and tender. Allow to cool until you can handle it.

Scoop the flesh from the skin into an 8-quart sauce pot. Add the broth, honey and ginger. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer, approximately 8 to 10 minutes. Reduce heat. Using a immersion blender, puree the mixture until smooth. Stir in the heavy cream and return to simmer. Taste and season if necessary then pour soup and Garnish with seeds and crème fraiche.  Serves 8.

Pumpkin Whipped Cream Dip with Apples
Chef Ally Vitella, Franco Vitella Catered Affairs

Can of pumpkin
Light whipped cream
Honey Crisp and green apples

Cut the top of the pumpkin off and hollow out the interior. In a separate bowl, take a can of pumpkin and mix it with light whipped cream, nutmeg and cinnamon to taste.  Fill the pumpkin with the cream.  Slice red honey crisp apples and green apples for dipping.

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