Please Pass The Pumpkin

Please Pass The Pumpkin

Fall favorite packs a nutritional punch all year long

By: Amber Keister | Photography by: Johathan Fredin
Cary Magazine  | Sept. 5, 2017

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.

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

Dan Hoskins suggest using smaller, pie pumpkins for this soup. Luck y32 sources theirs from the Interfaith Food Shuttle Farm. But you don’t have to wait until Thanksgiving to make this soup; the orange beauties start appearing at area farmers’ markets in September.

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.

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