It’s commonly said that you can use every part of the pig except for the squeal. Can that “waste not, want not” mentality apply to pumpkins? With Thanksgiving here, thousands of unused pumpkins will be heading to the trash, or left to rot on the stoop. But more can be done with that pumpkin. Many of us have memories of our mothers baking pumpkin seeds. But did you know that the skins can be crisped into a potato chip-like snack? And that some chefs use the little leafs above a pumpkin stem in soups and salads.
Near Fenway Park, Tapestry is a different dining experience. Children play bumper pool and foosball in the Expo Kitchen, where Neapolitan pizzas reign supreme. Down the hallway in the Club Room, a cocktail lounge-style area features dishes of appetizer size. On both sides, two particular pumpkin dishes are gaining popularity.
One is the roasted pumpkin with gruyere and parmesan cheeses, bacon, wild mushrooms, and a slew of herbs and spices. Because it is mixed with the tender meat of the pumpkin, you feel as if you’re biting into smoked goodness (that’s the paprika) wrapped in the warm hug of autumn.
Chefs Meghann Ward, 37, and Kevin Walsh, 36, bake these into 4-inch pumpkins and sell as many as 30 a week for $30 each. Walsh called them “rustic,” and referred to the stuffed pumpkin as a classic French farmhouse dish.
Even more mind-blowing is their dessert dubbed simply “The Pumpkin Roll.” But this is no ordinary pumpkin roll. In a two-day process, Walsh created a cream out of roasted pumpkin seeds, pureeing them. Separately, he makes a pumpkin bread out of fresh roasted pumpkin puree, eventually slathering the flattened bread with pumpkin seed cream.
A homemade coffee ice cream is sandwiched between two slices, and then rolled in candied pepitas (what they call pumpkin seeds). On the side is a quince jam for dunking, which complements the spicy taste of the pumpkin perfectly. Walsh explained his dish simply: “A pumpkin roll — it’s like a spiced pumpkin latte.”
An easier method of using pumpkin seeds is scooping them out of the pumpkin and tossing the seeds in melted butter and salt. Bake them for 40 minutes at 350 degrees, while stirring occasionally.
At Urban Hearth restaurant, chef-owner Erin Miller is using greens from pumpkin patches in her dishes. Miller began buying them this summer at the Davis Square Farmers’ Market. “They’re unlike any other greens I’ve cooked with, and have a leathery and spiny feel. If you treat them like nettle, all the spines wash off, she said. “Then it’s like any other green.”
Miller recommended sautéeing greens with pepper and onions and a “meat of your choice and peanuts,” and warned against eating pumpkin greens raw. (They don’t taste so great.)
At Cultivar near Government Center, 27-year-old pastry chef Robert Gonzalez has his mind on desserts. He grew up eating his grandmother’s pumpkin flan, but makes his own inventions for his new customers. One popular dish is the Autumn Squash Crème Caramel.
“It’s like a flan, but we set it in a spherical mold with gelatin,” Gonzalez said. “They’re abstract but I try to do unique things besides your typical slice of pie.” Gonzalez creates a puree from a rosy Kombacha squash, also known as the Japanese pumpkin. This is mixed with gelatin, and allowed to cool for a day. The miniglobes are plated with spiced pepitas, a tangy house-made cranberry ice cream, Valrhona chocolate kisses, a tangle of white chocolate “vines,” the tropical burst of a single slice of delicata squash, caramel flakes, and sweet potato leaves.
Gonzalez said the sugary menagerie is a re-creation of a “pumpkin patch.” The dish is so beloved that it will be featured on Valrhona’s 2018 calendar. For the everyday baker, Gonzalez recommends his grandma’s pumpkin flan, which can quickly become a tradition in your family, too.Sarah Betancourt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.