written by Thor Erickson | featured photo by Ben McBee
My head was spinning. Had I made the right decision to spend the rest of my life with this woman whom I barely knew? I know she wears a size 5 shoe, but I can’t even pronounce her name. Was it the many flasks of pumpkin ale talking, or was I really in love? She was in such a hurry all night, checking the time.
I suggested we duck into a Starbucks for a pumpkin spice latte, but she wanted to get back to the carriage. The clock struck midnight as we rounded the corner to a waiting driver. My buzz wore off, and so did my pumpkin goggles. The carriage had turned into a bulbous gourd, and my date had turned into Marty Feldman. Then I woke up.
Dreams like these recur every fall. When I was 8, my sisters and I started a pumpkin farm at our house. We didn’t actually grow the pumpkins. We actually bought them from a farm and re-sold them. We laid a bed of straw over our lawn, placed the pumpkins on it and crafted scarecrows and other related symbols of fall splendor. It was a hit. The first year, we sold out of pumpkins a week before Halloween. We saved our money to buy pumpkins for the next year. After five years of this venture, I became an expert at all things pumpkin, especially cooking with it.
Fresh pumpkin can be treated just like any other winter squash (acorn, butternut, etc.).
I like to roast the peeled and seeded pumpkin rubbed with a bit of olive oil and simply seasoned with salt and pepper. I use the roasted pumpkin in savory dishes with a bit of spicy heat added to counter the sweetness. Roasted pumpkin tacos with ancho chile sauce, chevre and pickled onions is a tasty way to warm up a cool fall evening.
Pumpkin is best known for use in desserts, such as pumpkin pie. The squash pairs well with warm spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and clove. Most dessert recipes call for canned pumpkin. Baking with fresh pumpkin can be tricky as it needs to be cooked very slowly to remove enough of the moisture in order to work in most recipes.
Roasted Pumpkin Tacos with Ancho Chile Sauce, Chevre and Pickled Onions
1 small whole pumpkin
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 teaspoons of kosher salt
½ teaspoon of ground black pepper
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
Ancho chile sauce (recipe below)
Pickled onions (recipe below)
4 ounces chevre goat cheese
Ancho chile sauce
4 whole ancho chiles
1/2 cup water
½ teaspoon salt
Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium/high heat on the stove.
Place the chiles in the skillet to soften and toast (add no oil to this operation)
Remove the stem and seeds from the chiles and place them in a small saucepan with the water and salt. Bring to a simmer. Puree chile mixture in a food processor or blender. Pass puree through a fine mesh sieve. Discard skin and seeds that are held in the sieve and keep the smooth puree.
1 red onion julienned
¼ cup fresh squeezed lime juice
1 teaspoon of light oil
Salt and pepper
Heat oil in medium sauté pan over medium heat, add onions and lightly sauté until tender but not brown at all.
Remove from heat and add lime juice. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Taste and season with salt and black pepper.
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
After knocking the stem off, carefully cut a pumpkin in half. Remove the seeds with a large metal spoon. Cut each half in half again creating quarters. Remove the skin from each quarter and slice the squash into 1/2-inch pieces. Toss the pumpkin slices with the olive oil and salt, pepper and cumin and arrange on a sheet pan. Roast the pumpkin for 20 minutes or until it is tender and the edges are slightly browned.
Lightly heat the corn tortillas in a dry cast iron skillet. After gently folding it in half, place a slice of roasted pumpkin in the bottom of the fold. Add a drizzle of the ancho chile sauce, followed by a generous crumble of chevre. Top it with a couple pickled onions and a cilantro sprig and you’re in business.