Pumpkin. The new bacon.

18 Oct

Wow!  That sure got your attention, now didn’t it?  Pumpkin is the new bacon?  You bet.  I read it on the internet so it must be true (insert sarcastic tone and indignant faux cough with a hair toss here).  Seriously though, it’s an interesting culinary perspective don’t you think?  When sharing this statement with a friend, he became certain that this is a conspiracy at work here. He says nothing could ever be the new bacon!

What, exactly, does this mean…the new bacon. Well, I am not sure.  I took it to mean that pumpkin is the new “must have” ingredient that everyone is trying.  So not to be one left in the dark, I decided that pumpkin was MY new bacon.  I became determined to begin cooking with pumpkin.  But first, I delved into the nutritional facts.

First, pumpkin is a vegetable but called a “pumpkin fruit”.  Ironic, but not when you consider that food is often classified in many ways.  Pumpkins date back centuries in our history, and for good reason!  They are delicious, moist, have loads of health benefits, and are a heart healthy food.

Second, we recognize that most varieties of pumpkin are orange.  Color is important in the food we eat.  The pigment has “non nutritive” health benefits.  Pigment in food contributes important antioxidants to our diet. In other words, it is super beneficial to our cells relating to oxidation, a reaction similar to “rust” as we see on metal.  Same basic principle.  The bright orange color means that pumpkin is bursting with antioxidants!  And antioxidants keep our skin elastic and healthy looking.

Another great point to consider is that pumpkin is a great source of beta-carotene, which our bodies convert to vitamin A.  They are low in calories and sodium free.  Pumpkin is also a great source of vitamin C, potassium, and fiber.  It is a heart friendly food too.  Studies show that canned pumpkin has all of the health benefits that fresh pumpkin does, so there is no reason not to jump on this bandwagon!

Okay, now on to the fun stuff.  Recipes!  Oh, I looked at them all!  Appetizers, desserts, pumpkin dice, pumpkin pureé, pumpkin seeds.  At first I was amazed that pumpkin is so versatile.  Thrilled, in fact, by the possibilities.  But in the end I followed my affinity for grilling and pizza to my very own pumpkin heaven.  Yup.  I made grilled pumpkin pizza.  And it was delish!

I did two pizzas.  One pizza with pumpkin puree as the sauce, and a second with pumpkin chunks as a topping.  Here is what I did.

I bought 2 “sugar” pumpkins, or pie pumpkins.  They are a smaller variety. I cut them in half, took out the seeds and strings, placed the cut side down on a baking sheet, and roasted them in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes.  I pulled them out, turned them open side up, and let them cool.  I could then easily cut the skin away.

2 small sugar pumpkins, roasted and cut out of their skin.

Next, I cut the meat of one pumpkin into a small dice, and the other one I used for the puree.  The puree was intended to be a pizza sauce, so I wanted it thick.  I blended the pumpkin meat with a little butter and milk until it was the consistency I desired.  I also tossed in some salt and pepper.  That is it. Simple!

I made my basic pizza crust on the grill.   But I must digress for a moment for the sake of accuracy.  I certainly had a partner in crime for this event.  Denis was the partner by my side to discuss toppings, seasonings, flavors, and technique.  So I say I, but certainly mean we.  These recipes are the genius of both us.  Now back to the recipes!

I pulled the 2 pizza crusts off the grill and met Denis at the island in the kitchen.  We had a blast loading up our pizza pies!  For the toppings, we decided on goat cheese, grilled ham, and pesto to add to our pumpkin.

Pumpkin pizza. This pizza has half pesto sauce and half pumpkin sauce. Next, we threw some savory toppings on!

The other pizza had diced pumpkin on it.  We did not have a sauce, just the pizza crust and toppings.  Two pizza toppings, 1 with pizza sauce and one with pizza chunks as a topping.  Very different consistencies, mouth feel, and taste sensations.  Both were very pleasant, and had the essence of fall in the flavors.  Fantastic!  These pizzas certainly elicited some moanable moments while being taste tested!

Now it’s your turn.  Get some pumpkins.  Cook them up.  Develop your own recipes,  Mix diced pumpkin with pasta, puree with bread.  Pumpkin risotto.  Pumpkin pancakes.  How many other things can you think of?  For me, this is simply a jumping off point with so many places to go with pumpkin.  Denis is a genius at soups, so I know that an amazingly delicious pumpkin soup is in our future.  Any way you make it, you will be enjoying a fantastic nutrition packed food.  Keep in touch and let me know where pumpkin takes you!

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