Imagine if your whole life revolved around pumpkins.Imagine growing different types from all over the world and turning them into all sorts of dishes. This is the life of Sarah Frey, the pumpkin queen who is steadily changing the way we think about pumpkins. They're not just for Halloween anymore but for fall dining.
Kim Severson interviewed this interesting pumpkin mogul for today's New York Times Food section. The squash has been good to her as she plants such diverse varieties as the rough skinned peanut and slate green Jarrahdales from Australia as well as the blue green Marina di Chioggas from Italy. Her jacks, industry shorthand for Jack'o lantern, the tradtional bright orange ones are sold at Lowe's and Walmart. Now she's after other big box stores such as Target and Trader Joe's to sell her line Pumpkins of the World for home chefs. She researched and also knew from her experience that only the most dedicated cook would crack open a twelve pounder so she looked into growing smaller ones that would good on the front porch while being tasty and versatile in the kitchen,There's only one problem. Americans can't seem to get beyond pumpkin pies and pumpkin breads. All over the world the gourd is used in a variety of dishes.It shows up in Indian curries. Mexicans make a mole out of it.It graces stews across Africa.It can go beyond pies as any Piedmontese chef will tell you. We've been turning it into a creamy milk and butter laced soup for generations.
Another problem is that some fresh pumpkins don't translate well into pie. The flesh comes out stringy and cloying, perhaps a bit too "squashy" tasting for some. Home chefs should stick with the heirloom variety. These are deep bright orange in color and resemble the quintessential Halloween decoration.Mostly it's best for savory dishes,something Ms. Frey is trying to impress on American home chefs.Professional chefs have also urged this too. Chef Dorie Greenspan, author of "Around My French Table" has given an interesting spin on stuffed pumpkin. Hers is Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good and features a baked whole pumpkin filled with bread, cheese and bacon.It became popular with food bloggers and also on food shows but then went nowhere. Since then there hasn't been a breakout recipe featuring the many varieties from the Japanese kabocha to the Italian ans Australian ones Yet pumpkin is wonderful in ravioli with a sage butter sauce and it can even be turned into gnocchi.Ms Severson includes Ms. Frey's stuffed pumpkin recipe.It's a mix of scallions and Gruyere cheese heated with red pepper flakes Kale and scallions are added for color and flavor.The article's second recipe is chicken and dumplings with pumpkin from the cookbook, My Two Souths by Asha Gomez.It's a marriage of chicken with not only raw pumpkin but with celery and ginger too, Dumplings are added at the last for more body.
Ms. Frey is turning America into her pumpkin kingdom. It's time we get past those pies and breads and discover just how tasty the gourd is. One day we'll realize what Ms. Frey already knows, that they're versatile and easy to cook with.