Alas, we head into the last quarter of the year when nature’s color changes from shades of green to
yellows, reds and orange. Some specifically wait for this changing of the leaves and make special
trips just to view nature’s ever changing palette. I simply see this seasonal change as pumpkin time.
More than just a Jack-O-Lantern
Pumpkins should be viewed as more than just Jack-O-Lantern fodder. The whole gourd family can
be used as both side dish and featured entrée. Along with the popular orange variety that appear
along roadside stands in October (and their miniature cousins that simply grace the dining table as
decorations), members of this gourd family can do much more than simply serve as pie filling.
A pumpkin a day…
Well, maybe not a whole pumpkin a day but several servings a week – including those tasty roasted
seeds – do contribute to nutritional well being. Along with a healthy dose of beta-carotene,
vitamin C and potassium, the seeds are a good source of the fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid. This
fatty acid can then be converted into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid
(DHA). If they look familiar to you, it’s because they are the famed omega-3 fat duo found in
some of the fish oil supplements available at the drug store.
It’s been shown that EPA and DHA can reduce subsequent heart attacks in patients who already
have suffered their first heart attack. We’re not quite sure how much EPA and DHA the human
body makes when consuming a diet high in alpha-linolenic acid – however, we know that their by-
products don’t contribute to excess blood clotting or blood vessel constriction. Therefore along
with being nutritional heavyweights, pumpkins can also add variety to your menu.
Baked, braised and mashed
Try a pumpkin or squash gratin by slicing ¼ to ½ inch thick sections and baking along with other
root vegetables – potatoes, carrots, parsnips, and celery root – for a hearty side dish or add a little
beef or chicken stock reduction for a meatless main course. For a twist on the typical candied,
baked yams at Thanksgiving, try using the kabocha variety along with brown sugar and orange
juice (can add marshmallows if you must ). Kabocha has an inherent sweetness rivaling most sweet
Pumpkins can also be braised with daikon, brown sugar, shoyu and ginger for a savory, Asian side
dish (Chad Kanehira, produce manager for Safeway Manoa, has a good recipe listed on the
Hawaiian Electric, Electric Kitchen Website in October 2001 – www.heco.com/CDA/frontDoor -
then follow the Electric Kitchen links).
Pumpkins can also be cooked and mashed then added to a variety of other dishes. They can
sweeten and color an otherwise bland mashed potato recipe. They can also be added to various
sweet breads – add equal portions instead of mashed bananas to get pumpkin bread instead of
banana bread. Or use as filling in won ton wrappers, boil then toss with sage and butter for a
classic Italian dish.
The uses for pumpkins and their kin are virtually endless. Since prices are probably at their lowest
this time of the year, I suggest picking up a pumpkin or two for culinary experimentation (you
can still also purchase those extra pumpkins for carving) or better yet, use Jack-O-Lantern extras
and cut-outs for the cooking. And don’t forget to save and roast those seeds!
This is my personal variety of the Oat Cake which usually costs $1.50 to $2 at your neighborhood
gourmet coffee shop. If you still can’t bring yourself to purchase a whole pumpkin “just for
cooking”, you can substitute plain canned pumpkin in this recipe.
The Gochiso’s Pumpkin Oat Cake
1 & 1/2 cup quick cook oatmeal
1 cup oat flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 pinch salt
1 cup cooked, mashed pumpkin
½ cup apple juice concentrate
2 egg whites
½ cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. spray 12 individual muffin molds with non-stick spray. Combine
the oatmeal, oat flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In another bowl,
combine the pumpkin, apple juice concentrate, egg whites, maple syrup and vanilla. Fold this
mixture into the oat meal/flour mixture. Evenly divide into the muffin molds and bake for 20-23
minutes. Allow to cool for 15 minutes