Yeah, it’s me again—the pumpkin police. Every fall I keep a continual watch over the activities on my neighbors’ porches. They all put out pumpkins around Halloween, but those glorious orbs of orange, blue, white and pink probably never make it back into their kitchens—they might, but I sorta don’t think so. OK, I know that it is a considerable amount of work to wash, split, roast and process large pumpkins. But I also know that the amazing flavor of big heirloom squash is worth the effort. And who buys food just to throw it away? Be brave.
My friend Jackie Mills, owner of The Family Garden in New Douglas, IL, grew the most amazing squash this year, including a magnificent array of pumpkins in hues of blue, pink, gold and amber. My favorite was one called—and you can see why in my cover shot—the Fairy Tale Pumpkin. Come on, who can resist that? I had to have one, and another, and another and… well, maybe I did get carried away.
I’m going to be cooking up a lot of pumpkin the rest of the winter and revisiting previous pumpkin recipes here on the blog, like last year’s Granola Bar and Pumpkin Pudding Squares and a 2016 favorite: Pumpkin and Black Bean Soup. But for now, let’s concentrate on a new recipe that will make excellent use of a large pumpkin and is perfect for Christmas dinner or New Year’s Day brunch.
I think you are going to love my Pistachio-Encrusted Pumpkin Wedges, which are rich, melt in your mouth sweet and salty, vegan (unless you choose to add a little Parmigiano Reggiano), gluten-free and gorgeous. Yes, this dish takes a little work, but it’s not hard, and the result will be a delicious side dish that will turn every head at the holiday table. Plus, you can get part of the work done ahead of time, so no big rush on party day. Shall we get out that carving knife??
- One large pumpkin, preferably an heirloom variety with intensely orange-red flesh for the best flavor
- One and one-half cups shelled raw pistachios
- Eight to 10 fresh sage leaves
- Two tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
- Two tablespoons rosemary leaves
- One teaspoon coarse sea salt
- One-half teaspoon white pepper
- One-quarter cup finely shredded Parmigiano Reggiano (optional)
- Zest of one large or two small lemons (Don’t skimp here; the lemon zest makes the pumpkin pop--BIG.)
- Two tablespoons olive oil
- Two tablespoons San-J Tamari or Bragg Amino Acids (Either works here, and both are excellent products.)
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Thoroughly wash and dry your pumpkin. If necessary, remove the stem. Slice in half vertically—and it certainly helps to have a sturdy stable cutting board, a sharp chef’s knife and a friend in the kitchen to help you hold the pumpkin steady and in place. Remove the pumpkin seeds (for either spring planting or roasting later on) and any of the really stringy membrane in the center of the squash.
- Lightly brush the exposed flesh of the pumpkin with olive oil and place cut-side down on a sturdy rimmed baking sheet, lined with parchment paper. I strongly suggest using the parchment paper for a much easier cleanup. Pumpkin is deliciously sugary, but it tends to burn and stick. (I use a lot of parchment paper when I cook, and if you are looking for a good-quality parchment paper yourself, I suggest If You Care brand.) Roast your pumpkin halves for about 30 minutes. They will not be done, but they will be getting soft and will be fairly easy to slice and peel. Set aside to cool until you can safely handle the pumpkin halves.
- Once your pumpkin halves have cooled enough to handle, say 20 minutes, cut your two halves into thick slices—as uniform as you can manage, but don’t obsess because heirloom pumpkins are anything but uniform. Just try not to get the slices too thick so that the final baking will result in uniform doneness. Now trim away the pumpkin skin. At this point, you can either continue with preparation of the dish, or place your pumpkin slices in covered dishes in your frig for up to three days.
- If you’ve refrigerated your pumpkin slices, take them out of the frig at least an hour before completing the dish to get them close to room temperature. What you are going to do next is make an assembly line, so prep is ultra-important, as follows:
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Put the pistachios, all the herbs, the coarse salt, white pepper and lemon zest (cheese, too, if you are including it) in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until you have a fine crumb mixture that is very well combined. Place this in a large flat bowl or rimmed plate for easy coating. I’d begin with half the mixture and add more as necessary to finish your pumpkin wedges. Any unused coating will work beautifully as a Dukkah for soups, dips or even eggs.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the Tamari and olive oil. Set aside.
- Have ready two large rimmed baking sheets, lined with parchment paper.
- Begin by brushing each pumpkin slice with the Tamari-olive oil mixture. Then, dredge your slice through the pistachio mixture, patting it onto the slice to get a fairly thick, even coat. Turn the slice over and repeat. You should have enough mixture for about eight to 10 large slices. Extra pumpkin slices can be added to soups or casseroles. No wasting!
- As you complete each slice, place it on the parchment-lined baking sheets. Do not crowd. You want an inch between each slice for even baking, so go with a third baking sheet, if you need. Bake your pumpkin slices for 20 minutes, or until the coating begins to brown slightly and the pumpkin is soft.
- Carefully transfer to a pretty round platter, arranging in a spiral design, if you wish.
The hour prep time refers to the initial preparation and pre-baking of the pumpkin. The cook time refers to the oven time of the prepared wedges. Preparation of the breading and the process of coating the wedges takes about 20-30 minutes total. So if you are doing this all at once, figure about 2 hours in all. If you don't have a pumpkin but do have a large Hubbard squash, that works nicely, as well. You just need a big squash, at least 6-7 pounds.
I have served these lovely wedges just as they are or with a dollop of cilantro-laced sour cream. Up to you.
So what about that pie? Oh, I’m with ya…I adore classic pumpkin pie and have made a few nice ones in my day. But then came my daughter’s need to be gluten free. So we adjusted, but we didn’t sacrifice a bit of taste or satisfaction because of my longtime love affair with Delicious Living Magazine. It’s the experts at DL that first came to my gluten-free rescue, offering wonderful recipes, tested cooking tips and sage advice on the right ingredients to start creating my own gluten-free goodies. This holiday season is no exception—they are my go-to source for healthy, scrumptious dishes. And here’s just a sample—these Creamy Pumpkin Bars with Orange-Oat Crust. This recipe caught my eye right away because I have always loved the beautiful partnership between pumpkin and oranges—so complimentary. So give this recipe a try; you’ll never miss the pumpkin pie. Promise.
Have you signed up for the Seasonal Menu at Green Gal? More pumpkin recipes await! For the Winter Solstice email I’ll be featuring a Three Sisters Soup, inspired by the famous Iroquois legend that is really a recipe for one-pot regenerative agriculture. It’s a perfect answer to using up the extra pre-cooked pumpkin in the featured recipe above. Curious? Hungry? Sign up and stay tuned.