Finally, a national food holiday that seems appropriate for the date! No strawberry ice cream in January here 😉 Today is Pumpkin Day, celebrating that bright orange gourd that always heralds the start of brisk, late fall–and jack o’lanterns 🙂 Lots of people think about pumpkins just as decoration around the Halloween holidays–or as the indscriminate filling in a pumpkin pie–but they can be so much more. There are quite a few varieties of pumpkins, which are cultivated all over the world for everything from animal feed to decoration. Their hard outer skins can be anywhere from a pale, almost white to dark green to the bright orange we see on everybody’s doorstep this month. And while Americans love to carve pumpkins as decorations for Halloween, they’re also delicious to use in both sweet and savory dishes! The seeds, the flesh, and even the flowers of pumpkins are edible, and used in different culinary cultures around the world. It’s so much more than the headless horseman’s head or Cinderella’s transformed carriage!
There’s already a national food holiday coming up for pumpkin pie, so I really wanted to steer clear of everything that involved the processed, crappy pumpkin pie filling you find in cans at the grocery store. I never grew up eating pumpkin pie–on Thanksgiving my family was a staunch supporter of sweet potato pie instead–so I never really had exposure to the pumpkin pie filling that’s so far removed from real pumpkins. And, like lots of kids on Halloween, I carved my pumpkins dutifully into jack o’lanterns, scooping out the seeds and roasting them for a quick, fun fall snack. But it wasn’t until I moved into my own apartment did I consider actually eating the uniquitous orange gourds! The best pumpkins for culinary purposes are pale beige sugar pumpkins, which are slightly squatter than jack o’lantern pumpkins, because their flesh is much sweeter than other varieties. But this October 26, it’s much easier to find the bright orange pumpkins, which are bred for their color and sturdiness for their main purpose. If you can find a sugar or even a flat “cheese” pumpkin at your grocery store, you’re in luck! But I’ve given in and used jack o’lantern pumpkins for cooking anyway 😛 My favorite recipe is called Pumpkin Stuffed With Everything Good, and it is basically everything you hear in the description. It’s delicious, sinfully easy to make, and the presentation of serving your dinner out of a huge pumpkin is definitely worth the effort. I’ll definitely be making that recipe tonight for Pumpkin Day…how will you be celebrating?
Maybe try out a pumpkin dish you’ve never had before–like a little bowl of pumpkin soup? Wild Ginger, a vegan restaurant with two locations in Cobble Hill and Little Italy, makes a pumpkin soup that no one has ever seen before. Unlike traditional pumpkin soups made from pumpkin puree, it’s a broth-based soup, so you get chunks of pumpkin and other seasonal veggies with every spoonful. Sweet potato and white cannelini beans make up this triumvirate of autumn goodness, making you feel warmed and comforted with each bite. It’s definitely a new take on an old classic, and I love the idea of showing diners the different ways you can try pumpkin–even the different ways you can make a pumpkin soup. Order this as an appetizer to warm you up on these ever-increading cold nights, and then follow up with their Malaysian coconut curry stew, with chunks of potato and pumpkin. Yum!
112 Smith St (between Pacific St & Dean St), Cobble Hill
“If sweet baked goods aren’t your thing, go for a more savory pumpkin dish– Pumpkin Soup. Wild Ginger offers theirs with sweet potato and white beans, and it’s only $5!”–Becoming Brooklyn
“Holy Yum was this soup good. I was expecting a blended opaque orange concoction, but this was in fact broth-based with chunks of pumpkin, sweet potato, onion, tomato and white beans. I loved this soup. It was freezing outside and this completely did the trick. The broth was light but flavorful, without being too salty. The pumpkin and sweet potato were smooth and delicious. The beans were soft but still had some give to them. As Jim said, I won the soup round for the night. I’d go for some of this soup right now.”–Vegan Friendly NYC
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“The ambiance was lovely, dimly lit, and mellow. The house white wine was $5! and I ordered the bi bim bap which came with a pumpkin soup. I never knew pumpkin soup could be so light and tasty! I was a huge fan and the bi bim bap was damn tasty and filling, too.”–Kara M.
“Fast, cheap, healthy lunch. I made it through the winter with waistline and wallet intact by ordering the pumpkin soup about once a week. May not be filling enough for a large appetite, but the big chunks of pumpkin and white beans kept me sustained.”–Maddie O.
One of the most popular ways to include pumpkin in savory dishes is pumpkin ravioli. When you puree the pumpkin flesh and add seasonings, it works as the perfect, pliable filling to ravioli. The atmosphere of the dish can change on a whim from the spices you use in the filling and the sauce accompanying the pasta: savory seasonings like thyme and cloves, paired with a cream sauce, will make for a perfectly powerful dish, while softer, mellower flavors can heighten the natural sweetness of the pumpkin. Pietrasanta in Hell’s Kitchen makes their pumpkin ravioli in a roasted red pepper sauce, which, unlike many people’s perceptions of all things pepper, also has its sweet notes. It’s a great departure from ricotta-filled ravioli, and definitely takes Italian cuisine in a new direction, especially for experienced Italian diners who want to try something with a little twist.
683 9th Ave (between 47th St & 48th St)
“Pietrasanta is as welcoming to neighborhood regulars as to tourists in the city for a night of theater. The pumpkin ravioli is a favorite, as are the hummus and flavored butter spreads.”–Lonely Planet
“Bambinos will love the Northern Italian cuisine at this cozy Hell’s Kitchen eatery. They can nosh year-round on the homemade ravioli di zucca—pumpkin ravioli in a roasted-pepper cream sauce.”–Time Out New York Kids
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“Warm, comforting, casual atmosphere, very friendly and fast service, and the food was delicious. Italian comfort food, is how I’d describe it. I had the crab cake appetizer and the pumpkin ravioli. Both were generous portions and came piping hot out of the kitchen and were good. And a glass of the house red. I think the total with tip was around $40. Maybe not the flashiest, trendiest place on the block, but it sure hits the spot for quality, comforting Italian food at reasonable prices.”–Tara M.
“Having tix to see Memphis, we decided to check out Pietrasanta for our pre-show dinner. Restaurant manager sat us right away and was very prompt with menus and first round of drinks. Pumpkin ravioli special was delicious. They make there own pasta so I strongly suggest you try it. Taste for yourself the difference over the standard factory produced variety.”–Steve M.
Even though I said I’d stay away from the sweet pumpkin pie and all the other pumpkin-flavored foods for today–that includes white chocolate pumpkin lattes, no matter how wonderful they taste!–I do have to include a pumpkin pastry in here or I’d be doing a disservice to Pumpkin Day. There are so many wonderful baked goods you can make with pumpkin! In college, the faculty master of my dorm made the best pumpkin cheesecake, and he’d auction off a pie during the holidays. You can still get that wonderful, spicy, sweet autumn feeling at One Girl Cookies–with her pumpkin whoopie pies! The light and fluffy “bread” to the whoopie pie sandwich is pumpkin cake, and the “whoopie” that makes a whoopie pie is made from cream cheese. They’re a little larger than bite-sized, but not big enough to spoil you for all that Halloween candy you’re planning to eat over the next week. Be careful, because that decieving size makes One Girl Cookies’ whoopie pies really addictive–you’ll convince yourself you’ll want to eat more!
One Girl Cookies
68 Dean St (between Boerum Pl & Smith St), Cobble Hill
“One Girl, which has room for strollers and a long bench on which kids like to congregate, specializes in petite cookies—perfectly sized for little hands. But the big draw here is the pumpkin whoopie pies—mini sandwiches made from pumpkin cake and cream-cheese frosting.”–Time Out New York Kids
“Whoopie pies gets proper treatment at One Girl Cookies. Their four-bite pies are neither too big nor too small. Two plush rounds of soft pumpkin cookie-cakes are bound together with a sweet swoosh of cream cheese frosting. In the summer, they trade in in the cream cheese filling for a scoop of Il Laboratorio del Gelato’s ricotta gelato. Brilliant. And delicious both ways.”–Serious Eats
“One Girl Cookies’ pies are the perfect size: just a few bites worth, enough to satisfy your sweet tooth without completely blowing your day’s caloric intake. The filling is sweet without being cloying and the subtle pumpkin flavor is, in a word, addictive.”–Carroll Gardens Patch
“For old-school whoopie pies which tickle your taste buds, head to Boerum Hill. One Girl Cookies’ pumpkin whoopie pies will please the kids – and your inner-child. Filled with cream cheese frosting, you’ll be delighted by these delicious cookie-cake hybrids.”–CBS New York
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“I’m the kind of guy who would rather get a second burger than order dessert. Unless there is something with coconut on the dessert menu, in which case I will giggle like a girl and order said coconut item. Anyway, my point is that even if you don’t really like sweets, the pumpkin whoopie pie will delight your senses. Five stars. The chocolate whoopie pie, three stars – I know some people hate the word “moist” but the chocolate just isn’t as MOIST as the pumpkin. I don’t know why. Sorry, moist haters. Pumpkin plus chocolate divided by two equals four. Also, nice people work here and the coffee is good. Win.”–Brad C.
“As it stands, if I brought my best female friend here, she would likely laugh me all the way back to Manhattan. But hopefully not before I got to purchase another pumpkin whoopie pie, which is by far the best thing I’ve had at One Girl Cookies. The moist pumpkin cake caps achingly give way to a cream cheese frosting center, a truly felicitous combination. I once wondered when looking at their website why they would offer a 36-piece box of them. Now I have my answer: so that the box would last in my apartment *two* days instead of one.”–Lawrence C.
Make sure you check out the updated NYC Food Holidays Map to find this most recent holiday!