ON COOKING: Chef Dez makes his pitch for pumpkins

Pumpkins aren’t just for carving and pie. They are a versatile fruit in savory dishes

Email your cooking questions to Chef Dez at dez@chefdez.com.Email your cooking questions to Chef Dez at dez@chefdez.com.

By Chef Dez, Special to Black Press Media

Don’t you just love the autumn harvest? The feeling of a crisp breeze in the air, the sound and sight of rustling leaves in a rainbow of colours, and a plentiful array of gourds, squash, and pumpkins available at the produce counter.

Pumpkins are obviously one of the more popular harvests this time of the year. Walking through suburban neighborhoods on Halloween night and gazing at all the eerily lit creations sitting in windows and on front porches can make one hungry – well, at least for me!

I feel that pumpkin as a food is quite neglected in our everyday diets. Although this bright orange squash is approximately ninety per cent water, it is loaded with beta-carotene (an important antioxidant) and a list of nutritional elements that play an important role in a well-balanced diet.

Pumpkin is a member of the squash family and as with all squash, is a fruit. Any product of a plant containing seeds is botanically classified as fruit, just like melons for example. Squashes are closely related to the melon family of plants.

There are two main general types of squash – summer squash and winter squash. Summer squash are ones that are not able to be stored for long periods of time. Zucchini would be an excellent representation of a popular summer squash.

Winter squash on the other hand can be stored for long periods of time under ideal storage conditions. They should be kept away from light and in an area that is moderately cooler than room temperature. Good ventilation is also necessary. Along with pumpkins, other winter squash are acorn, butternut, and autumn squash.

Pumpkins are most popularly used as jack-o-lanterns on Halloween night, and in varying recipes of pies, cakes, and soups. Rarely does one see pumpkin served at the table on its own. It can be used in any application that one would use other winter squashes, and undeniably will offer more flavour to the dish. Just keep in mind that there are different varieties of pumpkins out there that are better suited for certain applications – talk to the produce staff.

Cubes of oven-roasted pumpkin, in a medley of other colourful vegetables, are a perfect accompaniment to an autumn meal.

Alternatively, try using small chunks of pumpkin in your next stir-fry or pasta dish. To make preparation easier, cut the pumpkin into workable pieces to aid in peeling and chopping.

Winter squashes should always be peeled before consuming. Their tougher skin is often challenging for the traditional vegetable peeler, and therefore a knife may be more facilitating for this task. Afterwards, chop the pumpkin into pieces best suited for the recipe being planned.

As well as the flesh, the seeds are also edible. The seeds are sometimes easily forgotten about and discarded along with the innards. Roasted pumpkin seeds can easily be prepared and transformed into a nutritional snack.

Separate the seeds from the extracted inner filaments and lightly coat the seeds with vegetable or olive oil. Toss with salt and pepper, or seasoning salt, if desired, and roast them on a baking sheet in a 450-degree oven, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and crispy, approximately 12 to 15 minutes. Be careful to watch them closely as they burn quite easily.

Serve them in a bowl on their own, or with a mixture of other seeds, nuts, and dried fruit. Pumpkin seeds are credited with a number of medicinal properties and are a great source of numerous minerals. However, due to their high fat content, they should always be consumed in moderation. A serving size of nuts or seeds is equivalent to approximately the size of a golf ball.

Dear Chef Dez,

We always buy cans of pureed pumpkin this time of year for different dessert recipes. Since pumpkins are available fresh, wouldn’t it be more economical to make it myself? How do I go about doing this?

John G., Chilliwack

Dear John,

It can be done quite easily. Cut a fresh pumpkin in half and remove the seeds and the stringy filaments. Place the cut sides down on a baking sheet and bake in a 350-degree oven until the flesh is very tender – approximately one hour. Spoon the cooked flesh off the skin and into a food processor and puree until smooth. Transfer it to a large, fine wire mesh strainer set over a bowl, cover and let drain in the refrigerator overnight. Discard the liquid, and use the drained puree in any fashion that you would with canned.

.

– Chef Dez is a food columnist and culinary instructor in the Fraser Valley. Visit him at www.chefdez.com. Send questions to dez@chefdez.com or to P.O. Box 2674, Abbotsford, B.C. V2T 6R4

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Barry Brinkwater with a chandelier from a real-life haunted house that has been added to the Brinkworth Dungeon at 22260 48th Ave (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Final year for Brinkworth Dungeon in Langley

Even bigger and better than previous editions for it’s last hurrah

Joseph Richards Group, which operates 25 restaurants, pubs, and establishments in the Lower Mainland – including several in Langley – was presented with a collaboration award from the chamber. (Special to Langley Advance Times)
Resilient Langley businesses lauded for their COVID twists

Langley chamber of commerce held its annual business award, but morphed it into a ‘community edition’

Students at Langley’s Brookswood school were among an estimated 85,000 students who cast ballots representing all 87 electoral districts in the province, mirroring the actual election (file)
How would young people have decided the B.C. Election? We have an answer.

In Langley, Maple Ridge and neighbouring Abbotsford ridings, the winners would be the same

Halloween houses around Aldergrove. (Ryan Uytdewilligen/Aldergrove Star)
PHOTOS: Halloween houses around Aldergrove

Ghosts, goblins, and gravestones are covering front yards this October

Fort Langley’s Jackson Jacob burned up Surrey’s Northview Golf and Country Club, burning up the course with a 10-undert par 62 and setting a UFV scoring record in tournament play as the BC Rivalry Series continued on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020 (Bob Frid/UBC Athletics)
A record-setting performance by Fort Langley golfer Jackson Jacob

Set new UFV team scoring record with blistering round of play at Northview

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

A police pursuit ended with an arrest in Williams Lake on Highway 97 Sunday afternoon. (Facebook video screenshot)
Video catches police pursuit that ends with man kicked, punched in Williams Lake

A video of the arrest is getting widely shared on social media

This Crescent Beach home, located at 12505 22 Ave., was subject of a police search warrant June 18. (Google image)
Civil forfeiture office alleges $2M Surrey home was used to launder cannabis money

Court documents request the home, and $85,000 to be turned over to the government

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Provincial Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau speaks at Provincial Green Party headquarters at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe in Victoria. (Arnold Lim / Black Press)
VIDEO: Furstenau leads BC Greens to win first riding outside of Vancouver Island

Sonia Furstenau became leader of BC Greens one week before snap election was called

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

Most Read