We are full on into fall (though you’d never know it from the local weather), and that means it’s pumpkin season. While canned pumpkin is available all year round, if you like to cook with fresh pumpkin, now through November is the time to buy up those cute little ones, often called sugar pumpkins or pie pumpkins, which are best for cooking and especially for baking. Other good varietals for culinary uses include Autumn Gold, Baby Pam, Cinderella, Fairy Tale, Ghost Rider, New England Pie Pumpkin and Lumina (which are white). In general, look for the smaller ones — 4 to 8 pounds — particularly for baking. Large field pumpkins like those found in pumpkin patches are technically edible but will be stringy, watery and short on flavor. (Yes, you can eat your jack-o-lantern, but just because you can doesn’t mean you should.)
Everyone loves a classic pumpkin pie. Even better, this recipe amps up the spice factor with a hit of cayenne and boosts the umami with chicken fat in the crust. If you are averse to messing with a good thing, feel free to omit the spice and sub in butter for the chicken fat. It will still be a delicious way to end a meal.
YieldsMakes two 9-inch pies
This pumpkin bread recipe gives you options: Puree your own pumpkin or use canned (nothing wrong with that!); measure out the spices individually or substitute a pumpkin pie spice blend and if the spiced breadcrumbs aren’t speaking to you, omit them.
Time1 hour 15 minutes
YieldsMakes 2 loaves
This Punjabi-style dish called kata meetha kadu is made by stewing pumpkin in a tomato curry. Badmaash’s Nakul Mahendro likes to use either Jamaican or Long Island Cheese pumpkins from Tanaka Farms in Irvine.
YieldsServes 4 to 6
Garnished with pumpkin seed pesto, roasted pumpkin seeds and an iridescent pumpkin seed oil, Austrian chef Bernhard Mairinger’s pumpkin soup is a warming first course with an elegant presentation.
Time1 hour 30 minutes
YieldsServes 6 to 10
A pressure cooker or multi-cooker makes quick work of traditionally slow-cooked risotto while also leaving your hands free from the typical continuous stirring needed to bring out the starchy creaminess of the rice.
YieldsServes 6 to 8
Note that you can always substitute canned pumpkin puree for fresh. While pumpkin aficionados may have a lot to say about canned versus freshly made pumpkin puree, we don’t judge. Canned pumpkin puree is completely acceptable and only the most discriminating of palates might discern which you used. If you’re concerned about health benefits, the Mayo Clinic reports that both canned and fresh pumpkin puree contain plenty of nutrients, but you may want to be wary of canned pumpkin pie mix, which may have more sugar than you desire.