It’s that time of the year when certain foods take the stage in a grand fashion. Fall ushers in a long season of iconic ingredients, fervent favorites, and homey, familiar dishes. Much has been said, written about, and created with pumpkin. Maybe it is because this famous gourd is the very color of the changing landscape. It makes you wonder; is there anything new under the brilliant orange skin of the pumpkin?
When it comes to our taste buds, fads seem to come and go. One minute we are gushing and gorging on a new sensation and the next we’re discarding it like an old pair of leg warmers. But pumpkins are like diamonds. They will forever be loved and treasured. Maybe it’s because we don’t feast on them all year long so when their season returns, they bring to the table that wonderful combination of something new yet remembered.
The pumpkin plant originated in Central America, but it has become tied to the history of our United States. We have a reverence for pumpkins that almost no other fruit or vegetable can claim. Most of us learned in school, that pumpkins were introduced to early pilgrims by Native American Indians. They roasted long strips of pumpkin flesh over an open fire. Pumpkin, prepared as we know it now, came about much later.
The very first incarnation of the pie loved by a whole nation was a hollowed out pumpkin filled with milk, honey and spices, then roasted. From there, the pumpkin went viral and it boggles the imagination as to the multitude of ways we’ve found to slip it into a dish.
Pumpkin does seem to make everything better. It’s good for you and so versatile that it can be used in both savory and sweet dishes including soups, pastas, breads and desserts. Pumpkins provide a hefty source of Vitamin A, as well as being one of the tastiest forms of fiber. The beauty of the golden orange pumpkin is not only skin deep. That gorgeous color is an indicator of significant amounts of beta carotene, comparable to carrots, beets and sweet potatoes. Pumpkin seeds are rich in protein, minerals and fiber. The seeds possess a rich buttery taste that lends itself well to pestos, salads, as a delicious candy brittle, or when toasted and spiced, as a crunchy snack.
So, ready, set, go—get your pumpkin and start cooking! Try my recipe for PUMPKIN BREAD PUDDING. It’s the perfect way to celebrate fall!
PUMPKN BREAD PUDDING WITH VANILLA SAUCE
If your French bread is fresh, cut it into cubes and place it on metal baking pan in a 200 degree oven for 10-minutes to dry out any moisture. Stir and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes until crunchy and slightly golden brown. Allow to cool, and proceed with the recipe. A good quality vanilla, black walnut, or caramel ice cream can be melted at room temperature and then served over the bread pudding as a sauce.
8 ounces day-old or dried French bread, cut into small pieces, about 5 cups
2 cups half-and-half, or half milk and half cream
3 large eggs
2/3 cup granulated sugar or agave syrup
2/3 cup brown sugar plus more for sprinkling
2 cups of fresh, pumpkin puree or 1 can (15-ounces) pumpkin puree
1 cup dried fruit or chopped walnuts or pecans, or a combination of the two
3 tablespoons melted butter plus more to butter pan
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon plus more for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon vanilla
Butter an 11x7-inch baking dish. Heat oven to 350°.
In a large bowl, cover the French bread with the half-and-half. Press the bread into the milk with the back of a large spoon to make sure it soaks evenly. set aside.
In another bowl, combine eggs, sugar or agave syrup and brown sugar, pumpkin, dried fruit and/or nuts, melted butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and vanilla; blend well. Pour pumpkin mixture over soaked bread and stir to blend.
Pour mixture into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle top with 2 heaping tablespoons of cinnamon and brown sugar mixed together, if desired. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until set. Serve with whipped cream or an ice cream sauce, if desired.