With Halloween looming ominously in the distance, allow me to regale you with a spooky tale. You’re in the canned goods aisle at your grocery store, on the hunt for the season’s hottest commodity: pumpkin. You grab a couple of cans of purée, visions of cheeky jack-o’-lanterns dancing in your mind.
But the canned purée doesn’t come from those archetypal orange pumpkins at all! (This is where you gasp.)
A couple of years ago, in an effort to determine why pies made with fresh orange pumpkin never tasted as delicious as those made with the canned stuff, Melissa Clark reported the following: Libby’s, a leading supermarket brand, actually makes its purée from a variety of squash called Dickinson, which are beige and oblong, and taste like a cross between butternut squash and kabocha.
“Though the designation may be misleading, it’s perfectly legal,” she wrote. “According to the Food and Drug Administration, any canned purée ‘prepared from golden-fleshed, sweet squash or mixtures of such squash with field pumpkins’ can be labeled pumpkin.”
But unlike most scary stories, this one ends happily. Orange field pumpkins just don’t taste great, so there’s no need to wrangle a big globe in the kitchen. Save those for carving and, of course, for roasted pumpkin seeds.
So grab a can for vegan coconut curry chickpeas with pumpkin and lime, a beloved five-star recipe from Melissa herself in which the squash, along with canned coconut milk, is transformed into a silky sweet and spicy sauce with the help of garam masala, cumin and turmeric, as well as plenty of jalapeño, ginger and garlic.
Or make a pot of Lidey Heuck’s supremely creamy pumpkin soup, fragrant with rosemary and apple cider. It too can be vegan with a couple of simple swaps: olive oil for the butter and full-fat coconut milk for the heavy cream. Could you roast smaller sugar pumpkin for deeper flavor? Sure! Must you? Absolutely not.
You could also go in a sweeter direction with sheet-pan pumpkin pancakes, an enterprising new recipe from Yossy Arefi. When preparing an autumnal brunch spread for a group, skip the griddle in favor of this large-format pancake that uses up a can of pumpkin purée and can easily be sliced into squares and served.
Whether you’re taking little ones trick-or-treating or hitting up a costume party, perhaps the most universal way to celebrate this spooky holiday is to put on your favorite scary movie (or a fall classic if you’re a big baby like me), and partake in a little pumpkin cookery.
One More Thing!
To stay onboard the squash train, read Christina Morales’s article about ayote en miel, a sweet squash offering that those who celebrate Día de los Muertos present to their ancestors. In many Latin American countries, people who are observing the holiday trek to cemeteries with this dessert of winter squash, like butternut squash or cinderella pumpkin, stewed in a syrup spiced with cinnamon, allspice and cloves. “This was our candy,” said Alicia Maher, a cookbook author who grew up in El Salvador.
Let it be yours, too! Thanks for reading, and see you next week.