5@5 - Pumpkin beyond the pie
October 18th, 2011
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

Pumpkin is a delicious, thoroughly American ingredient that has been ubiquitously linked to Thanksgiving and pie since that autumn eve more than 300 years ago.

And while everybody who is anybody loves them some pumpkin pie, sometimes it's fun to try a new spin on a classic. That's where Claire Thomas comes in.

Thomas, the host of "Food for Thought," says no matter how you roast bake, or purée it, you can enjoy pumpkin from now until the patch is empty - without breaking out the pie dish.

Five Ways to Enjoy Pumpkin That Doesn't Include Pie: Claire Thomas

1. A pumpkin pasta no-brainer
"Brown butter and sage with any kind of squash or pumpkin is the ultimate of classic combinations. The sweetness of the pumpkin with earthy sage and nutty brown butter is absolutely dynamite, and for my palate, never gets old. Plus, this combination is ultra simple to put together, and only five ingredients."

Spaghetti with Roasted Pumpkin, Brown Butter and Sage


  • 1 small baking pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 bunch sage
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 pound spaghetti (or any pasta you like)
  • grated Parmesan, to taste

Cooking Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Cover the cubed pumpkin with salt, pepper and a few tablespoons of olive oil. Roast for 30 minutes, or until tender and golden brown.
  2. Boil a pot of water and add a small handful of salt. Cook your pasta until al dente (it'll be tender but still have a little bite).
  3. Meanwhile, melt butter with the sage leaves over medium heat until it smells fragrant and turns a golden brown hue (about 4 minutes).
  4. In a large bowl toss the pasta with the pumpkin and brown butter. Grate with Parmesan and serve.

2. Flip out for pumpkin
"In my version of everyone's favorite breakfast classic, I put a pumpkin twist and add some richness with ricotta and some fresh blackberry syrup to balance out the creamy sweetness of the pancakes. I’m not one for frilly recipes with extraneous steps, but beating the egg whites and folding them in make the lightest, fluffiest pancakes you could imagine. Pumpkin for breakfast is definitely a delicious thing."

For the pancakes

  • 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 hefty pinch nutmeg
  • 1 pinch cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup whole milk (or regular milk plus some heavy cream)
  • 1/2 cup fresh ricotta
  • 3/4 cup canned pumpkin purée
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Cooking Directions

  1. Whisk the dry ingredients in large bowl to blend.
  2. Whisk milk, ricotta, pumpkin, egg yolks, melted butter and vanilla in medium bowl to blend well.
  3. Add pumpkin mixture to dry ingredients; whisk just until smooth (batter will be thick).
  4. Using electric mixer, beat egg whites in another medium bowl until stiff but not dry. Fold whites into batter in two additions.
  5. Grease a large non-stick skillet and place over medium heat. Working in batches, pour batter by 1/3 cupfuls into skillet. Cook until bubbles form on the surface of the pancakes and the bottoms are brown, about 2 minutes per side.
  6. Repeat with remaining batter, greasing the skillet between batches.

For the blackberry syrup

  • 18 ounces fresh blackberries
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 1/2 cups white sugar

Cooking Directions

  1. Clean the blackberries and place them in a large bowl. Cover them with the sugar, add the juice of 1 lemon and mix with a spoon to distribute evenly. Cover with cling wrap and let the berries macerate overnight in the fridge.
  2. The next day, put the berry mixture in a large pan and bring to a slight boil (bubbles around the edges). Stir for about 10 minutes (or until the syrup clings to the spoon) and transfer the mixture to a large jar, or glass bowl and let it cool in the fridge.

3. It's the Great Pumpkin (cake), Charlie Brown
"My favorite carrot cake had a perfect 1:1 ratio of cake to frosting. That explains why it was my favorite. Rich, dense, moist and flavorful - it was perfection. However, I quickly realized that much frosting had to be overcompensating for something. That's what fat, sugar and salt does anyway, right? It adds flavor to the flavorless. So when it came time for me to make my own rendition of this classic cake, I aimed for flavor and moistness in the cake itself, with the frosting as an added bonus.

The addition of pumpkin and butternut squash create an earthier flavor and richer texture, plus the addition of classic pumpkin pie spices (ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon, etc.) turned up the volume on this autumnal dessert. It ends up becoming the Great Pumpkin Cake, so be sure to have at least a dozen friends around to try it."

For the cake


  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups olive oil
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups shelled pecans, roughly chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups sweetened, shredded coconut
  • 1 cup finely grated carrots
  • 1 cup grated butternut squash
  • 1 cup canned, puréed pumpkin

Cooking Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and spices. Set aside. With a mixer, beat the eggs until frothy and pale. Gradually add the sugars and beat for a few minutes, until the batter is thick.
  3. Add the oil in a steady stream and then beat in the vanilla extract.
  4. Add the flour mixture and pumpkin alternatively and beat on low just until incorporated.
  5. Add the vegetables, pecans and coconut and mix just to combine.
  6. Evenly divide the batter between three greased cake pans and bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. After about 5-10 minutes, invert the cakes onto the wire rack and let them cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting


  • 3 cups unsalted butter, softened
  • 16 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons orange zest
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup canned puréed pumpkin
  • 2 to 3 cups sweetened coconut flakes, lightly toasted
  • 7 to 8 halved pecans

Cooking Directions

  1. Cream the cream cheese in an electric mixer until light and a little fluffy, add the butter, beating for 1-2 minutes, or until combined. Add the brown sugar, pinch of salt, zest and vanilla extract, and beat until combined. Turn the mixer to low and add the powdered sugar and pumpkin purée alternatively. Turn the mixer on a low speed so it doesn't blow out everywhere.
  2. On a cake platter, place one layer of the cake. Working from the center outward, smooth about a half-inch of frosting. Add the second layer, repeat.
  3. On the third layer, add a large deal of frosting and working outward push the frosting over the edge, covering the sides. Continue smoothing the frosting until the entire cake is covered.
  4. Grab a handful of coconut and gently press into the sides. Continue until the entire cake is covered. Decorate the top with pecans and enjoy.

4. Soup's on!
"Consider this the anti-classic sweet potato side dish. Yes, it's filled with that squash-y, yam-my sweetness, but without the marshmallow intensity you'll find with most side dishes. Subtly spiced and all about the vegetables, this pumpkin, yam and celery root soup - with hints of smoked paprika, cumin and coriander - is the perfect autumnal appetizer."

Roasted Pumpkin Soup with Pumpkin Seeds


  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus two tablespoons
  • 2 onions, peeled and diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika (also known as pimentón)
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried chili flakes
  • 2 small baking pumpkins
  • 1 large yam
  • 1 large celery root
  • salt
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • brown sugar
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 4 cups water (if needed)
  • pepitas (toasted pumpkin seeds)

Cooking Directions

  1. Halve and seed the pumpkins, peel and halve the celery root, and coat them, plus the yam, in 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
  2. Roast in a 425 F oven for 45 minutes, or until soft and deeply browned.
  3. Heat a large pot over medium heat, add a 1/4 cup of olive oil, add the onion and garlic, caramelizing.
  4. Grind the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, and chili flakes in a mortar and pestle.
  5. Scoop the roasted pumpkin out of its shell, and the yams out of its skin, and add them, along with the celery root, to the pot with the caramelized onions. Add the spices and a pinch of salt and pepper. Add the broth and simmer for about 30 minutes.
  6. Pour the soup into a blender or using an immersion circulator, blitz the soup until luxuriously smooth.
  7. Add water if it feels too thick. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and brown sugar.

5. Mix it up
"If you have a fridge with random odds and ends of produce and you'd rather not wait until it's a wilted mess, this recipe is for you.

Quinoa is a super grain: high in protein with couscous-esque texture and nutty flavor. Perfect with an herb dressing, spices, or honestly whatever you feel like, it's that adaptable.

In fall and winter, I love this salad with sautéed kale, butternut squash, a little pecorino and maybe some persimmon for sweetness. So get a little creative and have some fun with it, and please try the roasted fennel - it's like candy."

Pumpkin, Kale, and Pomegranate Quinoa Salad


  • 2 cups quinoa
  • 2 medium fennel bulbs
  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 1 small baking pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cubed
  • 1 bunch kale, roughly chopped (no smaller than 1-inch segments)
  • 1 bunch arugula
  • 1/3 cup parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup mint, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • pinch of chili flake
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper

Cooking Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 F.
  2. Using a mandoline or your awesome knife skills, thinly slice the fennel lengthwise. Place on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, along with your cubed pumpkin. Roast the fennel for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown and crisped at the edges. Keep roasting your cubed pumpkin for another 15 minutes, until tender and golden brown.
  3. Meanwhile, put the quinoa in a pot with 4 cups of water. Bring it up to just a boil, then cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until the quinoa is just translucent and the little germ ring is visible. You might have some water left, so just strain it out. I cannot tell you how many times I've turned my quinoa into a mushy mess by forgetting about it for 2 minutes, so keep an eye on it.
  4. Place the quinoa into a large bowl and mix in the mint, parsley, and pomegranate seeds along with about a teaspoon of salt and pepper. Add the lemon juice and about a 1/4 cup olive oil, mixing thoroughly. Taste for seasoning and adjust.
  5. Heat a saucepan over medium high heat, add a tablespoon of olive oil, the kale, the garlic, chili flake, and some salt and pepper. Sauté until just wilted. Add the kale and fresh arugula to the quinoa. Mix and enjoy.

Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

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Filed under: 5@5 • Make • Recipes • Thanksgiving • Think

soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. Nicki

    when do you add thw ricotta to the pancakes? you seem to be missing a step...

    October 25, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
    • dj

      #2 It calls for it to be added.

      November 1, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
  2. ginger_mama

    3 cups of butter in that frosting? That is ALOT of butter! Is that measurement accurate?

    October 20, 2011 at 11:09 pm |
  3. SkierFamily

    Every year I make a pumpkin cheesecake that's to die for. Add a dessert pumpkin ale that's light on the spices so the flavor of the roasted pumpkin comes through and there is one rockin' Thanksgiving day dessert!

    Pumpkin Cheesecake available at Cook's Illustrated. I recommend reducing the spices by 1/2. I also recommend using a "Cinderella" pumpkin, the kind that looks like it's been squashed... ha ha... get it? Squashed? (no really, that type of pumpkin really does look flattened).

    October 20, 2011 at 11:10 am |
  4. Sara




    October 20, 2011 at 9:55 am |
  5. Chef Dotell

    I'd hit that sweet pumpkin

    October 20, 2011 at 5:36 am |
    • Good call


      October 20, 2011 at 11:35 am |
  6. Gail

    To number one we add prosciutto cubes and put it over gnocchi. The salt in the prosciutto balances out the sweet of the pumpkin.

    October 19, 2011 at 11:47 pm |
  7. Buckeye

    We make Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies every year. They go great with my homebrewed "Bag Full o' Rocks" Pumpkin Ale!

    October 19, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
    • Cathy H

      Your post sounds great.... Please share the recipe with me/us.
      Thank you!

      October 20, 2011 at 9:45 am |
      • Bierorama

        Here's the recipe I use. Delish. =]


        October 20, 2011 at 10:25 am |
  8. denim

    I want to make pumpkin ravioli. C'mon.

    October 19, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
  9. Jason L.

    My wife found a recipe for a pumpkin/pork/apple cider stew. Sounds weird, tastes amazing! It has pumpkin, apples, pork, apple cider, and apple cider vinegar, along with some other ingredients I can't remember off the top of my head, onions and potatoes I think. It's way different from the usual savory, garlicky dishes I usually cook, but it is really good. Kind of sweet 'n sour, but not overbearing, light and refreshing.

    October 19, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • denim

      So post it or a URL! You can't just leave us with the description and no recipe!

      October 19, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
    • Jason L.

      @denim: You win.


      I made it yesterday, as a matter of fact. I used a different type of apples, combination of red and russet potatoes, and pan fried the pork and onions (using vegetable oil instead of olive oil) instead of in a dutch oven. I also added a hint of alspice. The recipe I have is identical to the one in the URL, with one exception, mine calls for 3 cups of diced fresh pumpkin, not a 15 can of pumpkin. I recommend dicing a 2-3 lb baking pumpkin (3/4 inch cubes is fine), rather than the canned.

      October 20, 2011 at 10:58 am |
    • Jason L.

      Here's the exact recipe I have (I think), though I deviate from it just a bit...


      October 20, 2011 at 11:00 am |
  10. Multi-Tasking @ Work

    the spaghetti w/pumpkin looks yummy & easy...*passes the Vino

    October 19, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
  11. hawkechik

    "Fresh" blackberries? Where the heck am I supposed to get fresh blackberries this time of year?

    October 19, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
    • MC

      Chefs frequently recommend using frozen fruit in place of fresh if fresh is not available. They work just as well.

      October 19, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
    • Lee

      They are available at farmers' markets at this time of year as well as our much-acclaimed Wegmans.

      October 19, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • Jason L.

      China, Mexico, South America... all the same places that most of our produce comes from. Probably you'll just go get it at your local grocery store... if you really want to look at the sticker and see what 3rd world country it comes from, you can, it might just be depressing to see that it is more cost effective to ship produce raised by underpaid laborers across the ocean and use virtually all our arable land here in the U.S. to produce corn syrup, cattle feed, soy oil and ethanol fuel.

      As long as we don't grow more than four or five crops in the U.S., and with our technology, a handful of people can farm tens of millions of acres of land. We can't afford to pay U.S. farmers' wages to grow more selective crops here. Besides, fresh everything is always in season when it is coming from all corners of the earth.

      October 19, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
  12. Tony

    Way too many ingredients. Emeril's cooking does the same thing. If it takes a shelf from a grocery store to make, I'm not interested.

    October 19, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • Jax

      I hear ya! Here's a simple pumpkin soup recipe:

      October 20, 2011 at 11:55 am |
  13. AleeD

    Wasn't hungry before I read that.

    October 19, 2011 at 8:22 am |
    • Jerv@AleeD

      Yeah, me too. And that Great Pumpkin Cake recipe is a great score.

      October 19, 2011 at 8:37 am |
    • AleeD@Jerv

      *eyes spinning, stomach grumbling*
      All these recipes made my mouth water.

      October 19, 2011 at 8:44 am |
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