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Pumped about pumpkin: Food, flavor, fragrance of the season

It’s the flavor of the season, above and beyond the pumpkin pie you’ll be enjoying on Thanksgiving.

Area chefs have been celebrating this versatile vegetable with creative dishes on their seasonal menus.

Elements, Downtown, for example, lists Pumpkin Soup ($9) with a savory mix of crab, curry, mint and scallions, and a pumpkin vinaigrette dresses its Apple Endive Panzanella Salad ($9).

A tempting appetizer at Gypsy Cafe, South Side, is Pumpkin-Curry Hummus ($8) topped with ground lamb, sauteed onion, toasted pine nuts and dusted with ground sumac. As an entree, pumpkin heads will chose the Sweet Potato and Pumpkin Gnocchi ($16) served in sage browned butter.

Girasole, Shadyside, revisits it annual offering of the ever popular Pumpkin Ravioli ($14.95 for lunch, $17.95 for dinner) in sage cream sauce.

This year, we’ve found pumpkin as the focus of all sorts of products and activities. Here are a few that caught our attention:

Pumpkin brews

Seasonal craft beers brewed with pumpkin and pumpkin pie spices have been flying off the shelves locally. Buffalo Bill’s Pumpkin Ale lays claim to being America’s original. The spices are more subtle than overpowering.

Great’er Pumpkin Imperial Pumpkin Ale, from the Heavy Seas Mutiny Fleet line, is aged in bourbon barrels and sold in 22-ounce bombers. This bold beer with “extrAARGHdinary flavors” gives an extra kick with 9 percent alcohol by volume.

Act quickly before Christmas brews nudge them out.

Pumpkin scrub

A sweet and spicy aroma wafts upon opening a jar of Crater Lake Company’s Warm Pumpkin Bread Body Scrub ($19.95). In the shower, steam carries the scent throughout the room.

A scoop of the rich scrub polishes off the remains of dry summer skin, leaving legs and arms moisturized and smooth.

Hydrating ingredients include an infusion of pumpkin oil, sunflower oil and shea butter, while the scrubbing portion includes sugar and pumpkin flakes.

Details: www.craterlakecompany.com .

Pumpkin cocktail

This Pumpkin Spice cocktail is made with 2 ounces SKYY Infusions Ginger, 1/2-ounce lime juice, 1 ounce pumpkin puree, a splash of honey water (made using equal parts honey and water) and a slice of fresh ginger.

Combine all the ingredients except the ginger slice in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake vigorously. Strain over fresh ice into a Collins glass. Add a long slice of ginger into the glass lengthwise for garnish. Makes 1 serving.

Pumpkin soap

Hydration and exfoliation are the end products of bathing with Pumpkin From Poppy Seed beauty bath bar ($7) from Whole Truth Solutions.

A heady combination of pumpkin, poppy seeds, cedarwood and sage proffers a more mature scent within its foaming lather.

Buffed skin is left beading water with youthful-looking moisturization.

Each all-natural bar is handmade with plant-based ingredients, so you can feel good about feeling good.

Details: www.wholetruthsolutions.com .

Pumpkin candle

No time for actual pumpkin baking• Fill your home with the next best scent with a Pumpkin Chai Candle ($32) from Nest Fragrances.

This special-edition scent in a brown glass holder creates a warm autumn ambience with its combination of wild pumpkin, spicy masala chai, cardamom, ginger and cinnamon that lasts for about 50 hours of burn time. Available at specialty retail stores.

Details: www.nestfragrances.com .

Pumpkin paste

Pumpkin is not the source of the aroma, but one of the special ingredients in this hairstyling product. Define Intervention’s Invisible Paste ($20.50) contains fresh pumpkin cells to re-mineralize hair with magnesium and zinc and provide vitamin A for antioxidant protection. Soia and wheat proteins work to condition, hydrate and add body and shine. A tiny amount of product applied to hair provides structure, flexibility and invisible hold. Details: www.davines.com .

Punkin Chunkin

With about 115 teams competing in the pumpkin-flinging event and Discovery Channel television crews working on this year’s specials, Punkin Chunkin Association spokesman Frank Shade predicted: “Absolute chaos –controlled mayhem.”

See for yourself when “The Road to Punkin Chunkin,” a one-hour documentary hosted by “Mythbusters” stars Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, is broadcast at 10 p.m. Wednesday on the Science Channel. “Punkin Chunkin,” a two-hour special, runs at 8 p.m. Thursday on both the Science and Discovery channels.

Punkin Chunkin’s relationship with Discovery goes back to 2003, when the cable network produced its first pumpkin-filled hourlong special. Back then, about 65 machines competed in front of about 25,000 people. Last year’s crowd grew to 80,000. Details: discovery.com .

Curry Pumpkin Soup

This recipe from Better Homes and Gardens offers a savory take on pumpkin fare.

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 medium-size onions, chopped (1 cup)
  • 1 medium-size carrot, chopped ( 1/2 cup)
  • 1 rib celery, chopped ( 1/2 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 cans (15 ounces) pumpkin
  • 2 cans (14 ounces) reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 cup half-and-half or light cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Orange-Cranberry Topper (see recipe )

To prepare the soup: In a 4-quart Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions, carrot and celery. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add the curry powder and pumpkin pie spice. Cook and stir for 1 minute. Add the pumpkin, broth and water. Increase the heat to medium-high; bring to boiling. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat; cool slightly.

In a food processor or blender, add one-third of the pumpkin mixture at a time, cover, and process or blend until smooth. Return all of the pumpkin mixture to a Dutch oven.

Stir the half-and-half, salt and pepper into the pumpkin mixture; heat through. Sprinkle each serving with Orange-Cranberry Topper.

Makes 8 servings.

Orange-Cranberry Topper: In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup dried cranberries, 1 tablespoon finely shredded orange peel and 2 tablespoons snipped fresh Italian (flatleaf ) parsley. Set aside.

No-Knead Pumpkin Rolls with Brown Sugar Glaze

You haven’t tasted the best that fall has to offer unless you’ve had at least one batch of homemade pumpkin breakfast rolls out of the oven. This no-knead version is perfect for making ahead. The dough can rise for anywhere from one to three hours to fit your schedule. The risen dough is easiest to work with if you can refrigerate it for at least an hour, although you can shape and bake the rolls right away if you need to.

The recipe is from Emma Christensen, Tribune Media Services.

For the dough:

  • 1 scant tablespoon yeast (1 package)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup butter, plus 1 tablespoon for greasing baking dishes
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree (a little less than 2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 5 1/2 cups flour, plus more for shaping dough

For the filling:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 cups pecans, toasted, chopped and divided in half, optional

For the glaze:

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

To prepare the dough: Sprinkle the yeast over the water and let it sit for a few minutes until the yeast is dissolved.

Meanwhile, warm the milk and butter in a small saucepan on the stovetop until the butter is melted. Combine this with the sugar in a large, heatproof mixing bowl and stir until the sugar is dissolved.

Let the milk mixture cool until it is just warm to the touch — not hot. Then stir in the yeast and the pumpkin. Add the salt and 5 cups of the flour at one time, stirring until all of the flour has been absorbed. Squish it between your hands if you’re having trouble incorporating the last of the flour. The dough will be sticky, but it should come together in a shaggy ball. If it’s still more the consistency of cookie batter, work in an additional 1/2 cup of flour.

Cover the dough and let it rise for 1 to 3 hours. During this time, it should double in bulk. At this point, you can punch the dough down and refrigerate it overnight or continue shaping the rolls.

To shape the rolls (immediately or with the refrigerated dough), sprinkle your work surface with a little flour and dump the dough on top. Pat it down into a rough rectangle, and then use a floured rolling pin to roll it into a rectangular shape about 1/2 inch thick, longer than it is wide. If the dough gets sticky, sprinkle a little more flour on the dough’s surface and on your hands.

To prepare the filling: Melt the butter in the microwave and stir in the brown sugar and the spices. Spread this over the rectangle of dough, leaving 1 inch of bare dough at the top. Sprinkle 1 cup of the toasted pecans over the dough, if using. Starting at the edge closest to you, roll the dough into a cylinder and pinch it closed at the top.

Rub 1 tablespoon of soft butter into the bottom of two 9- by13-inch baking dishes, two 9-inch cake pans or a combination. Using a bench cutter or a sharp knife, cut the cylinder into individual rolls 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick. Place them into your baking dishes so they have a little wiggle room on all sides to rise. Cover them with a clean kitchen towel and let them rise until they fill the pan and look puffy, 30 minutes for already-warm dough and 1 hour for dough that has been refrigerated.

About 20 minutes before baking, heat the oven to 375 degrees. When the rolls are ready, bake them for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops are golden and starting to look toasted around the edges. Rotate the pans halfway through cooking.

To prepare the glaze: While the rolls are baking, in a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter and milk. When the butter has melted, add the brown sugar and salt. Stir until the brown sugar has melted. Remove from the heat and strain into a mixing bowl to remove any sugar clumps. Stir in the confectioners’ sugar. This should form a thick, but pourable, glaze.

Let the baked rolls cool for about 5 minutes and then pour the glaze on top. Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup of pecans over the top, if more nuttiness is desired. Eat them immediately. Leftovers will keep for several days and are best reheated for a minute in the microwave.

Makes 16-18 rolls.


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