When I lived in Paris, I discovered cheese pumpkins. Their fine, flavorful flesh is infinitely better than the stringy, watery meat of pumpkins that most Americans try cooking. Round and flattened, with smooth, beige skin, cheese pumpkins look like Cinderella’s coach after midnight.
Returning to New York City, I was happy to find cheese pumpkins at the Greenmarket at Union Square in Manhattan. And unlike most kinds of pumpkin, which usually disappear after Thanksgiving, they are around well into the winter.
The right pumpkin to cube and use in soups, stews, and lentil chili, it is even better stuffed with grilled bread, shredded Gruyère cheese, and crème fraîche, then baked. As the pumpkin and filling roast and the cheese melts, they meld into a delicious, oozy mess. The recipe I originally used, by Chef Alain Senderens, is available only in French, so I recommend Dorie Greenspan’s stuffed pumpkin adventure . But I suggest sticking to Gruyère or Emmenthal cheese, not the blue cheese she chooses, and to use very crusty French or Italian bread.
In a simpler, more healthful mode, pumpkin hummus is slightly sweet and nicely spicy. Use roasted pumpkin—the canned puree tastes bitter, metallic and drab. This hummus is.
Pumpkin Hummus (Makes 3 cups)
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained
1 ¼ cups pureed roasted or steamed pumpkin
½ cup tahini
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
1/16 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
1-2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Raw or roasted pumpkin seeds
1. In a food processor, whirl the chickpeas until finely chopped. Add the pumpkin and puree until smooth. Blend in the tahini, turmeric, and cayenne. Starting with 1 tablespoon of the lime juice and 1 teaspoon of salt, season the tahini to taste. Refrigerate, tightly covered, for up to 2 days.
2. For the Pumpkin Masala, blend together ½ teaspoon each ground coriander and cumin, ¼ teaspoon each ground black pepper, cardamom and cinnamon, plus 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves. Try to use true cinnamon from Ceylon, not cassia, which comes from China and Vietnam.
3. Spread Pumpkin Hummus in a wide, shallow bowl. Sprinkle on the Masala generously. Top with a good sprinkling of pumpkin seeds.