The thing about Pumpkin Spice and #PSL (Pumpkin Spice Latté) is that the pumpkin doesn’t really belong in the title. Spices that are used in pumpkin pie are often found in apple pies and other New England dishes. The real workhorse though is the pumpkin this time of year. We gouge it to make our Halloween Jack ‘O Lanterns. We roast its seeds for tasty snacks and seasonal salads. We caramelize pumpkin seeds for dessert garnitures. The pumpkins are roasted, sliced, puréed, and transformed into bread puddings, pies, cakes, soups, salads, and more. So I’m asking you to put down your PSL and get out to try these fabulous pumpkin dishes.
I love Harvard Square in the fall. The yard is full of students who have settled into their school routines. The leaves are changing and quintessential Mr. Autumn Man is everywhere you look. He may even be sitting next to you as you sip your PSL. Henrietta’s Table is one of my favourite places to dine in the Square because it feels like a little oasis away from the hustle and bustle. There are stone sculptures of humble gourds and paintings of farm fresh vegetables, while a bronze-colored Henrietta pig welcomes guests at the front of the restaurant. Chef Peter Davis’ food is just simply delicious literally. It is simple but perfectly prepared. The pumpkin bisque is a great example of this. The seasonings change but the basics do not. The bisque is made with roasted pumpkin, just enough cream to smooth it out without making it too rich, and familiar New England fall seasonings from the outdoor herb garden. For a little something extra hints of curry or ginger are added giving the pumpkin bisque it’s own personality throughout the season. Ask your server what the flavors are each week and you can enjoy the bisque over and over again without ever tiring of it.
Often pumpkin cocktails are creamy, rich and sickly sweet. This one, however, is everything a pumpkin cocktail should be. The Pumpkin Harvest Cocktail at Henrietta’s Table is refreshing and tasty. It is a nod to fall with flavours of ginger and maple syrup layered over a pumpkin shrub. The lightness and acidity comes from a brightly flavored pumpkin shrub. he shrub is made by adding roasted pumpkin with some (yes I’m saying it) pumpkin spices, a little sugar, and some cider vinegar. The shrub sits overnight and is then strained and ready for use in a cocktail. The Pumpkin Harvest Cocktail is made with Vermont Gold Vodka, Pumpkin Shrub and Gingerale with Vermont Maple Syrup Sugared Rim and it pairs quite nicely with all the wonderful fall comfort foods.
Something Completely Different
Helmand is a mystical place that I have heard about since we first moved to the area. Mystical because it’s in an odd location and because I don’t know exactly what Afghani food is. Helmand is an Afghani restaurant that sits in a slightly odd location in the shadows of the giant Cambridgeside Galleria. I heard good things about Helmand from visitors and locals alike and yet in all my years in the area I never made my way down there to check it out until now. A fellow blogger and I went recently and had a taste of what Helmand had to offer. While we didn’t love every dish we ordered, I will definitely go back again if not just for this one pumpkin dish. This appetizer is pumpkin perfection. Kaddo is a pan-fried then baked baby pumpkin that is seasoned with sugar. The extra sweetness works perfectly even though I have to admit I was a little hesitant since I think pumpkin is usually sweet enough on its own. On top of this sweet melt in your mouth pumpkin is a large dollop of yogurt garlic sauce that is then topped with ground beef sauce that has the taste of very fresh and simple Bolognese. My mouth is watering just at the memory of this dish!
A Little Something Sweet
While squirrels are searching for and gathering nuts, I am popping into Sofra on a weekly basis to check their supply of pumpkin jam. They have it fresh in the refrigerated section, but I’m hoping they will also can a few jars, as they have in the past, so I can stock my pantry too. The pumpkin jam pops up in the menu in several different ways. There is the layered yoghurt and grano breakfast “trifle” that is now made with pumpkin jam or spoon sweets. There is the decadent and over the top, but perfectly so, pumpkin jam turnover.
The Pumpkin Jam Latté
It is the PSL that started this whole pumpkin craze, so I can’t leave out the real pumpkin not just pumpkin spice latte that they make at Sofra. To outdo and outshine lattés everywhere, there is the Pumpkin Jam Latté that is made with actual pumpkin in the form of a sweet, lightly spiced pumpkin jam. In addition to treating myself to the occasional Pumpkin Jam Latté, I like to bring home a batch to spread on toast, add to yoghurt, or dollop on pancakes.
NB: Okay so I realize that none of these places are in Boston, in fact they are all on the other side of the river. So, if you have a must try dish, dessert, beverage with actual pumpkin, please share it below in the comments.