ON COOKING: Chef Dez makes his pitch for pumpkins

Pumpkins aren’t just for carving and pie. They are a versatile fruit in savory dishes

Email your cooking questions to Chef Dez at dez@chefdez.com.Email your cooking questions to Chef Dez at dez@chefdez.com.

By Chef Dez, Special to Black Press Media

Don’t you just love the autumn harvest? The feeling of a crisp breeze in the air, the sound and sight of rustling leaves in a rainbow of colours, and a plentiful array of gourds, squash, and pumpkins available at the produce counter.

Pumpkins are obviously one of the more popular harvests this time of the year. Walking through suburban neighborhoods on Halloween night and gazing at all the eerily lit creations sitting in windows and on front porches can make one hungry – well, at least for me!

I feel that pumpkin as a food is quite neglected in our everyday diets. Although this bright orange squash is approximately ninety per cent water, it is loaded with beta-carotene (an important antioxidant) and a list of nutritional elements that play an important role in a well-balanced diet.

Pumpkin is a member of the squash family and as with all squash, is a fruit. Any product of a plant containing seeds is botanically classified as fruit, just like melons for example. Squashes are closely related to the melon family of plants.

There are two main general types of squash – summer squash and winter squash. Summer squash are ones that are not able to be stored for long periods of time. Zucchini would be an excellent representation of a popular summer squash.

Winter squash on the other hand can be stored for long periods of time under ideal storage conditions. They should be kept away from light and in an area that is moderately cooler than room temperature. Good ventilation is also necessary. Along with pumpkins, other winter squash are acorn, butternut, and autumn squash.

Pumpkins are most popularly used as jack-o-lanterns on Halloween night, and in varying recipes of pies, cakes, and soups. Rarely does one see pumpkin served at the table on its own. It can be used in any application that one would use other winter squashes, and undeniably will offer more flavour to the dish. Just keep in mind that there are different varieties of pumpkins out there that are better suited for certain applications – talk to the produce staff.

Cubes of oven-roasted pumpkin, in a medley of other colourful vegetables, are a perfect accompaniment to an autumn meal.

Alternatively, try using small chunks of pumpkin in your next stir-fry or pasta dish. To make preparation easier, cut the pumpkin into workable pieces to aid in peeling and chopping.

Winter squashes should always be peeled before consuming. Their tougher skin is often challenging for the traditional vegetable peeler, and therefore a knife may be more facilitating for this task. Afterwards, chop the pumpkin into pieces best suited for the recipe being planned.

As well as the flesh, the seeds are also edible. The seeds are sometimes easily forgotten about and discarded along with the innards. Roasted pumpkin seeds can easily be prepared and transformed into a nutritional snack.

Separate the seeds from the extracted inner filaments and lightly coat the seeds with vegetable or olive oil. Toss with salt and pepper, or seasoning salt, if desired, and roast them on a baking sheet in a 450-degree oven, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and crispy, approximately 12 to 15 minutes. Be careful to watch them closely as they burn quite easily.

Serve them in a bowl on their own, or with a mixture of other seeds, nuts, and dried fruit. Pumpkin seeds are credited with a number of medicinal properties and are a great source of numerous minerals. However, due to their high fat content, they should always be consumed in moderation. A serving size of nuts or seeds is equivalent to approximately the size of a golf ball.

Dear Chef Dez,

We always buy cans of pureed pumpkin this time of year for different dessert recipes. Since pumpkins are available fresh, wouldn’t it be more economical to make it myself? How do I go about doing this?

John G., Chilliwack

Dear John,

It can be done quite easily. Cut a fresh pumpkin in half and remove the seeds and the stringy filaments. Place the cut sides down on a baking sheet and bake in a 350-degree oven until the flesh is very tender – approximately one hour. Spoon the cooked flesh off the skin and into a food processor and puree until smooth. Transfer it to a large, fine wire mesh strainer set over a bowl, cover and let drain in the refrigerator overnight. Discard the liquid, and use the drained puree in any fashion that you would with canned.


– Chef Dez is a food columnist and culinary instructor in the Fraser Valley. Visit him at www.chefdez.com. Send questions to dez@chefdez.com or to P.O. Box 2674, Abbotsford, B.C. V2T 6R4

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Elections BC has sent out almost 700,000 mail voting packages as of Oct. 14 with just under 3.5 million registered voters. (Black Press Media File)
Abbotsford South and West ridings see more than 16,000 votes cast ahead of election

More than a third of all votes have likely been cast already

Students at Brookswood Secondary participated in Student Vote 2020. (Katie Glover/Special to Langley Advance Times)
PHOTOS: Students cast a ballot for Langley candidates

Brookswood Secondary participated in Student Vote 2020

Voting locations in Langley for the 2020 BC provincial election. (Google)
MAP: Voting locations in Langley

Sites will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The possibility of the Canadian Premier League expanding to the Fraser Valley has been floated online. (Facebook photo)
Canadian Premier League possibly eyeing Fraser Valley expansion

Soccer league looking to add ninth team to the mix, B.C. markets potentially rumoured

Aldergrove legion Branch 265 president Doug Hadley presents a poppy to Langley Township mayor Jack Froese. (Madeline Roach/Special to the Aldergrove Star)
Poppy sales begin at Aldergrove legion branch #265

Branch president Doug Hadley shared the poem Who is a Veteran to begin the time of remembrance

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry gives a daily briefing on COVID-19 cases at an almost empty B.C. Legislature press theatre in Victoria, B.C., on March 25, 2020. (Don Craig/B.C. government)
B.C. sees 223 new COVID-19 cases, now 2,009 active

Two new care home outbreaks in Surrey, Burnaby

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

Chastity Davis-Alphonse took the time to vote on Oct. 21. B.C’s general Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 24. (Chastity Davis-Alphonse Facebook photo)
B.C. reconciliation advocate encourages Indigenous women to vote in provincial election

Through the power of voice and education Chastity Davis-Alphonse is hopeful for change

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

The family of Anika Janz, who died after collapsing at school, has launched a GoFundMe to assist with funeral proceedings. (GoFundMe photo)
Family of student who died launches GoFundMe

Rick Hansen Secondary School student Anika Janz, 14, died after collapsing in PE class

Most Read