5 Ways To Eat Pumpkins

Blair Pfander

Pumpkin-Patch1As founder of Brooklyn’s Ger-Nis Culinary & Herb Center, we knew that chef Nissa Pierson (pictured above)—who recently relocated to a cool country estate in upstate New York—would share in our seasonal craving for pumpkins.
Pierson is a pro at coming up with unexpected uses for her ingredients. “For me, pumpkins are a luxury item,” she explains. “All of us should remember that nature has a way of creating perfect pairing partners each season.”
Here, Pierson shares her top tips for getting the most out of the giant orange squash—including flavorful cocktails, satisfying pastas and dreamy ice-creams.
1. Try a Pumpkin Cocktail. “Drinking your pumpkin is perhaps as creative one can get with this ingredient,” explains Pierson. “Personally, I’m not a fan of ‘milk shake’ cocktails, which is what most pumpkin drinks are like these days. So, this season, we can utilize mixology tools—infusions and syrups—to whip up more elegant, grown-up pumpkin sips. Infusing your favorite spirit with pumpkin is simple. Just cut a pumpkin into thin strips—with the skin removed—and place the pieces in a mason jar with your favorite fall spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, or pumpkin pie spice. Then, fill the jar your favorite spirit, like bourbon or vodka, and let the flavors infuse for about two weeks.
I also like the syrup-method for incorporating bold pumpkin flavors into fall cocktails, partially because I’m impatient and don’t want to wait three weeks, and also because I think you can incorporate so many flavors into a drink through the art of infusion. My favorite fall pumpkin cocktail is something I like to call ‘The Pumpkin in the Rye.’  It incorporates all my favorite fall flavors—pumpkin, maple and sage—into one adult and non ‘milk shake’ beverage!”
2. Explore Your Savory Side. “I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, so for me, all the pumpkin breads and cakes are never on my go-to list of seasonal pumpkin recipes,” Pierson says. “I think the savory side is more interesting, as the natural sweetness of pumpkins can easily be balanced by more savory flavors. Of course, like everyone, I enjoy pumpkin ravioli and comforting pumpkin pastas seem to be a match made in heaven. Pumpkin gnocchi is another big favorite this time of year, but I think my latest recipe—Pumpkin Cannelloni with Caramelized Pumpkin Spiced Onions and Concord Grape Sauce—is by far my best savory pumpkin dish yet! The key to perfection is allowing your creativity to blossom and letting the season inspire you.”
3. Ice Cream is Still in Season. “Pumpkin ice cream is by far my favorite way to enjoy the sweeter side of pumpkin,” says Pierson. “The texture of pumpkin is perfect for a rich and super creamy ice cream. My favorite recipe is one that I have been working on and perfecting for a while, but and I think the latest version with maple sage glazed pecans is the best I’ve ever made. I can’t seem to escape my herbal roots, and although I’m not normally an avid supporter of sage, I think it found a perfect partner in pumpkins. Pumpkin ice cream is excellent on pumpkin pie, in an ice cream sandwich or even with melted chocolate over it.”
4. It All Starts with a Seed. “Pumpkin seeds are a nostalgic snack for many and especially for me,” Pierson shares. “I tried really hard this season to bring the nostalgia back without sacrificing the flavor. Pumpkin and chocolate have long been a favorite duo of mine, and I love a good crunch in a chocolate truffle, so I decided to try making a new truffle—Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Truffles with Spiced Pumpkin Seeds. I was excited to add it to my pumpkin seed recipe repertoire—which includes more common treats like pumpkin seed brittle and spiced pumpkin seeds, both of which I give an extra kick by adding black pepper into my spice mix. These spiced snacks also make an excellent addition to classic graham cracker crusts for pumpkin pies. Of course, since my savory taste buds rule, I’m partial to pumpkin soups and salads laden with the seeds as faux croutons.”
5. The Pumpkin Bowl Revived. “Some folks seem to think that edible bowls are tacky or a fad past its heyday,” Pierson says. “I think it just takes creativity to pull it off. My inner Martha Stewart shines when I’m trying to stay creative but teetering on the brink of kitschy, or just plain awful. I’m not a fan of serving soup or food in a pumpkin—although I did once serve my Maple Pumpkin Soup with Spiced Pumpkin Seeds in some mini sugar-pie pumpkins for a small party. I am, however, a fan of using fall pumpkins, squashes and gourds as candle votives, flower holders and as general decoration for the table.  I also like using a huge carving pumpkin as a punch bowl for kids. A little kitsch works well in the right circumstances, and for a Halloween party or at a kids table, a little Concord Grape Jack O’ Lattern Punch is perfect. Of course, if you add simple syrup and some vodka, you get the adult version—and nothing looks kitschy with a little liquor!”