THE GOCHISO GOURMET: A sign of fall or just a Waikiki tourist?

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It’s that time of year when that large, edible, orange orb makes its appearance. It usually appears in October as that seasonal decoration with the traditional grin of someone who hasn’t seen a dentist in quite a while, but in November morphs into that traditional edible pie filling. Yup, the pumpkin or bobura. In the 50th, however, bobura doesn’t refer to the name of fruits in the squash family, but more commonly refers to Japanese tourists, which for some reason, I often get mistaken for while in Waikiki or even Ala Moana Shopping Center! When entering stores, I often get the “ohayo gozaimasu …” (good morning). I know I have a pasty, white complexion, but really? But getting back to the real bobura …

The Early Experience
Growing up in the 50th, my only exposure to pumpkins were at Thanksgiving, primarily as pumpkin pie. Our family never purchased pumpkins for carving during Halloween. I assume this was because it involved a hard fleshed, round fruit (since pumpkins are simply ovaries containing seeds, they botanically are classified as fruits) and a sharp instrument to carve said fruit. This more than likely would have left me with severe finger and hand lacerations. It also had to do with the tropical climate, and freshly cut fruit left at a balmy and humid 90-degree ambient temperature, being cause for trouble. Dad once brought home a fully carved jack-o’-lantern, which was promptly reduced to a pile of pumpkin mush in two days. So, Halloween only involved candy.

But because our Thanksgiving pumpkin pies were primarily purchased and probably made with canned pumpkin, and because I’ve never really had a sweet tooth, I hardly indulged in the dish after dinner, selecting alternate desserts on the table.

Pumpkin Nutrition
The fruit of Cucurbita pepo is a great source of Vitamin A, with a cup containing almost two-and-a-half times your Reference Daily Intake! It’s also a good source of Vitamin C, potassium, manganese, copper, riboflavin and Vitamin E, and a cup contains about three grams of dietary fiber. As the commercial goes, “it can be sautéed, mashed or pickled, fresh or roasted … you can even eat the seeds.” And roasted pumpkin seeds or pepita are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids.

Then Liquid Pumpkin
Although wine is typically my preferred adult beverage, I occasionally consume the product of fermented barley and hops, and usually reach for a darker brew, like a porter or steam beer. That is, until I sampled a pumpkin ale. The slight sweetness from pumpkin balanced the bitterness from the hops, rounded by the malty qualities of the ale. It was a perfect quencher with or without food, and I now specifically look for a pumpkin ale when I’m in the mood for beer.

The Gochiso recommends Rogue’s Pumpkin Patch Ale for a fall drink. photo by Ryan Tatsumoto

And brewed pumpkin isn’t the only liquid variation of the gourd. I once sampled a pumpkin soup where the chef smoked a whole baby pumpkin, then hollowed the outer shell to function as a serving bowl, and puréed the inner flesh with bacon and onions. This rich pumpkin soup, almost a bisque, had a light smoked flavor rounded by the smokiness of the bacon, and was perfect with a glass of Chardonnay from Oregon. Yes, I plan on trying to recreate this in one of my many smoking vessels.

Baked Pumpkin
No, I’m not speaking of the filling in a pie crust at Thanksgiving. I’m talking about using the puréed flesh of pumpkin as the main flavor ingredient in that Southern specialty, biscuits. We once had leftover kabocha that was used for some other culinary application. I microwaved the unused portion to soften it a bit more, then mashed it to a smooth paste. This paste was incorporated into the basic buttermilk biscuit dough with a touch of pumpkin pie spice, and the resulting biscuits were the perfect “buns” for thinly sliced ham and honey mustard!

I‘ve also used puréed pumpkin in one of my many variations of a slightly healthier pound cake that I either bake in a Bundt pan or as muffins. Additions such as toasted pecans, cinnamon chips or walnuts can be added and spices such as pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, cloves or even star anise perk up the flavors, while glazes incorporating maple syrup, buttermilk or candied ginger add complementary flavors.

Savory Applications
I first sampled pumpkin chili after Williams Sonoma discounted their seasonal foods at the end of the year. It simply required a bottle of dried seasoning, water, ground beef and one can of diced tomatoes that were pressure cooked for about 20 minutes in the Instant Pot. The finished pumpkin chili was delicious, but as a pre-prepped mixture, one pot of this dish had almost three tablespoons of salt in the blend. So, I decided to create my own using meat substitute and low-salt canned goods.

Pumpkin Chili
1 cup meat substitute
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp oregano
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 (7 oz) can diced green chiles
2 bay leaves
1 can vegetable stock
2 (15 oz) cans kidney beans, or pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 oz) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
2 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes, with juice
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
Salt and black pepper to taste
Water

FOR THE FALL ­— The Gochiso serves his vegan macaroni salad and garlic fried rice with kale, carrots and edamame along side his pumpkin chili.
photo by Ryan Tatsumoto

Sauté chopped onions and garlic in a little olive oil. Add spice to toast (but don’t burn). Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil then lower the temperature to simmer. Simmer for about one hour adding more water if it gets too thick.

And since everyone in the 50th has a bowl of chili with rice and macaroni salad, I serve the pumpkin chili with my garlic fried rice with kale, carrots and edamame, along with my vegan macaroni salad. But those recipes are for another column …

The Gochiso Gourmet is a column on food, wine and healthy eating. Ryan Tatsumoto is a graduate of both the University of Hawai‘i and UC San Francisco. He is a clinical pharmacist during the day and a budding chef/recipe developer/wine taster at night. He writes from Kane‘ohe, HI and can be reached at gochisogourmet@yahoo.com.

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