When it comes to L.A. produce, the beginning of fall brings us a seemingly endless supply of heirloom tomatoes, peppers, pears and perhaps the most seasonal produce of all: the pumpkin. Considering Southern California's climate isn't conducive to falling leaves, crisp air and the like, we admit we look forward to the appearance of fall's first pumpkins more than most, anticipating the aroma of spiced pumpkin breads, pies and savory soups filling our kitchens. It turns out we're not alone.
We checked in with some of our favorite local chefs, who told us how they're incorporating pumpkin onto their menus. Turn the page for their pumpkin dishes, desserts and even a pumpkin mezcal cocktail recipe from Rivera's John Sedlar.
Karen Hatfield, executive pastry chef and co-owner of Melrose Avenue's Hatfield's with her executive chef husband, Quinn Hatfield, shared plans to add three pumpkin-inspired dishes to their fall menu: a Kabocha squash (aka Japanese pumpkin) agnolotti with black eyed peas, a pumpkin pie ice cream made with pumpkin, spices and a touch of bourbon, and a pumpkin cocktail with spiced rum.
Jar's Suzanne Tracht is also going the Kabocha route with a side dish made with the pumpkin, leeks, sage and brown butter sauce. In the event that's not rich enough for you, Akasha Richmond, chef-owner of Culver City's Akasha, told us about her pumpkin cheesecake creation, made with a brown sugar sour cream topping and served with maple whipped cream and a gingersnap cookie.
Go east on Culver Boulevard and you'll find Kay 'N Dave's giving the gourd a south-of-the-border treatment, listing a pumpkin flan (baked and served in a baby pumpkin, no less) and a surprisingly tasty pumpkin margarita made with Herradura Silver, fresh pumpkin and Bols pumpkin liqueur on their seasonal menu. Loteria Grill is also giving the gourd the Latin treatment, covering chicken soft tacos with a pepita, or pumpkin seed, sauce. Need more than a few tacos? Order their chicken breast plate with beans and rice, also covered in the pumpkin sauce.
If you're feeling ambitious, Rivera's John Sedlar shared his recipe for a homemade autumn pumpkin mezcal cocktail. As a note, if you're not sure what piloncillo is, it's unrefined Mexican brown sugar, available at local Latino markets. Recipe after the jump.
Autumn Pumpkin Mezcal Cocktail
From: John Sedlar, chef-owner of Rivera.
Note: You can subsitute 1 small can pumpkin puree for the whole pumpkin.
1 750ml bottle good quality Mezcal (Preferably Del Maguey Chichicapa)
1 small tender pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cubed
1 vanilla bean, split down the middle
2 tablespoons grated piloncillo (unrefined Mexican brown sugar)
1 cup heavy cream
allspice, to taste
cinnamon, to taste
pinch of granulated sugar
1. Toss the piloncillo and cubed pumpkin (or pumpkin puree) in a large bowl until coated. Layer a sheet pan with aluminum foil and place the pumpkin in the center. Cover with another layer of foil and cook in a 400 degree oven until pumpkin is tender, about 90 minutes. Remove and set aide to cool.
2. Place the cooled pumpkin in a food processor or blender and pulse until smooth.
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3. Combine the pumpkin, mezcal and scraped vanilla bean in a glass container and macerate for 3 to 7 days in the refrigerator.
4. Sieve the mixture through a coffee filter to remove the pumpkin pulp and the vanilla bean. Return the liquid to a decorative decanter.
5. In a small bowl, whip the crème until peaks form then add a pinch of sugar, cinnamon and allspice. Fill a caballio glass (tall, narrow shot glass) with pumpkin mezcal and top with a dollop of spiced cream.
Christie Bishop also blogs for PardonMyCrumbs.com.