Pumpkin, sweet and savory, in risotto, coffee cake and more


Autumn has arrived in all its glorious color. But our farms and markets are bursting in the most deliciously colorful ways, with Titian-hued Cinderella pumpkins, golden squash and variegated varietals that look as good as they taste.

"Pumpkin is like that intro to fall," says food writer Diane Cu. "You see it and ooh!"

And there's so much more you can do with pumpkins than relegate them to a jack-o'-lantern fate. Those versatile, vitamin-packed globes -- and their winter squash cousins -- are equally at home on the dinner table in pumpkin risottos, butternut crumble and other sweet and savory takes.

Roasted pumpkin is perfect in spicy coffee cake, swirled into rich vanilla ice cream or pureed into soup, say Cu and her husband, Todd Porter, co-authors of the new "Bountiful" (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $35, 304 pages). It marries beautifully with pasta and other savory elements and shines on its own, simply roasted.

It's a view shared by John Jackson, executive chef at Oakland, Calif.'s Bocanova. He's doing a four-course Halloween dinner that features pumpkin in every course, including a decadent, golden-hued pumpkin risotto and scallops a la plancha with pumpkin sauce. The risotto uses both pureed roasted pumpkin and tiny cubes of sauteed squash, with sliced chestnuts, Brussels sprouts and plenty of fresh sage.

Look down the coast to Half Moon Bay, and you'll see pumpkin in every possible guise, from chicken-pumpkin sausages to pumpkin churros. There's pumpkin beer, pumpkin pancakes and pumpkin pretty much everything else.

But if you're looking for something delicious to do with the versatile squash at home, Porter and Cu like to think outside the bin in their cookbook and their blog, the irreverently named White on Rice Couple. Cu, a photographer, is Vietnamese, with a penchant for all things American. Porter, who hails from the restaurant industry, is American, with a passion for all things Japanese. What they share most, besides an obsession with food, is an enthusiasm for riffing on themes. So pumpkin bread becomes a spicy coffee cake filled with fresh ginger, rum-soaked raisins and toasted pecans. Ice cream gets swirls of compote or, in this case, roasted pumpkin. And that Butternut Squash Crumble, a savory take on a classic dessert, can be twisted every which way. The recipe calls for cubed squash, bacon, truffled olive oil and mushrooms, with a crumbly topping of nuts, fresh herbs and just a little sugar.

It's a "shoot from the hip recipe and a nice one for fall," Porter says. "I change it every time I make it." Make it for Thanksgiving, he suggests, and you'll upstage even the pumpkin pie.


Makes one 9-inch cake

Note: The raisins need to soak in rum for 20 minutes. Start that first.


1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Pinch of kosher salt

6 tablespoons cold butter, in small chunks

1 cup finely chopped, toasted nuts, such as walnuts or pecans


1 cup golden raisins, soaked in dark rum or warm water for 20 minutes

1 3/4 cups cake flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cloves

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

1 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup pumpkin puree

1/2 cup sour cream

Confectioner's sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch springform pan.

Topping: Combine flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt. Use your fingers or a pastry cutter to cut in the butter, until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Mix in nuts. Chill.

For the batter, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and salt.

Using an electric mixer on medium-high, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Stir in vanilla, pumpkin and sour cream. Drain raisins; stir into batter. Stir in flour mixture until just combined.

Spread batter in the prepared pan. Sprinkle with the topping. Bake 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool, then remove from pan and dust with confectioner's sugar to serve.

-- Reprinted with permission from WhiteOnRiceCouple.com


Serves 4

1 French or Cinderella pumpkin


1 sprig fresh sage

Olive oil

Salt, white pepper

3 Brussels sprouts, leaves only

8 sage leaves


1/2 white onion, small dice

2 chile de arbol or bird's beak chiles (or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne)

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cups Carnaroli rice

1/4 cup white wine

6 cups chicken stock

1 sprig fresh sage

Midnight Moon goat cheese, to finish

Note: Bocanova serves this risotto with sliced, roasted chestnuts and Cypress Grove goat cheese.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut pumpkin in quarters; remove seeds.

Peel and cut one of the quarters in a fine dice. In a small skillet, melt 1 to 2 tablespoons butter; sweat 1 cup diced pumpkin with a sage sprig until the pumpkin is just soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Let cool.

Toss remaining pumpkin quarters with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Place on a sheet pan, skin-side up, and roast until soft, about 45 minutes. Test by inserting a knife; it should enter and exit without sticking. Cool to room temperature.

Scrape pumpkin flesh from the skin. Add liquid from roasting pan; push mixture through a potato ricer. You should have 1 cup of puree.

Blanch the Brussels sprouts leaves in salted, boiling water for 15 seconds, then shock them in salted ice water. Let leaves dry. Melt more butter in a small saute pan; lightly brown the sage and Brussels sprouts leaves.

For the risotto: In a large pot, sweat the onion and chile de arbol in 1 tablespoon each butter and oil until soft. Add rice and stir to coat; let toast lightly. Season with salt and white pepper, then add wine and deglaze until dry. Add sage sprig and 2 cups stock; cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until almost dry. Add pumpkin puree and just enough stock to cover the rice; cook, stirring constantly. Keep adding stock in small batches until rice is cooked and creamy. Remove from heat; fish out the sage sprig and chiles. Stir in 2 tablespoons unsalted butter. Taste and adjust for salt.

Gently fold the diced pumpkin into the risotto. With a Microplane, grate some cheese on top. Garnish with sauteed Brussels sprouts and sage leaves. Serve hot.

-- John Jackson, executive chef, Bocanova


Serves 8


2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon truffled olive oil, optional

3 to 4 large shallots, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 ounces bacon or pancetta (about 2 strips), chopped

1 cup finely chopped brown mushrooms

3 pounds butternut squash, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces

2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 sage leaf, finely chopped

1/2 cup chicken stock

Salt, freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Crumble topping:

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

1 teaspoon salt

Freshly cracked black pepper

1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Generously butter a 2-quart baking dish.

In a large pan, heat the olive oil and truffled olive oil, if using, over medium-high heat. Add shallots, garlic and bacon; saute until shallots are soft. Add mushrooms and squash; saute until squash starts to soften and brown, about 15 minutes.

Add parsley, sage, stock, salt and pepper; mix well. Transfer squash mixture to prepared baking dish, cover with foil and bake until tender, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the crumble topping: Mix the flour, nuts, sugar, thyme, salt and pepper. Add butter and pinch with your fingers until mixture is the consistency of coarse meal; there will still be some pea-sized lumps of butter. Set aside in freezer until ready to use.

Remove dish from oven and uncover. Scatter the crumble topping over the squash; return to oven. Bake 45 minutes more, or until the topping is golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.

-- Todd Porter and Diane Cu, "Bountiful" (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $35, 304 pages)


Makes about 1 1 2 quarts

Note: Todd Porter and Diane Cu swirl this pumpkin puree into their homemade vanilla rum ice cream, but you can use a good quality vanilla.

1 small pie pumpkin (to make about 2 cups puree)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 quart vanilla ice cream

Turn the oven to 375 degrees. You do not have to preheat. Place pumpkin on a sheet pan; roast for about 1 hour or until it feels soft when you press its sides. Set aside until cool enough to handle.

Split pumpkin open, remove seeds and stringy bits, then scrape out the flesh. Puree the flesh in a blender or food processor until smooth. Stir in the vanilla, spices and brown sugar.

Let the ice cream soften, then stir in the puree. Serve the soft ice cream immediately, or let it harden in the freezer before serving.

-- Todd Porter and Diane Cu, "Bountiful" (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $35, 304 pages)


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