In Season: Pumpkins

Pumpkins are not just for jack-o’-lanterns.

We’ll leave the growing of giant pumpkins (cucurbita maxima) to the good folks of Smoky Lake, and concentrate on the pumpkin’s culinary prowess, especially in savoury uses.

Use pumpkin in a ricotta mixture for ravioli, to add colour and earthy flavour to a roast vegetable mixture or to make a rich and flavourful soup. You can use pumpkin pretty much anywhere a recipe calls for squash. Keep in mind: large pumpkins sold for carving are too tough and stringy to eat, but save the seeds — roasted with salt they make a delicious snack or salad garnish.

You’ll see several varieties of squash and pumpkin for sale at all the farmers markets. Or visit Tam Anderson’s Prairie Greenhouse and Gardens for a lavish selection of pumpkins, squashes and gourds and a day in the country to boot. They grow 27 different varieties, with prices starting at $1.50. Every weekend in October is Haunted Pumpkin Fest, fun for all especially when the pumpkin cannon goes off.

The town of Smoky Lake kicks off their 24th Annual Great White North Pumpkin Fair with the weigh-off at noon, October 5. The not to be missed Great Pumpkin Drop is at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, October 6.

Pumpkin gnocchi with purée of spinach, aged kitskoty pecorino and pine nuts

“Making gnocchi with pumpkin is fun and a little bit different. People underestimate the versatility of the pumpkin.” – Tracy Zizek, exec chef/co-owner, Café de Ville

Pumpkin gnocchi

  • 1 med pumpkin (about 2 lb)
  • ½ t grated nutmeg
  • ½ t salt
  • ¼ t white pepper
  • 2¾ c flour
  • The Cheesiry’s Kitskoty pecorino, for garnish
  • toasted pine nuts, for garnish

Preheat oven to 400ºF degrees. Bake pumpkin whole for about 1 hour and 45 minutes until a sharp knife can be inserted with ease. Cool until the pumpkin can be handled. Cut pumpkin in half and remove seeds. Scoop out flesh and purée in robot coupe or food processor.

Place purée in a large bowl. Add seasonings and flour and mix by hand. The dough will be quite sticky still.

Flour countertops and hands. Take small parcels of dough and roll to the thickness of your index finger. With a floured sharp knife, cut dough into small, bite-sized sections. If the dough is too sticky to work with, you can add more flour, but keep in mind that the more flour added to the dough, the more dense and heavy the gnocchi will be.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and put gnocchi in. Cook for roughly 5 minutes or until al dente.

Spinach purée

  • 1 bag (small-ish) fresh spinach (Sundog and Peas on Earth have beautiful spinach)
  • ½ med yellow onion, diced
  • ¼ c white wine
  • 1 T butter
  • 1-2 T heavy cream
  • sea salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste

Sauté onion and spinach in butter until most of the moisture has left the pan. Purée mixture in blender and season.

In a separate pot, heat white wine and reduce by ¼. Add spinach purée and simmer until a sauce-like consistency is reached. Finish by whisking in cream. Take off heat.

To serve: after gnocchi has been boiled and drained, heat a large pan with olive oil. Place gnocchi in pan and fry until golden. Add spinach purée and toss to coat the gnocchi. Place in pasta bowl. Grate Cheesiry’s aged pecorino over and sprinkle with toasted pine nuts.

Serves 6.

Pumpkin marmelata

This jam-like chunky spread is excellent with roast pork, with cheeses, or offered as part of a charcuterie platter.

  • 1 sml-med pumpkin
  • 4 c raw sugar
  • 1 t ground clove
  • 1 t allspice

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Mix sugar and spice in a large bowl and set aside.

Peel and seed the pumpkin. Rough chop flesh, toss with sugar and spice mixture and place in a roasting pan. Roast in the pre-heated oven for about an hour until the pumpkin is soft and browning. Mash in a food-mill or food processor (mixture should be chunky). Check the sweetness and add more sugar, if desired.

Makes about 4 cups and keeps for about two weeks in the fridge.

Roasted pumpkin and apple salad

Adapted from a recipe by Bruce Aidells.

  • ¼ c balsamic vinegar
  • 2 t (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 1 sml-med pumpkin or winter squash (kabocha, butternut, sunburst) peeled, halved lengthwise and seeded
  • canola oil
  • sea salt
  • 2 heads Belgian endive, root ends trimmed, leaves separated into individual leaves
  • 2 unpeeled Honeycrisp or Macintosh apples, halved, cored, cut into matchstick-size strips (place in a water/lemon juice mixture to prevent browning)
  • ¼ c coarsely crumbled blue cheese (Quebec’s Bleu Bénédictin or Ermite are good choices)
  • ½ c dried cranberries or sour cherries

Preheat oven to 400°F. Brush 2 large rimmed baking sheets with oil.

Whisk vinegar and sugar in small bowl and set aside.

Cut squash halves crosswise into ¼-inch-thick slices — so they look like batons. Arrange squash in single layer on prepared sheets; brush with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast 5 minutes, then brush with sugar-vinegar mixture. Turn squash over and brush with sugar-vinegar mixture again and roast for 5 minutes. Roast until squash is tender when pierced with small knife, about 15 minutes longer.

Cool on sheets. Let stand at room temperature.


  • 2 T fresh lemon juice
  • 6 T extra-virgin olive oil

Whisk vinegar and lemon juice in small bowl and gradually whisk in oil. Season and reserve.

To serve: Divide endive between 4-6 plates. Place squash slices in center of each plate. Scatter apples, cheese and cranberries/cherries over squash. Drizzle dressing and serve.

Serves 4-6.