Pumpkins go savory: Part 1
Many cooks think of this time of year as pumpkin season, anticipating the wonderful pumpkin pies -- or pumpkin quick breads or pumpkin puddings -- they'll be making for the holidays ahead. Some more adventurous souls may also dare to imagine creating savory pumpkin dishes, usually in the form of the creamy pureed soups or squash-filled pastas that have become so popular in recent years, not least in my own restaurants!

But I would like to suggest you get even more creative with your savory pumpkin cookery. Pumpkin and its other hard-shelled, so-called winter squash cousins are, after all, members of the "vegetable-fruit" family, and at this time of year they deserve to play at least as big a role in appetizers, main courses, and side dishes as they do in desserts and baked goods.

So, this week and next I would like to share with you two of my favorite savory recipes featuring pumpkin. I hope they will start you thinking of even more ways to make creative use of this autumn staple.

Let me intrigue you first with a main dish that gets its distinctive character from that ingredient: Austrian-Style Boiled Beef with Pickled Pumpkin. It's a recipe inspired by a dish I was served by renowned chef Heinz Reitbauer of Steirereck restaurant in Vienna. His establishment's name refers to the fact that his parents, and the style of cooking he grew up with, come from the central Austrian region of Styria. Pumpkins are a staple there. So is pumpkin seed oil, a rich-tasting, emerald-green extract that you can find today in specialty food shops.

This country-style recipe is ideal for a casual autumn dinner party. I suggest you serve it at that kind of gathering largely because, although easy to make, it does call for some advance preparation. The pumpkin (actually, acorn or kabocha squash, which have better flavor and texture than most varieties of Halloween-style pumpkins you'll find in the market) needs to be cooked and then refrigerated in its honey-sweetened vinegar brine at least three days ahead. You can also, if you like, poach the beef the day before and refrigerate it in its cooking liquid to keep it moist; then, before serving, slice it, coat with the mustard and breadcrumbs, and brown in the saute pan, cooking the slices a little longer than directed to heat them through.

Be sure to take care when cutting up and peeling the squash. Use a sharp, sturdy knife and a nonslip cutting board. Many markets today sell packages of precut acorn or kabocha squash, which will make the work a bit easier.

Try this recipe soon. Then, enjoy pumpkin and its close cousins in savory dishes all autumn and winter long.


Serves 8


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 shallots, peeled and sliced

1 small winter squash (kabocha or acorn), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes, about 4 cups total

1/2 cup white wine vinegar

2 bay leaves

1 sprig fresh rosemary

1/4 cup honey

1/2 cup water