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Baking

Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater
January 26, 2012

Pumpkin pops up all over restaurant menus in the fall and winter, from savory soups and risottos to decadent flans and cakes. When it comes to the home kitchen, though, it seems to be a "one trick pony" reserved for pie making. Please don't misunderstand —I love pumpkin pie, both eating and making it, but there's so much more to do with this vitamin and flavor rich vegetable.

Starting off with a simple puree is a portal to many dishes. While canned varieties work fine, making your own is quick and easy using the food processor attachment on your Cuisinart Stand Mixer. Roasting locks in a deep rich flavor and you won't need to drain the puree to remove excess water. In its simplest form, pumpkin is a perfect first food for babies —gentle on the stomach with a yummy flavor they'll gobble up. My six-month old daughter is a big fan.

I'd been thinking about ricotta fritters lately. The Italian shop near my house makes it fresh and the taste is nothing like the packaged brands I grew up eating. The grains are creamy and sweet enough to eat by the spoonful. I wondered how pumpkin would taste in these light and airy pockets of fried dough. Pumpkin pie seasonings managed to work there into the recipe, with a hint of nutmeg and cinnamon. The results were delicious and while you'll want to eat them everyday, they're perfect for serving at a holiday cocktail party either as a savory starter with a spicy tomato relish or sprinkled with confectioner's sugar for dessert.

Golden Ricotta Pumpkin Fritters
Makes about 24 large or 48 small fritters

Homemade pumpkin puree lends a depth of flavor to this recipe. See the note below for making your own. These fritters cook up quick and are best served hot, so wait until guests start arriving to make them.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
8 ounces ricotta cheese
1/2 cup pureed pumpkin
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Canola oil, for frying
Confectioner's sugar, for garnish

  1. Fill a heavy-bottomed deep saucepan halfway with canola oil. Heat the oil to 375 degrees.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and spices together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  3. Add the ricotta cheese, pumpkin, eggs and vanilla extract to a medium bowl. Beat with a fork until mixed well. Pour over flour mixture and stir until wet and dry ingredients are incorporated, being careful not to overmix.
  4. Drop a scant tablespoon of the mixture at a time into the heated oil (or 1 teaspoon if you're serving as an hors d'oeuvre). Fry until light golden brown, about 30 to 45 seconds on each side (less for smaller ones). Drain on a parchment lined baking sheet.
  5. Pile drained fritters on a platter and sift powdered sugar over the top if serving for dessert.

PUMPKIN PUREE:
Cut a small pie pumpkin (also called sugar pumpkins) in half, scoop out the seeds and place cut side down on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake at 400º until flesh is tender when pierced with a fork, about 30 to 40 minutes depending on the size. Let cool completely, then scoop out flesh and add to the work bowl of the food processor attachment of your Cuisinart Stand Mixer. Process until smooth.

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