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Friday, October 24, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 54.0° F  Overcast
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Leave pie behind with savory pumpkin pancakes and persimmon date sauce (recipe)
It's the great latke, Charlie Brown

Credit:Sid Heezen

I just received a pie pumpkin in my community-supported agriculture box, and although I love pumpkin pie, I decided it would be fashioned into something else. But what?

A pie pumpkin's tender flesh is far superior for eating than the stringy likes of monster jack o' lantern pumpkins. I spared it the knife during the Halloween season, yet like the Raven taunting "Nevermore!" it gawked at me from the top of my microwave. It still is sitting, still is sitting, I thought, as I paced across my kitchen floor.

I kept coming back to the thought of pumpkin pie, but it was as if the pumpkin was saying, "I'll be pie - nevermore!"

Must pie pumpkin be turned into pie? Of course not. It can be baked, stuffed, candied, you name it, but I must admit, I don't cook with pie pumpkins often, and I was a little intimidated about making something with it.

I like to start off by making substitutions for main ingredients and then adjust the medley of flavors to follow. I thought about what a pumpkin is: It's starchy, slightly sweet, and holds its shape relatively well. I thought of foods that share some of these qualities and how they're used, including squash and potatoes. From there, zucchini pancakes and traditional potato latkes occurred to me.

Those recipes are the root of the pumpkin latkes below - basically, fritter-like goodies bound together with egg and flour, or sometimes breadcrumbs, and then fried.

I lifted the sour cream and applesauce side from the latkes, keeping the sour cream but subbing for applesauce a sweet persimmon-date sauce that will beckon even picky eaters with that familiar waft of nutmeg, cinnamon and clove reminiscent of pumpkin pie.

Want something festive but unorthodox for the holidays? Try this as an autumnal appetizer or brunch item. You'll be bound to pumpkin pie - nevermore!

Pumpkin Latkes
Makes about six three-inch rounds

  • 3 cups fresh pie pumpkin, shredded
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup onion, minced
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Shred pumpkin and set in colander over a large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and toss; let rest about 20 minutes to release juices, then blot dry with paper towels.

In a large mixing bowl, mix pumpkin with flour, then fold in egg and onion.

Heat saucepan over medium-high heat and cook latkes about 1-1/2 to 2 minutes each side, until crispy and browned. If browning too quickly, reduce heat. Serve immediately with sour cream and persimmon sauce.

Persimmon-Date Sauce
Makes about 1 cup

This is made with fuyu persimmons, a crisp variety you can eat and cook with much like an apple.

  • 3 fuyu persimmons, small dice
  • 1/4 cup apple cider
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup demerara sugar
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon cloves
  • pinch nutmeg
  • 6 pitted dates, finely chopped

Add all ingredients to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to maintain a simmer. Reduce to half, until liquid thickens and persimmons are tender.

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