You can tell that we here at Slashfood are knee-deep in autumn: some of us are swilling pumpkin beer and mixing pumpkin cocktails; some of us are making comfort food from soup to pot pie; and no few of us are stuffing Halloween candy into our mouths. So what better time to share a slim, marvelous volume devoted to recipes and techniques for autumn's centerpiece ingredient?
Yes, a pumpkin is a squash (and squashes, by the way, are gourds), and so are crooknecks, acorns, butternuts, zucchinis, chayotes, pattypans, carnivals and all of the summer and winter squashes that take center stage in A Harvest of Pumpkins and Squash. The book begins with cookbook author Lou Seibert Pappas' thoughts on squash, from their history to their purchase and preparation, followed by a wonderful and useful squash glossary (squashary?). From there we proceed to squash recipes (squashipes?).
Cooking with squash doesn't begin and end with zucchini bread (page 20) and pumpkin pie (page 84), though the book contains interpretations of both -- for the pie, the spicy pumpkin custard is spiked with maple and adorned with caramelized pecans and cognac whipped cream; for the bread, the traditional zucchini loaf of a thousand garden bumper crops is realized with wheat flower and golden raisins. If these interpretations strike you as unnecessary, try one of the recipes for less iconic dishes. Start your meal with a cheesy squash soup served in sugar pumpkin shells (page 34) or serve a showstopping, Moroccon-influenced main dish soup of meatballs, chard and kabocha (page 39). Pair a good basic recipe for the autumn classic roasted root vegetables (page 48) with Greek-influenced "bandit-style" lamb chops (page 63). Since pumpkins are central to autumn baking, invite your friends over for coffee and a slice of cranberry walnut pumpkin coffee cake (page 18), to help you decorate pumpkin muffins (page 17), or for a breakfast of pumpkin-orange waffles (page 25).
Whatever recipe you try -- pasta? chicken? souffle? salad? polenta? ice cream? -- you will find a new way to express the unique character of this versatile food. If sunny crooknecks and pear-shaped chayotes symbolize summer's roadside garden stand, then the ubitiquitous pumpkin represents autumn's harvest fields. Accordingly, most of the recipes focus on winter squash, inviting the home cook to prepare and share a hearty, warming meal. Autumn is a cozy, hospitable season, so how fitting to celebrate with this Harvest.