Indigenous to South America, pumpkins are widely cultivated across the world and considered an important food source for many. Pumpkin can refer to any hard-skinned winter squash and the line that separates pumpkin from squash has never been clearly defined, as the terms are frequently used interchangeably.
What is pumpkin? A member of the gourd family technically named the Cucurbita family, consisting of all summer and winter squash as well as cucumbers and melons. There are over 25 varieties of pumpkin grown in the states with the traditional American pumpkin being the Connecticut field variety. Young pumpkin leaves are valued as a cooked vegetable in many countries, especially Italy and Asia, and are a superb source of vitamin C and beta-carotene. Pumpkin blossoms stuffed, or battered and fried, are prized as a delicacy. Conflicting reports state the majority of canned pumpkin is actually Hubbard and / or butternut squash however, the Libby Corporation reports from the self-proclaimed pumpkin capital of the world, Morton, Illinois that a special thinned skin and thick-fleshed variety of pumpkins are used for canning. The latest trend in pumpkins is for the mini varieties, used for stuffing or as edible serving vessels. Pumpkin seeds are used as snacks, garnishes, sauces and produce highly aromatic oil when pressed.
Nutritional value. Very healthy, pumpkin is 90 percent water with large amounts of vitamin A and potassium as well as smaller amounts of vitamin C and fiber. One cup of diced cooked pumpkin contains approximately 50 calories where as one cup of pureed pumpkin contains approximately 80 calories.
Selecting fresh pumpkin. Eighty percent of the pumpkin supply in the United States is available in October. With any pumpkin or winter squash, choose rock-solid specimens and reject any that are soft or have bruises or blemishes. It is important to buy pumpkins with at least 1 -2 inches of stems attached as a pumpkin with the stem cut to low can decay quickly. Jack-o-lantern varieties can be cooked with great results but the best cooking pumpkins are the pie, or sweet pumpkins.
Storing fresh pumpkin. It is not necessary to refrigerate pumpkin or winter squash varieties. Purchased fresh and stored at cool room temperature with adequate ventilation, they can last for months. Higher temperature storage shortens the shelf life. Once pumpkin or squash is cut, it should be refrigerated.
General uses. Pumpkin is not suitable for eating raw but is delicious when pickled, made into compote or chutney. Pumpkin is used in savory as well as sweet preparations and can be served as appetizer, salad, side dish and dessert. Pumpkin produces a velvety and complex soup as well as puree or mash, and is delicious in casseroles, stews and braises. Baking pumpkin increases the flavor profile and has an affinity to sweet flavors such as maple syrup and brown sugar as well as spices like ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon. Pumpkin can be micro waved, steamed and simmered in salted water, as well as cubed and sautéed until tender. Pumpkin can be substituted for any winter squash recipe.
Preparation. The pumpkin can be smashed to break it open or cut with a heavy knife or cleaver. Scrape out all the seeds along with the stringy mass. The pumpkin can be cooked with the skin on and then peeled easily after cooking or alternately, peeled raw and then cooked. One-pound raw pumpkin yields about one cup puree.
Serve this soup in hollowed out baked mini pumpkins or in warmed bowls. A dollop of unsweetened whipped cream, julienne apple, toasted pumpkin seeds, snipped chives and / or a drizzle of dark pumpkin seed oil all make wonderful garnishes.
2 tbsp whole butter (1 oz)
3 medium-large cloves garlic, sliced
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1.25 cup peeled onion, diced (6 oz)
1 cup cleaned leeks, sliced, white and tender green portion only (3 oz)
2 tbsp dry white wine
1 tbsp dry sherry
2.25 pounds peeled pumpkin, rough 1” dice (approximately 8 cups) (1 small 3.25# whole pumpkin)
5 cups natural chicken stock
1 small bay leaf
3 fresh large sage leaves
kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
½ cup heavy cream
Saute the garlic slices in the butter until lightly browned over medium heat. Add the ginger, onion and leek, turn heat to low and sweat covered until tender, about 5 minutes. Add white wine, sherry and simmer uncovered until all wine is evaporated. Add pumpkin, stock, bay leaf and sage. Bring to a simmer and cook gently until the pumpkin is very tender, about 30 minutes. Remove bay leaf and sage and puree soup until smooth in blender or food processor. Strain through medium fine strainer (china cap), season to taste, finish with heavy cream, reheat and serve.
Here at Cook’s Fresh Market we pride ourselves on the fact that our trained culinary team of chefs and cooks make many of our prepared foods, including items like our aioli sauces and our spreads and dressings but a balsamic vinaigrette dressing is not some closely guarded secret made mysterious by a celebrity or gourmet chef. A good tasting vinaigrette is easy to make, and healthy for you. Oil and vinegar salad dressings or vinaigrette recipes can be made by those who have not attended a culinary institute.
Times have sure changed since Seven Sea’s Italian Dressing and Wishbone’s Green Goddess sat on every store shelf as salad dressing staples. Remember when we thought “Original Ranch” was a vast improvement for our salad dressing repertoire, and store bought bacon bits were a hit? Then packaged spring mixed greens became available, and pine nuts were considered healthy and… just a moment; you still buy bottled salad dressings?
Our quest for “lighter fare” and “healthy greens” in our diet, has led us down a daunting path, searching for that elusive ‘healthy salad dressing.’ Low carbs, low cholesterol, and “healthy for all that ails you,” has become a must. So what is it, that we should, (or better yet) ‘are allowed’ to put on top of our salad that’s good for you?
Today we walk down the salad dressing aisle in a gourmet food store and behold the gourmet condiments from floor to eye level. Organic spreads, sauces, and accoutrements. Wine vinegars, infused oils, and herb flavored vinaigrettes. Some endorsed by celebrities. Some seen on TV. Some made by celebrities, (yeah, right). Some made on a distant island, in some strange sounding place. (We move on a step further.) We shake our head at Modena consortium, imported Spanish, and California Napa Balsamic vinegars. A huge question mark appears over our heads as we gaze at Aceto, Traditional, aged, and Special Blends. We mutter, “What hath God Wrought?” Inventor, Alexander Graham Bell, couldn’t have verbalized our incredulous thoughts more accurately.
A simple oil and vinegar salad dressing, why is the degree of difficulty exponential? It needn’t be. A simple vinaigrette dressing recipe can be made easily, from simple ingredients, be healthy for you, and actually taste great.
The key ingredients in a vinaigrette dressing, is a traditional aged balsamic vinegar, and an excellent olive oil. You don’t have to spend a fortune for the balsamic either. We have some excellent choices in our market.
Your balsamic vinaigrette dressing will go great with other dishes besides a salad, too. A balsamic vinaigrette is outstanding with fresh lobster and scallops, artichokes and asparagus. A balsamic dressing also goes well with fresh sliced tomatoes or steamed vegetables and greens.
A balsamic dressing recipe can be altered to your individual taste. The normal proportions for a balsamic vinaigrette dressing are one part balsamic vinegar to three parts olive oil, with seasoning of salt, pepper and Dijon mustard. A rule of thumb is one teaspoonful of mustard for every half cup of salad dressing. The flavor of balsamic vinegar is rich and intense, and with a delicate olive oil you may want to use proportions of one part vinegar to four or five of olive oil. Other herbs and spices will enhance a balsamic vinaigrette, such as chives and sage. Even a bit of finely grated fresh ginger root will add zest to your dressing. It is all a question of how you want your finished dressing to taste.
Simple Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing Recipe (that you can make yourself)
3 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed through a garlic press
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Use a blender to mix the ingredients. It will produce a thicker vinaigrette dressing. One serving will equal 2 to 3 tablespoons of dressing. One cup should easily be enough for 6 to 8 servings of mixed green salad. Refrigerate and store in a covered container. Whisk well before serving.
Here at Cook’s Fresh Market we pride ourselves on providing wholesome and delicious food. On our house-made sandwiches, you will find that we enhance their flavor with the use of our “aiolis.” Aioli is a luxuriously thick sauce that, at its heart is garlic (from the “ai”) and oil (from the “oli”). While many people think that aioli (pronounced “eye-oh-lee”) is just a type of mayonnaise, we guarantee you that our aiolis are not just a standard, mass-produced mixture of flavorless oil, egg yolk, vinegar, and perhaps some powdered mustard.
Being of French origin, you can almost taste history, and fine cuisine, as soon as the flavors of an authentic aioli hit your palate. For it to be true to its European and Mediterranean beginnings, aioli always contains pressed garlic, as one of its main ingredients, which is also always blended with a high-quality oil (such as olive oil). This classic and obviously quite a simple combination of ingredients provide the essential base that allows you to experience our aioli spreads or dips as complex, original, tasty, and flavorful. To these core ingredients, we do add some egg yolk, to help with the blending (or the desirable “emulsification” which makes aioli rich and spreadable), and we also add other spices and ingredients that enable us to provide our customers with a tantalizing assortment of aioli flavor options.
On our sandwich menu alone you will find that we make use of our Basil Pesto Garlic Aioli, or our Mustard Horseradish Aioli, or our Avocado Aioli. These are just a few of our, house-made aiolis. We use fresh ingredients to make our aiolis, and we like to get creative when coming up with aiolis that lend the finishing touch of flavor to our sandwiches. Whether you ordered our cold Parmesan Basil Chicken Sandwich, or our hot and toasted Roast Pork Shoulder BLT Sandwich, the aiolis we use will take the taste of our sandwiches from fine to sublime.
Also, aiolis are not just used as a gourmet sandwich spread. Aiolis are often served as a dip alongside some battered and fried fish (as opposed to tartar sauce), or next to a pile of sweet potato fries, or as the sauce for blanched asparagus spears, or steamed artichokes. Regardless of how you use it, aioli can elevate just about anything you are eating to a more authentic level that assures you’ll be coming back for more.
We ask our social media followers in the Poll of the Day “Which items on our breakfast menu are baked fresh daily?”
C. All Butter Croissants
D. All of the above
If you answered “all of the above”, you are correct!
Many of the items on our breakfast menu are made fresh daily or made to order especially for you.
Today we’re featuring Quinn Snack’s Kale and Sea Salt Popcorn. Kale yeah!
You’ve probably heard a lot about farm-to-table but what do you know about farm-to-bag? Farm-to-bag follows the same idea as farm-to-table in that you can know where the popcorn in your lovely bag comes from.
Quinn Snacks does an awesome job of helping you map the journey of their products. They take it a step further by including cool introductions to the growers and suppliers. Knowing where your food comes from gives you the power to make responsible food choices.
Learn more about the uniqueness Quinn Snacks at www.quinnsnacks.com, better yet stop in Cook’s Fresh Market and check out all the interesting products that we’ve sourced for you
Here at Denver’s well-loved Cook’s Fresh Market, we proudly offer Boar’s Head Brand artisan meats and cheeses. Whether you are looking for a quality catering experience or ordering a sandwich from our lunch menu, the Boar’s Head products we serve will be sure to please and satisfy you, and your family and friends.
Why have we chosen to carry Boar’s Head meats and cheeses? Well, because the Boar’s Head company has been around for 110 years, and as their mission says, they are “recognized as leaders who provide exceptional customer service and superior quality delicatessen products.” The Boar’s Head Brand was founded by Frank Brunckhorst in the New York City area, in 1905, and has been a family-owned company for five generations. They are known to be “skilled artisans in meats” and “master craftsmen in cheese preparation methods.” At Boar’s Head, the standards of quality have always been stupendously high and the same is true for us here at Cook’s Fresh Market.
Almost every type of meat is “hand-trimmed” to assure the leanest cuts, and most items are both gluten and dairy free. Additionally, for our dear customers who are very concerned about the processing of deli meats, we offer some Boar’s Head “All Natural” meats. The All Natural meats contain no MSG, and no nitrites or nitrates (other than those naturally occurring in sea salt), and are beyond delicious even to the most discriminating palate. And if cheeses are your thing, then you can strike gold once again with our Boar’s Head Brand offerings.