A wild assortment of gourds adorns the Turn House in Columbia: cheese pumpkins and pastel colored fairytale pumpkins with dark shadows on the seams. They are more than just eye candy at the seasonally focused restaurant. They all end up on someone’s plate.
“We use them as decorations until we need them,” said head chef Tom Zippelli, who’s been cooking up dishes like pumpkin burrata and a hearty, autumnal pumpkin Bolognese for the restaurant’s fall menu.
“It is a super good pumpkin season compared to last year, especially,” he said. “Last year we kind of got deprived.”
In spite of — or because of — its simplicity, The Helmand’s kaddo borwani has become one of the most loved appetizers in Baltimore. A slab of roasted pumpkin, soft and lightly sweetened, is drizzled in garlic yogurt sauce, a marriage of flavors so wonderful, you’ll wonder why it’s not already part of your regular Thanksgiving rotation. Try it at the Helmand or the restaurant’s newer spinoff near Johns Hopkins Hospital, where it’s $5.50.
Pumpkins and squash feature prominently in Uzbek cuisine, where they may be used in fillings for manti, which resemble ravioli, or hanum, a rolled-up dumpling. The latter dish, seasoned with pepper and onions, can be found at Stolichny European Deli in Pikesville, where it costs $4.99 per pound and staff recommend you eat it cold. Cyrillic signs and Russian pop music on the loudspeaker provide an added taste of the old country.
In cultures outside the U.S., the term “pumpkin” is a catchall for a number of winter squashes, and this creamy pumpkin porridge popular in Korean culture can also be made with butternut squash. At Siroo & Juk Story, a Korean cafe in an Ellicott City strip mall, the $8.99 soup comes scalding hot, with an assortment of tasty kimchees. Finish it off with a pumpkin rice cake sold in the shop.
10176 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City. siroousa.com. 443-325-5330.
Pumpkin curry from Sweet 27
Spiced pumpkin doesn’t need to mean pumpkin spice, as this complexly flavored curry from Remington’s Sweet 27 demonstrates. Pumpkin is cooked in the oven until soft and smoky, and seasoned with a variety of herbs including mustard seeds and garam masala. If you’re ordering for carryout, be sure to pick up the bakery’s gluten-free pumpkin pie-shaped cookie, which makes a glorious companion for morning coffee.
Pumpkin takes the place of tomato in two fall dishes at the Turn House. In a creamy Bolognese ($28), it draws out deep flavors of ground veal, pork and beef over penne. It’s the very definition of fall comfort food. Another recent addition to the menu is burrata ($16) served with roasted pumpkin, prosciutto and maple syrup vinaigrette.
When it comes to cooking, not all pumpkins are created equal. The quest for the perfect pumpkin led Sacre Sucre’s Manuel Sanchez to kabocha pumpkins from Japan. The gourds, he says, have less water and more flavor than typical pumpkins and therefore require less seasoning. “We wanted it to be pumpkin and not pumpkin spice,” said Sanchez. The bright orange gourds go into a delicious custard inside Sacre Sucre’s calabaza tart, topped off with orange marmalade and streusel made from pumpkin seeds. Like everything else at the Fells Point bakery, the $8 tart looks almost too pretty to eat. Bite in anyway.
The deep-fried pumpkin cake filled with bean paste is Sichuan’s pumpkin pie. Enjoy the contrast between the crunchy exterior and chewy inside of this version sold at Towson’s new Red Pepper Sichuan Bistro, where four pieces come in an $8.95 order.
Locally owned fast casual chain Atwater’s always impresses with its fresh and seasonal offerings, and these frosted pumpkin bites are a wonderful homage to fall. They run two for $1, which means that for $10, you can make 20 of your coworkers happy. That’s just math.
815 Frederick Road, Catonsville, and four other locations. atwatersfood.com. 410-747-4120.
Pumpkin cookies at Johnny’s
Fluffy, spiced cookies with a sugary outer crust make these another sweet pumpkin option. They’re available this October at Johnny’s of Roland Park and part of a rotating selection of seasonal cookies at the Foreman Wolf restaurant. Paper ballots in the restaurant allow guests to vote on what type of cookie they think should come next. Six cost $17.50.
What to do when you’re craving pumpkin pie but it’s still hot out? Why, eat an ice cream cone from the Charmery, of course. It’s creamy and spicy, yet cold enough to eat on an unseasonably sweltering October afternoon. If anything comes closer to pumpkin pie on a cone, we haven’t seen it. Try a single scoop for $4.65 at any Charmery location, including branches in Hampden, Towson or the factory at Medfield’s Union Collective.
801 W. 36th St., Hampden, and two other locations. thecharmery.com. 410-814-0493.
Pumpkin spice latte at Charmington’s
We had to include at least one pumpkin spice latte in this roundup — so why not one made with actual pumpkin? This version tastes like French toast in a cup, with spices nicely accentuating the rich espresso flavor.