Two of Charlotte’s best chefs share exclusive pumpkin recipes


Chef Joya’s pumpkin recipe: empanadas. (Photo by Kristen Stegall / Novice Studios)

Besides pie, when you think of consuming pumpkin, you probably think of beers and lattes. Here’s the thing, though: the pumpkin spice isn’t pumpkin, it’s an artificial flavor. We wanted to know new ways to use all that pumpkin innards after carving our pumpkin lanterns, so we reached out to two of the top chefs to see what ideas they had for a great pumpkin recipe.

Adjoa Courtney, known professionally as Chef Joya, rose to popularity with her Cooking With Joya web series. The longtime vegan chef has since published four cookbooks, including It’s Soul Mahmazing! Flight. 1 and From the table of my ancestors. Her vegan pumpkin empanadas are a perfect recipe for Halloween parties.

Vegan Pumpkin Empanadas

What do you need:
10 disks of prefabricated annatto empanada dough (thawed)
12 ounces of vegan ground meat
3 tablespoons green sofrito (make your own using From My Ancestors’ Table recipe: African & Caribbean Vegan Food For The Soul)
1 tbsp. grape seed oil
3 tbsp. pumpkin puree
1 bag of sazon
1 tbsp. Chef Joya’s Red House Seasonings
1 tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
4 oz. vegan mozzarella
2 cups of oil for frying

pumpkin recipe
Chef Joya presents her pumpkin empanadas. (Photo by Kristen Stegall / Novice Studios)

What to do:
Add the grape seed oil to a saucepan. Add vegan ground meat, vegan Worcestershire and Red House seasoning.
Cook for two minutes. Add the sazon, the sofrito and the pumpkin puree. Cook for two minutes.
Heat the oil to 350 degrees.
Add 1-2 tablespoons of the meat mixture and 1 tablespoon of cheese to half of the dough disc. Wet the edges with water and fold over. Seal with a fork. Add to the oil and brown for 1 min.
Drain on absorbent paper and enjoy.


Alyssa Wilen cooked her whole life until 2013, when she started Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen with her husband Andrew. CAK has won numerous awards and recently moved into a bespoke, state-of-the-art kitchen in South End, where they serve clients and hospitality classes. In 2020, Alyssa and her team pivoted with a home delivery service, continuing to serve their loyal fan base despite a pandemic.

Chef Alyssa’s Pumpkin Sage Oil Risotto is a simple yet elegant dish that will impress anyone you serve.

Chef Alyssa's cooking, pumpkin recipe
Chef Alyssa in the kitchen. (Photo courtesy of CAK)

Pumpkin risotto with sage oil

What do you need:
1 pound of pumpkin such as a butterkin or a sugar baby
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 liters of chicken or vegetable broth (or water)
½ yellow onion, finely chopped
1 ½ cup Anson Mills Vialone Nano Risotto (or Arborio) rice
1 cup of dry white wine
2 tbsp. Unsalted butter
½ cup (about 2 ounces) freshly grated Parmesan
Salt and white pepper to taste
Sage oil (recipe follows)

What to do:
Set the oven to 400 degrees.
Peel and cut the pumpkin into medium (¼ ”) pieces. Place in a bowl and mix with half the olive oil (2 tbsp) and a little salt.
Spread out on a lined sheet pan and roast in the middle of the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until very tender.
When you’re ready, transfer half to a bowl and mash with a fork or cookie cutter and set aside.
In a 4 quart saucepan, heat the broth / water so it’s close and ready as needed.
In a 4 to 6 quart thick and wide saucepan, heat the remaining olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook them until translucent, stirring with a wooden spoon for about 2 minutes. Season with salt.
Add the rice and cook, stirring frequently, until the edges of the grains are transparent, about 2 minutes.
Add the wine, stirring frequently until the wine is absorbed by the rice. Do not let the rice dry out; about 2 minutes.
Add about 2 cups of hot broth, stirring throughout cooking, until most of the liquid is absorbed; 6 to 8 min.
Keep adding more broth to cover the rice as it is absorbed, but before the rice gets too dry, until it is tender.
Your risotto is ready when the grains are cooked and “al dente”.
Stir in the mashed and diced roasted pumpkin, butter, cheese and adjust the seasoning with S&P to taste.
Serve with sage oil on top.

pumpkin recipe
Chef Alyssa’s pumpkin recipe: risotto with sage oil. (Photo by Alyssa Wilen)

Sage oil:
½ cup of fresh sage leaves
½ cup + 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon of honey
1 lemon
1 teaspoon of sea salt

Puree sage, oil, lemon juice, honey and salt in a blender until smooth.
Line a mesh filter basket with cheesecloth over a bowl. Pour the oil into the basket and let it drain slowly in the refrigerator.


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