October seems to be about everything pumpkin. Apparently at one time pumpkin was recommended for removing freckles and curing snake bites. I can see where smudging a thick orange puree on your face might cover your freckles, but not so much remove them. And snake bites, well, these days I think antivenin is probably a better bet. Also, in colonial times pumpkin was used in the crust of pies, not the filling. However, Colonists sliced off pumpkin tops, removed the seeds and filled the inside with milk, spices and honey. The filled shell was baked in hot ashes. This is considered the origin of pumpkin pie.

While pumpkin pie is a fall staple, there are many other ways to use pumpkin. Pumpkin soup is a quick recipe, but the cheesecake is a pretty involved one. Both would be great for guests. While it's not too hard to make your own pumpkin puree, both recipes are fine with canned pumpkin.

Check over the cheesecake recipe before diving in ... it calls for baking the cheesecake in a water bath and sometimes finding a pan for that can be tricky if you haven't used that set up before. Don't skip wrapping the pan in heavy duty foil either - and do it carefully. If you put that much effort into a fabulous dessert, you don't want water seeping in and making the bottom soggy. Trust me on this.

Brandied Pumpkin Soup

1/4 cup butter

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

3 1/2 cups chicken broth

1/4 tsp. ginger

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1/4 tsp. white pepper

1/4 tsp. salt

2 1/2 cups pumpkin puree

1 cup light cream

2 Tbsp. brandy

Garnish optional: croutons

In large and deep saucepan melt butter, add onion and cook, stirring occasionally until transparent. Add chicken broth and seasonings. Bring just to a boil.

Blend in pumpkin and cream. Reduce heat, stir occasionally and cook until soup is thoroughly heated, but do not boil. Blend in brandy. Serve hot with croutons.

Marbled Pumpkin Cheesecake

3 Tblsp. Unsalted butter

1 cup gingersnap crumbs, about 20 cookies

4 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature

1 cup sugar

3 Tblsp. Cornstarch

1 cup sour cream

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 t. salt

3 eggs

1 tsp. lemon juice

3/4 cup pumpkin puree

3 Tblsp. Dark brown sugar

2 Tblsp. molasses

1 tsp. cinnamon

3/4 tsp. ginger

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1/8 tsp. ground cloves

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and wrap the pan with a piece of heavy duty foil. Melt the three tablespoons of butter and combine with the crumbs. Press crumb mixture into the bottom of the pan and chill.

With an electric mixer at medium-low speed, beat the cream cheese, sugar and two tablespoons of cornstarch until smooth. Beat in sour cream, vanilla and salt. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Remove 3 1/2 cups of this batter and add the lemon juice. Set aside. Combine the remaining batter with the pumpkin, brown sugar, molasses, the remaining one tablespoon of cornstarch and the spices. Set aside one cup of pumpkin batter. Spread half of the remaining pumpkin batter in the prepared pan. Gently spoon half of the plain batter over the pumpkin batter. Spoon the other half of the pumpkin batter over this and then the remaining plain batter over the pumpkin. Dot the top with spoonfuls of the reserved cup of pumpkin batter. With a chopstick or the handle of a wooden spoon, gently swirl the batters.

Place the cheesecake in a large roasting pan and fill the roasting pan with water halfway up the sides of the cheesecake pan. Bake until the center of the cheesecake jiggles only slightly when the pan is tapped, about 1 hour 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and run a knife around the edge of the cake. Let the cake cool 10 minutes in the water bath. Remove and cool completely on a wire rack. Chill thoroughly before serving.

Ahwatukee Foothills resident Lori Rossi began collecting recipes at age 14, but her real love affair with cooking started after picking up a December 1989 Bon Appetit magazine. Today, she shares her love of the kitchen with her two kids, Nathan, 11, and Nicole, 8. If you'd like to get in touch with Lori with a question or idea, e-mail her at azlrossi@gmail.com.


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