Pumpkin Comfort

It seems like the moment October arrives, people start demanding that pumpkin be inserted into everything they eat, drink, and smell. And it’s no wonder—is there anything more comforting than the scent of a warm, spiced pumpkin pie in the oven? Apple pie might be the most popular pie in America, but pumpkin is a close second, and when October rolls around, there’s no denying what the people want: pumpkin spiced fill-in-the-blank.

Well, I say, “Give the people what they want!” See my recipe for pumpkin pie, which omits any pre-processed canned stuff. Those little pie-sized pumpkins at the farmers markets don’t just have to be for decoration. All that pumpkin-flavored goodness has to come from somewhere, so try your hand at this classic roasted-pumpkin pie recipe and then save the left-over seeds for spicy roasted pumpkin seeds—a great snack to nosh on while you’re waiting for that pie to bake.

Summer sweet corn season might be long gone, but did you know that fall is the time of year to buy popping corn? Popping corn is a special kind of corn that can often be found at farms and markets throughout Hampton Roads during the fall. Lucky for us, Hampton Roads is also home to local chef and foodie expert, Patrick Evans-Hylton, who wrote an entire cookbook on the art of popcorn.

Here’s what Patrick has to say about his unique take on Popcorn Shrimp. “According to a recent study from the National Fisheries Institute, shrimp is the most popular seafood in an ocean full of choices. And why not? The shellfish can be prepared a number of ways, including frying, grilling, sautéed, and steaming. They can be served chilled and tossed in salads, or hot and swimming in a butter/garlic/wine sauce; there are many possibilities. One such possibility is my Popcorn Shrimp, which is a fun and delicious way to enjoy this crustacean. This recipe is adapted from one in my book, POPCORN available in bookstores and online. Here we take large, delicious shrimp and dredge them in a mixture of popcorn crumbs, flour, and seasonings for a unique take on a classic fried offering.”

October is a great time to live in Hampton Roads. The weather has cooled, the humidity has faded, and farm stands and markets are open and selling all kinds of fall goodies and decorations. Many also offer hay rides and corn mazes, fresh popped popcorn, and more. So get out there and enjoy the season and all it has to offer.

1 cup freshly popped corn, at room temperature

½ cup all-purpose flour

2 eggs, beaten

24 large shrimp, peeled and deveined

½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon seafood seasoning

½ teaspoon lemon zest

Corn oil

• Place flour in a medium, shallow bowl and set aside. In a food processor, coarsely chop the popcorn, transfer to a medium, shallow bowl, and set aside. Crack eggs in a medium, shallow bowl, whisk, and set aside.
• Lay shrimp on a lined baking sheet and season both sides of the shrimp with salt, pepper, seafood seasoning, and lemon zest.
• Holding each shrimp by the tail, dredge with flour, shaking off the excess. Dip in the eggs, then dredge in the popcorn crumbs. Place the coated shrimp on a plate until all are prepared.
• Pour enough oil in a 12-inch sauté pan to cover the bottom with 1/4 inch of oil. Heat the pan over medium heat just to the smoke point. The oil should be hot enough to fry the shrimp but not burn.
• Add the shrimp to the sauté pan and cook until the flesh is firm and pink in color, about 2 minutes on each side. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel.
Serves 2 to 3
Recipe Courtesy Patrick Evans-Hylton, adapted from his book, POPCORN

1 medium pie pumpkin
1 c. sugar
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. ground cloves

1 2/3 c. sweetened condensed milk

2 eggs
unbaked pie crust (frozen or homemade)

• Cut pie pumpkin in half; remove seeds with ice cream scooper. (Save seeds to make spicy, roasted pumpkin seeds.) Cover both halves with aluminum foil and bake for one hour at 350°F on a rimmed baking sheet. 
Remove pumpkin from oven and let cool.
• Scoop out pumpkin flesh and mash. Measure out 1½ cups of mashed pumpkin and mix with sugar, nutmeg, cloves, milk, and eggs. (Save any leftover pumpkin for muffins, pancakes, or another pie.)
• Pour pumpkin mixture into pie crust and bake 15 min. at 450°F, then another 45 min. at 325°F. Remove from oven and let cool to room temp before serving.

2 cups raw pumpkin seeds

1 ½ tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 ½ tbs. butter, melted

¼ tsp. chili powder

1 tsp. sea salt
Preheat oven to 250°F. Remove any leftover pumpkin pulp from the seeds, rinse, and pat dry. Combine seeds with all other ingredients in a bowl and mix well until seeds are evenly coated. Spread seeds out evenly on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for an hour, stirring occasionally until seeds are dry and golden brown. Serve warm.

Visit www.buylocalhamptonroads.org and www.facebook.com/buylocalhr for more information.

Rachel Burns

Rachel Burns is the owner at The Content Chop Shop, a small shop providing content marketing services to small businesses, designers and nonprofits. She is also the co-owner of Burn Both Ends, which develops and presents educational opportunities and resources for small businesses looking to grow. She is a local to Hampton Roads and a vocal spokesperson for all its myriad advantages, her favorites of which is the Atlantic Ocean. She has been published in The Virginian Pilot, Tidewater Women, and AltDaily, among others. She lives in the Hickory section of Chesapeake with her husband, two pugs and several feral cats.

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