Picking a Pumpkin: Tips from Top Chefs

By October 6, 2016 No Comments

With Halloween just around the corner, it’s time to head to the pumpkin patch to pick out a perfect pumpkin. Some of San Diego’s top chefs share pumpkin picking tips, secrets to making yummy pumpkin treats, and their own fall traditions! Alberto Morreale, Farmer’s Bottega“As for pumpkin patches, we love going to Oma’s pumpkin patch in Lakeside. There is a cotton seed slide and a dairy farm with newborn cows for the kids to enjoy. Also, my daughter, Alessia and I carve a pumpkin together every year and make sure to bake the fresh salted pumpkin seeds and scoop out just enough pumpkin to add to her and my wife’s homemade pumpkin pies. We also make a spicy chipotle pumpkin soup with sliced avocado, it’s just the right mix of sweet, salty and spicy.” Christina Pancheri, Miss B’s Coconut Club“Local grocery stores have a good selection of pumpkins, but I think if you have time to go to a pumpkin patch, it makes the experience of picking out a pumpkin that much more fun and memorable! I remember going to the local pumpkin patch in Poway when I was a little girl; the smells of the hay, corn, and pumpkins in the air, with the excitement of Halloween coming up around the corner. Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, and pumpkin carving was a tradition growing up. There are plenty of pumpkin patches all around San Diego county to go have a perfect pumpkin picking outing. First and foremost, when picking your pumpkin, you want to make sure the pumpkin is in tip top shape, which means checking for soft spots, openings, or wrinkles; those need to be avoided. Another great note is to make sure the pumpkin has a flat bottom surface so once you carve out your creation, you can make sure the pumpkin can stand upright; or if you find one that is standing up on its side, that could be a different unique twist on your carving creation. I always loved the stencil drawings for pumpkins to help create a masterpiece, but a tradition of my own is always making a classic jack-o-lantern with a twist on its eyes, nose, or smile.” Shelly Velez, Pillbox Tavern“My favorite part about pumpkin carving is making a delicious snack from the seeds! Getting them out of the pulp is pretty time consuming so I suggest soaking them in water so the seeds float. Dry them off on a sheet pan over a paper towel. After they are dry, I melt butter and pour it over the seeds to cover them and add my favorite seasoning. I suggest Cajun, salt and pepper, curry, ranch, or cinnamon and sugar. Brown sugar and maple is good, too, but it would need to sit a little longer. Heat up the oven to 325 degrees and then cook for approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour depending on how big the seeds are, but you want them nice and crisp. So next time you’re carving a pumpkin, don’t forget to make a tasty treat from the seeds rather than just tossing them out.” Kevin Templeton, barleymash“As a kid, we would always go out to Bates nut farm in Valley Center to pick out our pumpkins. It’s a fun little trip out there with a lot of cool activities for families. For good carving pumpkins, I suggest getting a medium size one. It is easier to carve when they are a little smaller. The big ones are really hard to clean and carve. Once they are carved, dunk them in a little bleach and water. This will help them last a little longer.”   

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