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Challenging Elements: Pumpkin


Gourmands often relegate the pumpkin to the bottom rung when talking about cooking with different types of squash. The gourd lacks the zest of some of the other members of its vegetable family. But we figured the head chef at one of Boulder’s premier restaurants, The Kitchen, could sway some opinions. Turns out you can enjoy pumpkin without having to carve one or turn it into a pie. After challenging Hugo Matheson with a pumpkin as this month’s ingredient, we returned 24 hours later to try his Wood Roasted Pumpkin.

There are few items more synonymous with fall than the pumpkin. Pumpkin pie is the quintessential

Thanksgiving dessert. Kids love plucking them from the local picking patch.

Sure pumpkins are great in breads, muffins and of course pies, but when it comes to feature dishes at restaurants, the rest of the squash family gets all the love.

But what about turning one into an entrée?

Hugo Matheson, the executive chef and owner of The Kitchen, was up to the challenge of turning the pumpkin gourmet on his seasonal menu. Matheson has built a reputation as one of the premier chefs in the region. Since opening The Kitchen in 2004, he has been one of the leaders in the movement to provide a fresh, local menu that tantalizes taste buds.

But he can’t remember ever putting a pumpkin-based item on his menu, so having Wood Roasted Pumpkin on the list this month will be a first.

The dish is a hodgepodge of veggies fit for an autumn afternoon. It starts with pumpkin, served in roasted ice-cube sized morsels (on this day, the pumpkins were courtesy of Boulder’s Cottonwood Farms) that maintain a good consistency and add just the right touch of pumpkin flavor. The chunks are mixed with a sautéed vegetable mix (chickpeas, shallots, garlic, spelt and Fresno chilies) that add ample sustenance to make this a filling entrée.

Two sauces top the Roasted Pumpkin, giving the dish an extra burst of flavor. One is harissa, a hot sauce that is a mix of garlic, roasted peppers, chilies and caraway (a type of cumin). The other is a yogurt with some kick—courtesy of a touch of cumin. When asked why there’s cumin in both, Matheson replies very simply: “I like cumin.”

A hearty squeeze of lemon provides a final dash of zest.  The end result is a tasty dish the proves three things: vegetarian entrées can certainly stand alone, a plate full of seasonal fall offerings is warming and filling, and we all need to give the pumpkin a little more credit. At least when Matheson has his hands on one.

Taste the Wood Roasted Pumpkin through Nov. 2 at The Kitchen, 1039 Pearl St., Boulder. Call 303.544.5973.

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