Food

Pumpkin pancakes, poached pears and more — here's what to cook in October!

Cold(er) weather cooking is here and with it, many delicious things to make this month.

Cold(er) weather cooking is here and with it, many delicious things to make this month

This article was originally published October 4, 2018 and was updated October 1, 2019.

October cooking is its very own thing. Aside from this being the peak time to scoop up every local squash for soups, there's Thanksgiving and Halloween to consider this month! Both are opportunities to get a little fancy and fun. Grab those pumpkins, cranberries, pears and cauliflower — here's how to turn them into a harvest feast of spooky and seasonal delights.

Pumpkin

This is the month pie pumpkins are picked from local patches. The jack-o-lantern kind are ready too, but the pie or sugar pumpkin is what you want to cook with. Here's how!

Roast a whole pumpkin filled with grains. Here's how to do it: sweat an onion in sesame oil at low, low heat so you don't destroy the oil's delicate flavour. Add barley or rice and cover with stock and cook until the grains are done. Stir in warm spices like cinnamon or cloves and toss in some white beans and fresh plucked thyme if you wish. Scoop out the flesh and seeds of your pumpkin and lightly salt the cavity. Stuff it with the cooked grains and put the lid back on. Roast the filled pumpkin in a preheated 400F degree oven until it's browning and the flesh is soft. Serve it on a bed of greens with the lid off and leaning up against it. Hello fall!

Bake with pumpkin. The tender flesh adds moisture and seasonal flavour to your autumn baking. Make your own pumpkin puree and use it up in any recipe where it calls for canned. If you don't feel like baking now, you can always make and freeze for later. And if you've never tried pumpkin pancakes — this is your month!

Save those seeds! Pumpkin seeds are the perfect for roasting because they're big and snackable. Toss cleaned and dried seeds in oil, spices and salt; a pinch of cayenne and a drizzle of maple syrup is always nice. Roast, stirring frequently, until they snap.

Parsnips

Sure, there's always carrots, but make this the month you reach for the creamy, white flesh of parsnips. There are many ways to bring them to your table, and while we're going to tell you to mash them (a great side for Thanksgiving) we've got some other, lesser celebrated ideas for you to try too.

Boil and mash them and serve them to mop up your gravy. While you can make this a simple parsley affair, why not combine them with sauteed onion, roasted garlic, carrots and cauliflower (a whole head!)? Cover the veggies halfway up with a stock and water mixture and close the lid. Let them simmer away until soft, then puree and season for a potato-free mash your paleo besties can get behind.

Peel and roast them into fries. Slice them lengthwise and into strips before tossing in oil. They are going to be different sizes, so check as they roast and remove individually as they turn tender and brown. Season with salt as they come out of the oven.

Eat them raw. Peel and shred them with an equal amount of beets and a generous amount of  coarsely chopped mint. Dress all this with pineapple juice vinaigrette for a fantastic twist on your salad course.

Cauliflower

Use up this versatile veg to make gluten-free "rice", and pizza "crust", and add it to your smoothies for an extra boost of nutrients.

Make cauliflower rice by pulsing whole florets in a food processor until they've broken down into crumbs. Heat some oil, sweat some finely diced onions or shallots if you wish, and add the ground cauliflower. Cover with a lid and cook for about 8 minutes, or until the cauliflower is tender-crisp. Season with salt and add eat as you would rice.

Turn cauliflower into a gluten-free pizza crust by ricing it the same way as above, but squeeze all the liquid out after it cools. You can do this using a clean tea towel or a nut bag if you have one. Then mix the cauliflower crumbs with egg, salt, and a bit of soft goat cheese if you have it. Flatten the dough into a circle on a parchment-lined baking tray and bake at 400F degrees, flipping once until it's brown and dried. Add your favourite pizza toppings and put it back in the oven for a final bake.

Add cauliflower to smoothies. Its neutral taste means it's a canvas for flavour, so add your fruit and milk of choice — although we're partial to strawberries and cashew milk. Sweeten with honey or maple syrup if desired, although sometimes a ripe banana is all you need.

So there you go, lots of ideas to get you going on the best of the local produce this month. Looking for more detailed recipes? Start with the ones below and gain the confidence to begin experimenting yourself.

Cranberries

Canada is actually the world's second largest producer of cranberries. If you live near the Fraser Valley, be sure to attend the Fort Langley Cranberry Festival. Have you ever seen a field of cranberries growing? It's a beautiful sight.

Make cranberry compote. Technically, it's basically the same as that cranberry sauce you're making for Thanksgiving, (you are, right?) but the new name gives you the freedom to try new things. Spoon it over pavlova, pour it over your morning oatmeal, or spin it up in a cake for a festive jelly roll.

Serve cranberry bellinis using that same compote (ahem, cranberry sauce). Scoop a tablespoon or two into a champagne glass and fill it with prosecco. Pass the festive glasses out at brunch or before Thanksgiving dinner. Still thirsty?...

Make cranberry vodka. Cook three cups of cranberries with one cup sugar until the berries just start to break down — not as long as your cranberry sauce. Turn off the heat and let cool before transferring them to a large, clean jar. Pour in 750 mL of vodka and let the mixture infuse for a week before straining. On that boozy note, be sure to freeze a tray of fresh cranberries to plop, cold, into any party drink. So pretty!

Bake muffins, pies and cakes. Prized for their lively, tart flavour, add them to an apple or pear pie, or swap into recipes that call for fresh blueberries. Cranberries go especially well with orange, so keep that in mind when planning flavours.

Blend cranberries into butter when you don't feel like baking. Soften a cup of butter and cook down 1½ cups of fresh cranberries with a couple tablespoons of maple syrup until the cranberries can be smashed with a spoon. Turn off the heat and add a pinch of salt and squeeze of lemon juice. Mix into the butter with an electric beater when cool. Spread on toast for a breakfast treat.

Pears

This is your month to make pear sauce instead of applesauce, eat pears on salad, turn overripe pears into a drinkable nectar, and more! (Not that apples are too bad right now either.) Change things up with these rough ideas for doing it all.

Simmer pears into a sauce the same way you would apples and this on everything from yogurt to potato pancakes with sour cream. If you cook the sauce down a bit further so all the moisture evaporates, you'll get pear butter which you can use in baking as a healthy fat replacement too. Try it in your favourite muffin recipe by swapping in ¼ cup of the fat for pear butter.

Add fresh pears to salad. Lay slices on top of a bed of mild greens, along with blue cheese and candied nuts as well. While you can use any kind of pear, bosc pears are especially nice with their crisp, clean taste. Toss everything with your favourite vinaigrette.

Turn them into pear nectar. Got too many overripe pears? Peel, core and slice them and simmer them down until soft. Less time is more here so you don't lose that bright fresh flavour. Puree the mixture in a blender and add enough water to make it a consistency you can drink. Adjust the taste with sugar and/or lemon juice until it's perfect.

Poach a batch of pears. Do this in red wine and add an orange peel and warm spices for maximum flavour. Serve beside ice cream or a dollop of mascarpone sweetened with sugar.

Pumpkin Spice Syrup

Pumpkin Guacamole Poke

Cauliflower Popcorn

Cauliflower Steak with Crispy Chickpeas and Broccolini

(Image: Dennis The Prescott)

Buffalo Cauliflower with Blue Cheese Dip

Purple Cauliflower Couscous

The Ultimate Vegan Beef Wellington with Cranberry Sauce

(Photo credit: Simon Smith and Peter O’Sullivan)

Cran-Cherry Whiskey Sour

(Photo credit: Jackson Roy)

Slow Cooker Turkey Roast with Cranberries

(Credit: Christian Lacroix)

Cranberry Apple Candied Ginger Pie

(Copyright 2018 David Bagosy Photography)

Spiced Pear and Apple Crisp

Maple Sourdough Bread Pudding with Pear Caramel

Honey Roasted Pear & Ricotta Crostini

Crispy Chicken, Pear, and Goat Cheese Salad with Shaved Root Vegetables

(Image: Dennis The Prescott)

Rum Raisin and Cider Pear Pie

Half a Pear Crumble

(Credit: Hungry Gap Productions Ltd.)

Parsnip and Heirloom Carrot Tart

Parsnip Pancakes with Lobster and Salsa Verde

Root Vegetable Stew with Rosemary Garlic Baguette

(Photo credit: Dennis The Prescott)

Jessica Brooks is a digital producer and pro-trained cook and baker. Follow her food stories on Instagram @brooks_cooks

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