Here are a dozen places to visit in Downtown/Strip District, East End, South Side and South Hills for the best tacos in Pittsburgh.
They're a bit smaller in some local patches, but 2012 is proving to be a bumper year for pumpkins. Which is a good thing because people tend to go a nuts this time of year over fall's favorite fruit, which has been a staple of traditional American desserts for centuries.
But why stop at pies, cookies and tarts?
A low-calorie food that adds protein, fiber and mega amounts of vitamin A to your diet, pumpkin lends itself to an endless variety of dishes, like the White Bean, Chicken and Pumpkin Chili pictured above.
If you want to make pumpkin puree from scratch, remove seeds, cut into large chunks, rub with oil and roast at 400 degrees for 45 minutes. Or, cut into wedges and microwave on high for 5 minutes or until easily pierced with a fork. Take off skin and puree cooked pumpkin by pulsing it in a food processor or mashing it with a potato masher. One pound of fresh pumpkin will yield about 1 cup of puree.
Pumpkin Pie Margarita
This isn't the actual recipe served at Mad Mex -- that's proprietary info -- but Chef Bill Fuller swears it's close. Delicious paired with a Gobblerito.
- 1 cup Siempre Azul blanco tequila
- 1/2 cup Grand Mariner
- Juice of 4 limes
- Juice of 1 orange
- 1/2 cup pumpkin pie puree (yes, from a can)
- 1/2 cup apple cider
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- Barest dash of nutmeg
Fill blender 2/3 with ice. Add all other ingredients. Puree until smooth. Rim glass with salt, sugar in the raw, or nothing. Drink!
-- Chef Bill Fuller, Big Burrito
PUMPKIN SPICE LATTE
This is very good. And making a latte in a slow cooker is a lot easier than jumping into the car and driving to a Starbucks.
-- Arlene Burnett
- 1/2 cup brewed espresso or 3/4 cup strong coffee
- 2 cups milk (1 percent or whole)
- 2 tablespoons canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
- 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice or 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon cloves, 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, and a tiny pinch of ground ginger
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
- Whipped cream and 2 cinnamon sticks, optional garnish
Use a 2 quart slow cooker. Add coffee or espresso and milk to the stoneware.
Whisk in pumpkin, spices, sugar, and vanilla. Cover and cook on high 2 hours.
Whisk again. Ladle into mugs, and garnish with whipped cream and additional cinnamon.
You can add a cinnamon stick to be fancy.
-- "Make It Fast, Cook It Slow, The Big Book of Everyday Slow Cooking," by Stephanie O'Dea, (Hyperion, 2009, $19.99).
Spiced Pumpkin Pecan Pancakes
Pumpkin hotcakes are one of the hottest breakfast menu items this time of year, so why not make them at home?
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 3/4 teaspoon fine salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 1/4 cups whole milk
- 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
- 3 to 4 teaspoons vegetable oil
- Butter and maple syrup, for servings
Heat oven to 200 degrees and place a baking sheet on one of the racks.
Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, ginger, nutmeg and cloves in a medium bowl until evenly combined. Set aside.
Whisk milk, pumpkin, butter, eggs and vanilla in a large bowl until evenly combined. Add flour mixture and pecans and stir until just mixed and moistened (batter will be lumpy), about 30 strokes. Set batter aside to rest while pan or griddle heats.
Heat a large, seasoned cast-iron skillet, nonstick frying pan or griddle over medium heat. Test to see if pan is hot enough by sprinkling a couple drops of cold water in it: If water bounces and sputters, pan is ready; if it evaporates instantly, it's too hot.
Once pan is ready, add 1 teaspoon of oil and tilt the pan to coat. Ladle batter into pan in 1/3-cup portions. Cook until golden brown on bottom, about 3 to 5 minutes. Using a flat spatula, flip pancakes and cook until second side is golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes more. Remove baking sheet in oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining batter, adding 1 teaspoon oil to pan between batches. Serve immediately with butter and maple syrup.
Makes 10 pancakes.
The Chugging Pumpkin Soup
Pumpkin soup is a favorite fall recipe, and so easy! The original recipe called for soy milk and vegan cheese, but I substituted the real deal. Feel free to leave out the rum, if you'll be serving it to kids. To toast pumpkin seeds, toss with a little oil, add salt and bake in a 250-degree oven for about an hour, checking and stirring every 15 minutes.
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
- 5 cups vegetable stock
- 2 cans pumpkin puree
- 1 medium russet potato, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch chunks
- 1 large carrot, peeled and sliced crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons molasses
- Finely minced zest of 1 orange
- 2 teaspoons curry powder
- 1 cup milk or half-and-half
- 1/2 cup dark rum
- Dash of Tabasco sauce
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- Toasted pumpkin seeds for garnish
- 1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, warm olive oil with sesame oil. Add shallots and saute them, stirring occasionally, until they're translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add stock, pumpkin, potato and carrot, raise the heat to high, and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 25 minutes.
Using an immersion blender, puree soup until very smooth, or (carefully!) puree in batches in a blender with a towel placed over the lid. Stir in brown sugar, molasses, orange zest and curry. Over low heat, stir in milk, rum and Tabasco. Taste carefully. Season with salt and pepper and add nutmeg.
Serve in warm bowls and pass with toasted pumpkin seeds and cheese for sprinkling.
Makes 6 servings.
-- Adapted from "The Tipsy Vegan" by John Schlimm (Da Capo, 2012, $17.99)
White Bean, Chicken and Pumpkin Chili
This is a little lighter than traditional beef-based chili. Tuck any leftovers with some shredded Jack cheese into a flour tortilla.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 to 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 1/2 pounds fresh pumpkin, seeds and fibers removed
- 15-ounce can chicken broth
- 3 20-ounce cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
- 4-ounce can chopped mild green chiles
- 2 to 3 teaspoons cumin
- 1 to 2 teaspoons green Tabasco sauce
- 1/4 cup minced cilantro
- Sour cream for garnish
Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook onion 1 minute. Add garlic and pepper, and cook 1 minute longer. Add chicken and salt, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Microwave pumpkin on high for 3 minutes. When cool enough to handle, peel and cut into 1/2-inch chunks to measure 3 cups. Store any remaining pumpkin in refrigerator for up to a week or in freezer for up to 3 months.
Stir in broth, beans, pumpkin, chiles, cumin and Tabasco sauce; cook for 15 minutes over low heat, until chicken is done and pumpkin is easily pierced with a fork. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Serve while hot, topping each with a pinch of cilantro and dollop of sour cream.
-- "Pumpkin: A Super Food for All 12 Months of the Year" by DeeDee Stovel (Storey, 2005)
Serve this kid-friendly recipe with crackers, celery or carrot sticks, or slather it on a toasted bagel.
- 2 cups pumpkin puree (canned or fresh)
- 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
Place pumpkin puree and cream cheese in a large bowl and mix together. Add all other ingredients, and mix until smooth and creamy. Refrigerate at least four hours or overnight.
Makes about 2 cups.