Five Gourd-geous Squash and Pumpkin Dishes for Autumn
Provided it weathered the holiday unscathed and free from the clutches of neighborhood jackanapes, that Halloween Jack-O-Lantern might be looking a bit rough if you haven't already tossed it out. Our condolences if you've grown attached to your anthropomorphic friend, but there's good news: There are plenty of pumpkin and squash dishes on menus all around town. And while it's true that pumpkins and squash aren't technically gourds (the three are all related, although colloquially we refer to them all as gourds), the fleshy fruits are one of our favorite foods of the season. Here are five places to get your gourd fix.
Kuri squash tortellini at Piora, 430 Hudson Street, 212-960-3801
With a more prominent West Village stage to showcase his talents, chef Chris Cipollone is finally getting the crowds he deserves after being isolated, Rapunzel style, in the depths of a Midtown hotel. The dude has a way with produce, including a much-praised market vegetable plate brought over from his time at Tenpenny (the restaurant inside that Midtown hotel), but the gourd sorcery at work in a dish of roasted red kuri squash tortellini -- the dimpled pasta is filled with squash, ricotta, and preserved black truffle -- makes us wonder if Cipollone has a bunch of disorderly brooms causing trouble in his walk-in. The plate is finished with porcini mushrooms, garlic, shallots, and herbs with squash jus, candied pepitas, pumpkin seed oil, and a shaggy dusting of pecorino.
Pipián verde at Super Tacos, 96th Street and Broadway, 917-837-0866
If you don't believe that Mexican food can be as nuanced and refined as certain European cuisines, look no further than the many varieties of mole. The sauces vary by region and ingredients, but all of them are full of depth and richness. Most prevalent in the U.S. is mole poblano with its chocolate and chilies, but there are also red, yellow, green, and black molés as well as molés with almonds and a roasted pumpkin seed sauce called Pipián. At the Upper West Side food truck Super Tacos, Pipián verde -- which gets its color from pumpkin seeds, tomatillos, and the earthy herb hoja santa -- is a special on Tuesdays. The marsh green sauce hides bone-in chicken thighs and drumsticks, whose carcasses only get in the way when you're trying to sop up the last puddles of sauce with the stack of provided tortillas.
Scallop with butternut and acorn squashes at Bergen Hill, 387 Court Street, Brooklyn; 718-858-5483
Ravi DeRossi's affordable answer to ZZ's Clam Bar, Bergen Hill gives chef Andrew D'Ambrosi and cocktail whiz Sother Teague a spotlight to share. You'll find no $105 carpaccio here but also none of the luxe ingredients that justify those prices. Even so, D'Ambrosi is no stranger to such flights of fancy having spent time at Le Cirque, and there are plenty of buzzword pantry items like espelette pepper oil and smoked ramps -- what a relief, though, that nothing on the menu costs more than $16. Plates arrive bearing delicate tableaus, and few are prettier than a dish of seared scallops paired with two winter squashes. D'Ambrosi pairs the sweet mollusks with cubes of sautéed butternut squash, compressed apples, and pickled quince layered across a swipe of smooth acorn squash puree that's been raked like a zen garden to mimic the grooves of a scallop shell. Playing off the white soy in the pickling marinade, try Teague's Meiji Collins, a sake-based tipple reinforced with ponzu shrub and a rim of sugar and the spice blend called togarashi.
Steak for two with kabocha squash, almond and trout roe at Glasserie, 95 Commercial Street, Brooklyn; 718-389-0640
Sara Kramer's cooking pairs Mediterranean spices and cooking techniques with a progressive eye toward hyper-local sourcing and unusual ingredient pairings. Her shared dishes have proven particularly thought-provoking, including a whole rabbit prepared three ways with Middle Eastern influences like tahini and a paratha-like flatbread. Now there's a flatiron steak for two, rubbed with paprika and mustard seed and served over thick slabs of grilled kabocha squash glistening with brown butter. The squash's sweetness and richness is a proper foil for more savory elements like leafy broccoli di cicco (broccoli rabe's sweeter doppelgänger), garlic-spiked almond sauce and pops of bright orange trout roe.
Pumpkin waffles with buttermilk-fried smoked duck confit at Ducks Eatery, 351 East 12th Street, 212-432-3825
You'll find plenty to quack about at this woodsmoke-friendly East Village haunt with a kitchen manned by Will Horowitz, which takes influences from places near and far. The result is dishes like a bowl of Malaysian laksa-inspired broth translated through the hearty creole noodle soup called yakamein. These are recognizable flavors rebuilt into something new. To wit: Horowitz's ode to chicken and waffles, with smoked duck confit replacing the plebeian fowl and roasted pumpkin mixed into the waffle batter. The bird legs are cured and cold smoked before rendering in duck fat then dipped in buttermilk batter and deep fried. The pumpkin's inherent sweet starchiness stands up to the aggressively seasoned duck, and the whole affair gets doused in syrup and butter -- cultured and crafted in-house.
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