Every fall, I look forward to pumpkin season. I love taking my kids to pumpkin patches, bumping along dirt roads on hay-filled tractor rides and making pumpkin desserts.
Now that we live in London, fall looks and feels different. When I lived in London 15 years ago, fresh pumpkins were a real rarity. I remember making a special trip to Harrod’s, the fanciest department store in town, to buy canned pumpkin at a staggering 4 pounds (nearly $7 back then!) per can.
To my surprise, pumpkins in today’s London aren’t hard to come by, even though I’m not sure I could find an actual pumpkin patch in the urban jungle we’re living in. The discovery of sugar pumpkins (which are called “culinary pumpkins” here as opposed to “carving pumpkins”) made my little American heart soar and sigh with relief all at the same time, especially because Celestial Seasonings Tea recently asked me to try their Sweet Harvest Pumpkin Tea and come up with a recipe to pair with it. For me, the ideal companion to their tea is this harissa pumpkin hummus with homemade pita.
Celestial Seasoning’s Sweet Harvest Pumpkin Tea isn’t one of those overly saccharine, in-your-face pumpkin spiced creations that pepper the shelves from late September through Thanksgiving. It’s a black tea, so there’s a mellow bitterness that balances out a subtle sweetness. The spice blend of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger in the tea adds a warmness.
For me, the sweetness of the tea would have been completely overpowered by a sweet dessert, so I went the other direction with a spicy harissa pumpkin hummus and homemade pita bread. I love the complexity of harissa, a red chili-based paste that also includes garlic, caraway, saffron and olive oil. Harissa is commonly used in Middle Eastern foods, and I’ve used it before to make this amazing weeknight chicken dish.
The harissa pumpkin hummus isn’t any harder to make than regular hummus (with canned chickpeas, garlic, tahini, olive oil and salt and pepper), except that you need to peel and chop the pumpkin and roast it for a good hour to an hour and a half until it’s super soft and mushy. After that, I just pureed the pumpkin before adding chickpeas, harissa and other ingredients to my food processor.
The real key here is to make your own pita bread. I won’t say that it’s particularly easy — there’s a lot of kneading and resting time, but oh man, there is nothing that beats a hot, puffed up pita fresh from the oven. I ripped into my pita right when it came out of the oven, and immediately a cloud of steam wafted towards me, like a genie being released from a magic lantern. It was heaven.
The harissa pumpkin hummus with homemade pita was the perfect accompaniment to my cozy turtleneck sweater and a piping hot cup of Celestial Seasonings Sweet Harvest Pumpkin Tea. I wish I could say that I just sat around one morning and dipped shred after torn shred of pita into my hummus while I daydreamed about America (specifically, Target) and yoga pants, but the reality is, I had a million other things going on and so I just kept on buzzing around. But at least for one brief, shining moment, I felt like I was back at home in the land of pumpkin spiced everything.
Thanks to Celestial Seasonings Tea and Honest Cooking for sponsoring Grits & Chopsticks; I was provided with free samples and compensated for this post.
- 1 sugar pumpkin
- 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- 3 tablespoons tahini
- 1 tablespoon harissa, plus more for drizzling
- salt and pepper, to taste
- optional: homemade pita breads (recipe here: http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1016071-homemade-pita-bread)
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees (200 degrees Celsius). Wash the sugar pumpkin and cut in half lengthwise. Using a tablespoon, scrape out the seeds and pulp. Peel the outside of the pumpkin, then cut the pumpkin into roughly equal-sized 1.5-2 inch chunks.
- Arrange the pumpkin in a large roasting pan and pour in 1 cup of water. Season with salt and pepper, then wrap the pan tightly with foil. Roast for approximately 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes until the pumpkin is soft enough to mash with a fork. Remove the pumpkin from the pan into a large bowl and let cool.
- While the pumpkin is roasting, make the sponge for the pita bread (see link above), then make the dough to allow enough time for the dough to rest and rise according to the recipe.
- When the pumpkin is cool, take 2 cups of the pumpkin (reserve the rest for a pie; pumpkin freezes beautifully) and put it in a food processor. Puree the pumpkin until it's smooth, then add the chickpeas and garlic cloves. Pulse the food processor again until the chickpeas are pureed and well-incorporated.
- Add the olive oil, tahini and harissa and puree again until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
- Bake the pita according to the recipe above. Serve the hummus with warm pita.