Pumpkin with Dates and Ricotta Salata

pumpkin ricotta salata
Photo by Cassidy Hurt

The sweetness of the dried fruit, the creaminess of roasted pumpkin, and the saltiness of the ricotta salata cheese blend beautifully with the gentle zip of the vinaigrette to create a delicious fall dish. Charleston chef Kevin Johnson of The Grocery brings us this pumpkin ricotta salata recipe, which has a few steps but is worth the effort. It will be the star of your Thanksgiving table.

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Serves 4 to 6

    For the pumpkin:
  • 1 La Estrella pumpkin, peeled and halved (could use other varieties of heirloom pumpkins, butternut squash, winter squashes)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, slivered
  • 2 tablespoons pumpkin spice
  • 6-8 thyme sprigs
  • Salt and pepper
  • For the pumpkin spice:
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon chile powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander seed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin seed
  • ½ teaspoon white pepper
  • For the pumpkin seeds:
  • 1 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1½ tablespoon chile powder
  • 2 teaspoons coriander
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • For the lemon vinaigrette:
  • ⅓ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ⅔ cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon parsley, minced
  • 1 teaspoon tarragon
  • 1 teaspoon chervil
  • Salt and pepper
  • For winter squash romesco:
  • 1 small sized winter squash or pumpkin
  • 1 yellow onion, slivered
  • 4 garlic cloves, slivered
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • Pinch of chili flake
  • 6-8 oregano sprigs, stripped
  • 4 ounces toasted almonds
  • ⅓ cup sherry vinegar
  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • For the pumpkin ricotta salata:
  • 6 ounces ricotta, finely diced
  • 6 ounces dates, pitted and halved, thinly sliced
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Make the pumpkin:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel pumpkin. Cut in half and scoop out seeds.
  2. In a bowl, place pumpkin and add oil, garlic, thyme and pumpkin spice. Season with salt and pepper In large ovenproof pan, place pumpkin cut side up. Cover with foil.
  3. Bake until tender, time will vary greatly depending on moisture level. A fork should pierce and be removed easily. Can be made couple days in advance and stored in refrigerator.

Make the pumpkin spice:

  1. Combine all ingredients. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

Make the pumpkin seeds:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. On a small pan, place pumpkin seeds. Bake 7 minutes. Remove from oven, place in bowl. In bowl, toss with remaining ingredients. Put back on small pan. Bake in oven for 5 more minutes. Cool
  2. In a small food processor, crush seeds slightly. Store in airtight container up to a month.

Make the lemon vinaigrette:

  1. Combine lemon juice, shallot, garlic, salt and pepper. Let stand for 5 minutes. Add olive oil and herbs.

Make the winter squash romesco:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel squash and cut into 1-2 inch chunks. In oven, roast squash, covered for about 45 minutes.
  2. Once nearly tender, uncover squash and add onion, garlic, spices and oregano. Continue to bake until tender and onion and garlic are a little charred. To a blender or food processor, transfer squash and add almonds and sherry vinegar. Purée until smooth and slowly add olive oil. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  3. Serve at room temperature.

Make the pumpkin ricotta salata:

  1. Preheat grill or set broiler on high. Drizzle pumpkin with enough olive oil to coat. Season with salt, pepper and pumpkin spice. On grill or under broiler, char until pumpkin begins to caramelize.
  2. In bowl, combine ricotta salata, pumpkin seeds, dates and lemon vinaigrette to make relish.
  3. On bottom of large serving dish, place winter squash romesco in thin layer. Arrange pumpkin wedges on top. Drizzle relish on top of pumpkin. Serve.

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