I had the best pumpkin dish in Zagreb
Have you ever had a dish that you just can’t stop thinking about? I ate such a dish in Zagreb, at Pod Zidom, the starter of my favorite meal in the city. Pod Zidom specializes in market fresh cuisine from the Dolac public market steps away from the restaurant, and this dish absolutely exemplified this ethos. My Pumpkin Splendor isn’t that dish, but it’s my more rustic take on it, using New England flavors. I dare say that it is delicious. I had no idea what to call it, but, to me, it evokes all that is autumnal splendor.
Sadly, I don’t remember the name of Pod Zidom’s pumpkin dish, but a photo of it is included in their Michelin guide listing. The menu description intrigued me because it sounded so simple and so perfectly autumnal. When it arrived, the server described the components, a slice of roasted pumpkin, topped with fresh cheese and a raw pumpkin salad (I’d never even thought of trying that), surrounded by dollops of pumpkin purée, with cream and pumpkin oil added to the plate.
I took a bite, and, Dear Reader, I would eat that dish every day for the rest of my life and die a happy woman. Alas, this has not yet come to pass, and so I decided to attempt a version of this pumpkin dish myself.
Pumpkin Splendor is greater than the sum of its parts
When it comes down to it, this is really three recipes, OK, four, if you count toasting the pumpkin seeds. Not one of them is difficult. The worst is cleaning out the pumpkin, and that’s over quickly enough. Each individual component is yummy and would make an excellent addition to your pumpkin repertoire. However, when they all come together, this is where the magic happens.
Pumpkin raw, roasted, puréed, with toasted pumpkin seeds and pumpkin dressing
The freshness of the raw pumpkin contrasts with the richness of the Roasted Pumpkin. While the Roasted Pumpkin Purée has nothing added to it beyond the herbs and maple syrup used to roast it, it tastes like an entirely new dish.
The addition of a bit of fresh goat cheese and dried cranberries add depth and sweetness, the toasted pumpkin seeds add a salty crunch, and the Pumpkin Vinaigrette, made with pumpkin oil ties the dish together. Really, Dear Reader, it’s a bit of a magic trick.
A small-batch dream
I used sugar (or pie) pumpkins, not just because I wanted the sweetness, but also because these cute little pumpkins are small—a medium-sized sugar pumpkin will yield two servings (plus some extra toasted seeds and a bit left over for more salad—you might find yourself using more raw pumpkin in salads. I know I will.
This also makes the recipe easy to scale. Need four servings? Get two pumpkins, and so on.
Introduced to pumpkin oil in Slovenia
I’d had pumpkin oil at the Center Biotehnike in Turizma shop just off the Central Market in Ljubljana, Slovenia, on my day trip there. The shop was the outpost of an educational center and showcased Slovenian products. Our rather hands-off guide made an exception, telling us that we should really go into the shop and try the pumpkin oil.
While not original to Slovenia, they take it very seriously there and make excellent pumpkin oils. It was a remarkable, and I bought a small bottle.
Pumpkin oil is unusual looking
If you’ve never used pumpkin oil before, it’s going to look a little strange. It’s dark, almost black—it doesn’t make for a lovely drizzle over a dish. My first go-round in plating this dish, I attempted to dress the pumpkin salad, and I instantly understood why Pod Zidom poured the oil last. We had a take two.
However, what pumpkin lacks in looks, it makes up for in flavor. It’s warm and nutty, and has you going back for more of the rich deliciousness.
And, yes, pumpkin oil comes from pumpkin seeds
Pumpkin oil is made from pumpkin seeds (gasp! Internet scare aside, this oil does appear to be good for you). You can find it in specialty food shops, and it’s also available online (when I ordered it for this recipe, I had some shipping mishaps—the oil was fine, but the package arrived a little dinged up, so I’m still looking for a good source for the Kitchen Shop). If you can’t find pumpkin oil, you could substitute a nut oil (I imagine walnut oil would work nicely).
Pumpkin Splendor: a unique dish for your autumnal table
I may not plate like a Michelin-listed restaurant (I am working on it), and this dish is more . . .shall we say, rustic, but my testers ate this up, and one of them said that the combination of flavors blew her away. And, while she’s certainly biased when it comes to me, she takes her food seriously. This is yummy.
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Featured in this recipe
Pumpkin Splendor: Roasted Pumpkin with Pumpkin Salad and Pumpkin Purée
- 1 med sugar pumpkin, washed, cut into quarters and seeded, seeds reserved
For Roasted Pumpkin
- 3 pumpkin quarters
- 1 ½ tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 3 sprigs thyme
- 3 sage leaves, torn
- kosher salt to taste
Maple Pumpkin Vinaigrette (Makes extra)
- 3 tbsp pumpkin oil
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 ½ tsp maple syrup
- kosher salt to taste
For the Toasted Pumpkin Seeds (Makes extra)
- seeds from the pumpkin, all pulp removed, rinsed, and dried on paper towels you want them as dry as you can get them. If you don't have sturdy paper towels, a clean, lint-free tea towel could work
- 1½ tbsp olive oil
- flaky sea salt to taste
For the Pumpkin Purée
- 1 roasted pumpkin quarter, flesh scooped out from the skin
- 1 tbsp water, optional for consistency, you may need a little more or a little less
For the Pumpkin Salad (Makes extra)
- 1 pumpkin quarter, peeled
- 2 tbsp fresh goat cheese, crumbled
- 1 tbsp dried cranberries to taste
- 1 tbsp Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
- 1 tbsp Pumpkin Vinaigrette to taste
- Preheat oven heat to 350 F (177 C), placing a rack in the middle of the oven. Line two quarter-sheet pans with foil. Clean and quarter the pumpkin1 med sugar pumpkin, washed, cut into quarters and seeded, seeds reserved
- Add three of the pumpkin quarters (you'll use the 4th for the salad). Brush with the oil and maple syrup, season with kosher salt, and scatter the herbs1 ½ tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp maple syrup, 3 sprigs thyme, 3 sage leaves, torn, kosher salt, 3 pumpkin quarters
- Roast until tender, about 40–50 minutes (turn the pan after 20 minutes and go from there with time, as it will vary with the size of your slices. You want it tender and browning a bit at the edges), tent with foil
Roast the Pumpkin Seeds
- On the other foil-lined baking sheet, spread out the pumpkin seeds. Drizzle oil and toss to ensure even coating. Sprinkle with flaky sea saltseeds from the pumpkin, all pulp removed, rinsed, and dried on paper towels, 1½ tbsp olive oil, flaky sea salt
- Roast until golden, stirring a couple of times and turning halfway through, about 12 minutes,. This can be done at the same time as the pumpkin roasts, or done ahead (if doing separately, raise the temp to 375, turn and stir at 5 minutes, and start checking from there). Either way, watch the seeds. They can go from glorious to burnt in the blink of an eye
Make the Pumpkin Vinaigrette
- Add the pumpkin oil to a glass jar with a lid (or use a bowl and fork). Screw on the lid, and shake vigorously until you see bubbles forming. Add the balsamic vinegar and shake some more. Add the maple syrup and salt and shake again. Set aside until you need it, shaking or stirring again to incorporate3 tbsp pumpkin oil, 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 1 ½ tsp maple syrup, kosher salt
Shave the Pumpkin for the salad
- A few minutes before taking out the roasted pumpkin, take the remaining quarter of the pumpkin and cut it in half. Cut away the membrane layer, and peel the outer skin of one half (use the other half for another salad, another day)1 pumpkin quarter, peeled
- Using a sharp vegetable peeler, cut shavings from the remaining pumpkin quarter, trying to make them as wide as possible. Only shave what you need for what you are serving, as they will dry out
- Season with a little kosher salt, cover, and put in the refrigerator until ready to use
- Take one of the roasted pumpkin quarters and scoop out the flesh into the bowl of a small food processor or into a bowl deep enough to use with an immersion blender. Pulse or blend until very smooth. You may need to add a little water. I chose to have this more scoopable than soup-like, but you could certainly thin it out more. Taste for seasoning. If necessary, heat gently1 roasted pumpkin quarter, flesh scooped out from the skin, 1 tbsp water, optional
- On a dinner plate, add one of the pumpkin quarters to the plate, removing the herbs. Add the goat cheese to the roasted pumpkin, and then the pumpkin salad, and dried cranberries. Next to the pumpkin quarter, add two dollops of the pumpkin puree. Sprinkle everything with the pumpkin seeds. Serve the Pumpkin Vinaigrette on the side.2 tbsp fresh goat cheese, crumbled, 1 tbsp dried cranberries, 1 tbsp Roasted Pumpkin Seeds, 1 tbsp Pumpkin Vinaigrette