The search is on for the perfect pumpkin. It’s time to break out the warm wools and head into a local pumpkin patch. I’m creating some ghostly Halloween magic with pale white gourd lanterns and glittered white sunflowers. I’m serving up the earthy flavors of fall with tender pillows of pumpkin and ricotta gnocchi, gooey cranberry and brie bread pull-aparts, and white chocolate swirled caramel apples. And we’re washing it all down with a spiced-up pear-tini.
Cranberry and Brie Pull-AParts
These gooey, cheesy, baked bread round, pull-aparts are fun, delish, and simple to make. Score the top of a bread round with a knife, cutting almost all the way down. Next, drizzle half a stick of melted butter into the openings. Stuff the bread with plenty of cubed brie. Spoon in cranberry sauce, and sprinkle with chopped rosemary. Wrap the bread in foil and bake at 375 degrees for, about 15 minutes until the cheese is oozy. Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley, and serve on a bread board. Invite guests to pull it apart.
White Chocolate Caramel Apples
Another one of fall’s favorite gifts — caramel apples. Our espaliers are loaded with apples, and I love to do a little double dipping! First, with a layer of melted caramel per package instructions. Once cooled, swirl the apples in a second layer of melted white chocolate, and perch on a DIY pedestal. The base is made of real cut birch, topped with a simple white plate and decorative parchment.
Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi in Butter and Sage Sauce
Think gnocchi is too tricky to make? Nah, think again! This quick, easy recipe will have you serving up batch after batch of the tender, doughy pillows.
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup whole-milk ricotta
1 cup grated Parmesan
1 vanilla bean, scraped
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
A small pinch truffle salt
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
2 cups flour, plus more for dusting
2 sticks unsalted butter
A handful fresh sage
Red pepper flakes to taste
Place the pumpkin puree in a dry, stovetop skillet on medium heat, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes until the pumpkin begins to brown slightly and dry out. Cool. Meanwhile, scoop the ricotta into a square of cheesecloth, fold up the cloth and twist to close. Place ricotta in a bowl to drain for 15 to 20 minutes. Reducing the moisture in the two key ingredients makes the gnocchi lighter and more tender because you don’t have to add as much flour.
In a bowl, combine cooled pumpkin, ricotta, eggs, Parmesan, vanilla, nutmeg, salts, and pepper. Mix well. With a mesh skimmer, begin sprinkling and working 1 cup of the flour into the bowl. Test the dough; it will be sticky. Add just enough of the second cup of flour to form a workable dough.
Transfer the dough to a well-floured board and knead briefly, sprinkling additional flour as needed. Form into a round, and cut into eight pieces. Roll out each piece into an 8-inch rope. Cut into bite-sized pieces and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, lightly dusted with flour. Cover reserved dough with a slightly damp paper towel.
Meanwhile, bring a pot of well-salted water to a boil, and drop in 10 to 12 gnocchi at a time. When the pillows float to the top, they’re done!
Melt 1/2 stick of butter in a sauté pan on medium heat, along with a few torn pieces of fresh sage and red pepper flakes. Once the butter starts to brown, add the cooked gnocchi, in batches. Do not stir. Let one side of the gnocchi form a slight crust.
Plate gnocchi, drizzling a little of the pan butter and sage sauce and topping with Parmesan cheese. Repeat steps, adding more butter, sage and red pepper to the skillet as you go along.
1 pear, cubed, seeds removed but skin left on
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 star anise
Splash pear brandy
1½ shots vodka
1 shot pear simple syrup
1/2 shot freshly squeezed lemon juice
In a pan, poach pear cubes in water, sugar, star anise, and pear brandy. Let the mixture simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Strain and chill.
Place the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with lots of ice, and shake well. Pour into a glass, and garnish with a fresh pear slice and a fragrant sprig of fresh herbs.
Ghostly and Chic
I turned the big white pumpkins into cool tabletop lanterns! Slice open from below, carve out, make holes with a power drill, then add battery twinkle lights.
For the small white pumpkins, top with a tag to make a guest placecard and takeaway.
Sunflowers are another fall favorite of mine. Give these white beauties the fairytale treatment with spray-on adhesive and a dusting of craft store glitter and beads.
See Monica Hart’s design, recipe, and entertaining ideas in every issue of 425 magazine, and at lafamigliadesignllc.com.
Credits: Pumpkins and sunflowers: Bob’s Corn and Pumpkin Farm in Snohomish. Dishware, linens, cheese papers, and lights: Crate and Barrel at The Bellevue Collection. Hair: Seven the Salon, Bellevue. Ingredients: Metropolitan Market, Kirkland.