Recipe courtesy E.J. Hodgkinson, executive chef, King + Duke, Atlanta
Sweet and salty, crunchy and creamy, these modest toasts are powerhouses of both texture and flavor. The pumpkin seeds can be used, though Hodgkinson prefers the crunch and extra-nutty flavor of freshly toasted pepitas, which are hulled and dried pumpkin seed kernels, widely available in Mexican groceries and larger supermarkets.
- 1 medium pumpkin (about 3 pounds), cut in half, seeds and pulp discarded
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
- 2 cups Champagne (or other white wine) vinegar
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon pickling spice
- ½ pound oyster mushrooms, torn into small pieces
- ½ pound ricotta cheese (preferably fresh)
- ¼ cup raw pepitas
- 4 1-inch thick slices pain au levain, or country sourdough bread
- 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
Preheat oven to 375°F. Season the pumpkin’s cut sides with salt and pepper. Place on a non-stick or parchment-lined baking sheet, cut side down. Bake for 25 minutes or until completely tender, then cool and spoon flesh into a food processor. Add maple syrup, salt and lemon juice and purée until smooth, adding more syrup and/or salt to taste. Set aside.
While the pumpkin is cooking, put the vinegar, sugar, salt and pickling spice in a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Let boil for 1 minute, then strain the hot liquid over the mushrooms. Cool to room temperature, and drain and discard the marinade. Set the mushrooms aside. (Leftover marinated mushrooms can keep 4 days in the refrigerator.)
Also while the pumpkin cooks, toss the pepitas on a baking sheet with the olive oil and salt, and bake in a single layer until they just start to darken (some may “pop” and inflate), stirring every 5 minutes.
Place the ricotta in a mixing bowl and season with salt, pepper and lemon juice. The pumpkin mixture should be on the sweet side, while the ricotta mixture should be somewhat salty.
Butter both sides of the bread slices, and toast in the oven or in a cast-iron skillet until golden brown.
To assemble the toasts, spread each slice generously with the pumpkin mixture (you may have some left over), then top with the ricotta, mushrooms and pumpkin seeds, in that order. Carefully cut each toast in half and serve immediately. Serves 4.
“I serve this with the Mother Earth Brewing ‘Dark Cloud’ as it has a brown ale-style nuttiness and smooth, malty finish,” says Hodgkinson. “The pickled mushrooms in the dish pair beautifully with this style of beer, as the earthiness and acidity balance the malty flavors in the beer.”