By Tracy Patterson
Photography by Jennifer Nieland
Leaves are turning colors and falling, football games are in full swing, there’s a nip in the air (use your imagination on that one), and pumpkins are popping up all around – to dress up homes, spook or delight trick-or-treaters, or on center stage in fall cooking.
To celebrate this seasonal favorite, Abilene Scene paired up local artists with local chefs to give you ideas on using both the outside and the inside of a pumpkin, leaving nothing to waste in this traditional fall gourd. Their designs and recipe ideas, however, are anything but traditional.
Rather than carving her pumpkin, artist Patty Rae Wellborn built on to her pumpkin, adding varieties of gourds and tiny pumpkins.
“The idea to cut everything up and do a face like a Picasso painting came to me,” Wellborn said.
After sketching a few ideas, her “Picasso-Lantern” was born. Wellborn used an electric hot knife to cut the large pumpkin in two. She then carved out a space for a large gourd and halved some of the smaller pumpkins and used toothpicks and hot glue to assemble everything. “This particular piece can be used as a centerpiece or out on the doorstep,” Wellborn said.
Lisa Camp, artist and art teacher at Craig Middle School, said she was inspired by Edgar Allen Poe and a favorite art lesson for her pumpkin design. During one art lesson she provides the students with a copy of Edgar Allen Poe’s Tell-Tale Heart. As a class they read aloud and as they read they draw what they are imagining the scene to look like. Afterward they walk around the room and observe all the different student visual interpretations. It helps them to understand the differences among one another and how as individuals they may see things differently but also be able to appreciate those differences.
As an artist, Camp was able to freehand her Poe design that she found on Pinterest onto the pumpkin, but she added that there are also different transfer methods that will work. She recommended looking at Pinterest for good ideas.
“Getting some visuals gives you a good place to start,” she said. “Sometimes I’m up for a design with a degree of difficulty to it, and other times just a vintage wicked grin is perfect. In the past I’ve done black cats, haunted houses and Grumpy Cat.”
Artist Stefanie Dammert, who has a studio in Abilene at Mike Lanier’s Studio 13, created a pumpkin that reflects her heritage and her current home. Originally from Lima, Perú, Dammert has lived in the United States for the past 11 years, and has found some of the same plants and flowers here that she is familiar with from her childhood in Perú, as well as butterflies and birds that migrate from Southern states like Texas to South America. She said she is inspired by nature in her paintings and decided to paint a few of these flowers and butterflies that grow and prosper in both countries, such as prickly pears, bougainvillea, hydrangea, aloe vera and lantana.
To create her design, entitled “Familiar Flora, Abilene and Lima,” Dammert started with a rough draft of flowers and butterflies in a notebook, keeping in mind the size and shape of her canvas – in this case, a three-dimensional rounded object. She sanded the pumpkin to create an even surface and used white gesso paint to cover it. She drew her design with a black Sharpie and painted the colors on the design with acrylic paint.
As a part of a family of two boys and a husband who all love Halloween, Dammert also carves pumpkins inspired by new popular games or characters that her boys like or something using spooky stencils – for example, an Angry Bird, a haunted house and a skull. She said they all work together on the drawings and carvings and have collected a lot of carving tools over the years.
“We especially love baking and eating the pumpkin seeds when we’re finished with our creations,” she said.
The Dammerts are not alone in that enjoyment. While carved and decorated pumpkins take center stage on porches and mantels during the fall, they also shine as part of fall and winter cooking and baking.
Chef Cesar Reynosa from Taylor County Taphouse makes a unique use of pumpkin seeds in his Pepita-Crusted Pork Chops and joins other Abilene chefs in sharing their pumpkin-inspired recipes to bring a little pumpkin flavor to the table as well.
1 cup toasted, hulled pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 cup all-purpose flour
5 large eggs
4 pork chops
3 tablespoons of olive oil
Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a food processor or blender, combine pumpkin seeds, panko and salt. Pulse until fine.
With processor or blender running add rest of ingredients. Pulse until all is fully incorporated.
Arrange 3 large bowls in a line
Put flour in first bowl, whisked eggs in second bowl, and pumpkin seed mixture in third bowl
Drop pork chops one at a time in flour then shake bowl until completely coated. Shake off excess flour.
Place pork chops in eggs and coat.
Place pork chops in pumpkin mixture, shake bowl and press down on both sides.
Heat skillet to medium heat and add olive oil.
When hot, add pork chops and brown both sides.
To finish on the stove: Cook for five minutes on each side (adjust according to size of pork chops) on medium-high heat.
To finish in oven: When pork is browned on each side, bake on a roasting tray for 12 -15 minutes
Allow pork to rest five minutes before serving.
Suggested sides: potatoes and asparagus.
(Recipe courtesy of Cesar Reynosa, chef at Taylor County Taphouse)
14–ounce package of firm or hard tofu, sliced ¼ inch thick
1 large onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic
2 cups broccoli, chopped into bite size pieces
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 red or green bell pepper, chopped
1 cup bean sprouts
1 can water chestnuts (optional)
1 pack stir-fry noodles
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
1-2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon marjoram
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
½ teaspoon garlic powder
4 tablespoons canned pumpkin puree
¼-1/3 cup vegetable stock
1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon water
Cut each slice of tofu into quarters and place onto paper towels. Cover with another paper towel, and set aside while preparing spice mix
Prepare spice mix: combine salt, pepper, pumpkin pie spice, paprika, red pepper flakes and marjoram in small bowl and mix well
Sprinkle spice mix over tofu until tofu is fully covered; set aside to marinate
In small bowl or measuring cup, combine soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, garlic powder, pumpkin puree, vegetable stock and cornstarch. Set aside
Heat wok or skillet over high heat until a drop of water evaporates with in a second or two when added to the pan.
Have vegetables, tofu and sauce nearby
Add canola oil and swirl to heat
Add chopped onion and stir for 1 minute, then add broccoli, bell pepper and garlic. Stir-fry for 2-3 minutes.
Add spiced tofu, and continue stir-frying until tofu begins to color and broccoli is firm but can be pierced with a fork.
Make a well in middle of vegetable mixture and pour pumpkin sauce into pan. Stir fry with tofu and vegetable for 1 minute to coat, then remove from heat.
Serve over noodles.
(Recipe courtesy of Becky Scheible, owner/operator of A Delightful Bite, personal chef and catering services.)
15 ounces pureed pumpkin
½ cup sugar
¼ tsp salt
¾ cup flour
¼ cup cinnamon
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 cup milk
2 tbsp butter melted
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix all together by hand.
Grease a 10-inch baking dish with butter.
Dust with 3 tablespoons of sugar.
Bake 40-45 minutes.
(Recipe courtesy of Jeremiah Gibson, chef at Cypress Street Station.)