Kaddo bowrani, or "baked pumpkin," the appetizer he serves at The Helmand, is the restaurant's most popular dish. Chunks of pumpkin are fried and then slow-baked with a hint of sugar and cinnamon, served with warm yogurt mixed with garlic.
The soft pumpkin and yogurt, slathered on a warm, peppery flatbread, would be the main course in Afghanistan, Karsai said. "Unless it is a state dinner or guests you want to impress."
Pumpkin bread and pumpkin muffins are traditional ways to enjoy pumpkin in the fall. But The Main Ingredient, an Annapolis restaurant and catering service, startled its first patrons years ago by serving pumpkin muffins with all of its entree salads.
"It was a sweet way to finish off a salad. It was different, and it became our signature," said Evie Turner, a vice president at The Main Ingredient. They serve between 700 and 950 mini pumpkin muffins a week and go through 750 No. 10 cans of pumpkin in a year.
Happily, she said, the restaurant's supplier came through during The Great Pumpkin Crisis.
Would she share a recipe for the signature muffins?
"Never," she said, laughing.
The Helmand's kaddo bowrani (baked pumpkin)
Makes: 4-6 servings
1 small pumpkin (baby or spookies work best)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
For yogurt sauce:
1 cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoon fresh-cut diced garlic
Slice pumpkin and remove seeds. Peel outer skin. Slice 2-inch pieces lengthwise. Place oil in skillet pan and heat to medium heat. Add pumpkin. Cook on medium heat covered for approximately 10 minutes, turning once.