That pumpkin brightening your doorstep this time of year is actually a pretty versatile little (or perhaps big?) squash. As you carve it into a jack-o’-lantern, take a minute to use the fleshy fruit’s (yep, it’s a fruit) pulp and seeds for some recipes beyond pie. Its fibrous flesh makes a perfect puree for pie, to be sure, but it’s also great for roasting, or making soups and stews — with or without other vegetables. The seeds can be roasted and toasted with any sort of salt-and-spice blend for a great snack or as a crunchy addition to salads.
While most of us delight in the pumpkin pie that graces our Thanksgiving tables, savory uses of Cucurbita pepo, the cultivar derived from indigenous North American squash, are known the world over — from Africa to New Zealand, where they are boiled, mashed, roasted, pickled and candied. Indigenous Americans have been using these gourds, native to what we now know as Central America and Mexico, for over 5,000 years; they were originally mistaken by white settlers for melons. Antarctica, apparently, is the only continent where pumpkins can’t grow.
Pumpkin puree and cooked pumpkin can be stored in airtight containers and frozen for later use for up to three months. And pumpkins are highly nutritious — full of vitamins (especially A and C) and fiber, and low in calories.
So a little work now will yield easy eating all winter long.
A Pumpkin Primer
Cinderella’s bright orange coach may be the perfect pumpkin for sprucing up the front step, but it’s also good for roasting and pureeing for pies. Its appearance is bright orange, deeply ribbed, and shaped, well … like Cinderella’s coach.
Cheesy, or Cheese, pumpkins are so named because their color and shape resemble a wheel of cheese. They add variety to fall decor, but are also good in soups and stews.
Ghost pumpkins, or Lumina, are pale or white, and are deliciously sweet for roasting, when they’re not being used for Halloween decorations. Don’t try to carve them, though — their tough skin doesn’t make for easy jack-o’-lantern making. Better to paint or just leave them as they are.
Pie pumpkins are aptly named, because the puree made from the flesh of these small, unribbed beauties makes perfect puree that isn’t too fibrous or watery for pies.
Big Autumn, Harvest Moon and Connecticut Field pumpkins are probably the most common for carving and decorating. When you’re picking out a pumpkin for a jack-o’-lantern, you’re mostly likely choosing one of these. But they’re also good for pies, roasting and stews.
Curried Pumpkin Soup
This is perhaps one of the easiest (and quickest!) soups you’ll ever make — and it’s full of flavor (not to mention vitamins and fiber). If you’re not feeding a crowd, freeze any remainder in an airtight container for up to three months. To get the soup super smooth, you’ll need a heavy-duty blender, food processor or immersion mixer. Feel free to roast your own pumpkin (see instructions in the recipe for Roasted Pumpkin with Harissa and Cinnamon), or use canned pumpkin puree. The curry can be adjusted to your taste, as well — simply combine the spices and chiles you prefer to create a flavor that’s all your own. Nut allergies? Omit the peanuts.
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup scallions, minced
2 tablespoons red curry paste (available at Kroger, Publix and Your DeKalb Farmers Market)
4 cups vegetable stock
1 can coconut milk
1/2 cup cilantro
1/2 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts
16 ounces or 2 (8-ounce cans) pumpkin puree
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons berbere spice (available at Kroger, Publix and Your DeKalb Farmers Market)
1 teaspoon chile powder
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
Sea salt to taste
Fresh pepper to taste
Heat a wok or large pan on medium high heat. Add the olive oil, then add the garlic and scallions, reduce the heat and sweat, uncovered. Add the curry paste, stirring to combine. Next add the vegetable stock and coconut milk. Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for about 3-5 minutes. Add the cilantro and peanuts.
Remove the liquid from the heat and pour in batches (there’s a lot of liquid) into a blender, food processor (or, if using an immersion blender, puree on the stovetop, taking care not to splatter). Process the liquid on high until smooth. Return the liquid to the pan on the stove. Add the pumpkin puree, cumin, berbere, chile powder, allspice, cardamom and salt and pepper. Bring the soup to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.
Serve warm. Garnish with cilantro, peanuts, scallions and berbere spice, if desired. Makes 2 quarts (8 servings).
Per serving: 314 calories (percent of calories from fat, 61), 8 grams protein, 25 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams fiber, 22 grams fat (11 grams saturated), 2 milligrams cholesterol, 943 milligrams sodium.
Roasted Pumpkin with Harissa and Cinnamon
Use small, 3-pound pie pumpkins for this recipe — the yield will be about 16 ounces of puree (enough for the Curried Pumpkin Soup, above). Here is the yield on other pumpkins, if pie pumpkins can’t be found:
3-pound pie pumpkin = roughly 2 cups puree
5-pound round pumpkin = roughly 3 cups puree
6-pound carving pumpkin = roughly 2 3/4 cups puree
Remember that the spices you use on your roasted pumpkin will flavor your puree, so keep the end result in mind when seasoning. If you’re not making puree, these slices are the perfect accompaniment to a fall meal of roasted chicken or pork chops. Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche or yogurt for breakfast or lunch.
1 pie pumpkin, about 3 pounds
Drizzle of olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon harissa spice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
Wash and dry the pumpkin. Using a sharp knife, cut off the stem of the pumpkin. Place the pumpkin (cut side down) on a cutting surface and cut the pumpkin in half. Scoop out the seeds and strands. Save the seeds for roasting (see recipe). Place the cut side down and cut in half again. Place the cut sides down and cut in slices until all the pumpkin is cut into 1/2-inch slices. (The key is to always keep the cut side toward a flat surface to steady for cutting.)
Brush a roasting pan or sheet tray with a little olive oil. Spread the pumpkin slices evenly over the pan and drizzle olive oil over the slices. Sprinkle with sea salt, pepper, harissa and cinnamon.
Roast for 20-30 minutes, until the flesh of the pumpkin is soft. Serve warm.
For puree: After roasting, let the pumpkin cool to room temperature, then scoop the flesh of the pumpkin away from the skin with a spoon. Place the flesh in a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Store in a sealed container for 2-3 days in the refrigerator, or up to 3 months in the freezer. Serves 4.
Per serving: 107 calories (percent of calories from fat, 58), 1 gram protein, 10 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 7 grams fat (1 gram saturated), no cholesterol, 36 milligrams sodium.
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Use these delicious seeds to eat out of hand, sprinkle into popcorn, or for Dark Chocolate Bark with Roasted Pumpkin Seeds, Pepitas, 5-Spice Chile and Sea Salt (see recipe).
Raw pumpkin seeds (from 1 pie pumpkin)
Spices of your choosing
Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
Clean the seeds until they are free of any pumpkin fiber and pat them dry. In a small bowl, toss the seeds with a small amount of olive oil, then a spice blend of choice, salt and pepper.
Place on a baking stone or cookie sheet and roast 20 minutes. Makes 1/2 cup.
Per tablespoon: 30 calories (percent of calories from fat, 66), 1 gram protein, 2 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 2 grams fat (trace saturated fat), no cholesterol, 17 milligrams sodium.
Dark Chocolate Bark with Roasted Pumpkin Seeds, Pepitas, 5-Spice Chile and Sea Salt
This is a great “treat” for tricks — the dark chocolate, seeds and spices are chock-full of antioxidants, so you don’t have to feel guilty about indulging. The chile peps up flavor, but feel free to get creative and sprinkle the bark with your own blend of spices to taste.
1 bag (10 ounces) dark chocolate chips
1/4 cup milk chocolate chips
1 teaspoon shortening
1/2 cup roasted pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup pepitas (available at Kroger, Publix or Buford Highway Farmers Market)
2 tablespoons five-spice powder
1 teaspoon large grain sea salt
Place the chocolates in separate microwaveable bowls. Add the shortening to the dark chocolate. Microwave on high for 30 seconds, stir, then microwave for another 30 seconds. Let the dark chocolate sit to continue melting so as not to overheat. Melt the milk chocolate in the microwave for 30 seconds.
Using a spatula, spread the dark chocolate over a parchment- or foil-lined cookie sheet or Silpat. Sprinkle the chocolate with the pumpkin seeds, pepitas, five-spice powder and sea salt. Using a spoon, drizzle the milk chocolate over the bark. Let the bark sit in a cool area until firm, abut 20 minutes. (Place in the fridge to firm if you’re in a hurry.)
Once firm, break the bark into pieces. Store in an airtight container, for up to 2 months. Makes 1 cookie sheet (about 20 servings).
Per serving: 106 calories (percent of calories from fat, 49), 1 gram protein, 12 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 6 grams fat (3 grams saturated), trace cholesterol, 8 milligrams sodium.
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