Behold the great pumpkin!
By Edith Morgan
What a wonderful coincidence that Halloween comes just at the time when pumpkins (and apples and squash and all the great fall fruits and vegetables) are ripe in our fields! And that pumpkins figure so prominently in our festivities!
Maybe the “Great Pumpkin” did not make an appearance for Charlie Brown this year, but we all have an opportunity to have our own great pumpkins between Halloween and Thanksgiving. And there is so much that can be done with pumpkins! There is no part of these great … are they vegetables or fruits? … no matter, they can be used in so many ways: as “objets d’arts,” as well as vegetable dishes, as soups, or in various desserts. And no part of the pumpkin needs to be wasted. (Any left-over bits are great in the compost heap.)
So, get out and buy several pumpkins! Have a decorating session with the family: paint the outside or gently carve designs into it, dress it up and display it for your “trick-or-treaters.” Once you have cut into it, of course, it won’t last very long. Clean out the interior, clean off the seeds, and roast them. You can use a variety of your favorite flavorings for your pumpkin seeds, either sweet (sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, etc.) or salty (soaked in soy sauce, various flavorings, etc – whatever your taste dictates).
There are so many recipes around for pies and custard that I will not detail them here. Soups of pureed pumpkin can be either sweetened with honey, cinnamon and/or nutmeg or combined with chicken stock and other pureed vegetables. Give vent to your creative urges and puree together different flavors.
At our home we enjoy combinations of diced carrots, squash and pumpkin baked with a topping of mini marsmallows. The wonderful golden/orange color of this dish is yummy and looks great next to the green and red of a fresh salad and tomato … I have found the microwave to be of great help in cutting down on cooking time for all these dishes. I pre-soften the veggies and then combine them as I choose.
Pumpkin flavoring at this time of year can be found in just about anything, not just the traditional pie, but in muffins, cupcakes, breads, cakes, puddings, sorbets, and I suppose we could figure out some sort of candy or gum.
And even the traditional chocolate Oreo cookie, at your local supermarket, has a pumpkin filling this time of year! Wonders will never cease!
Because of its dual role as vegetable and fruit, you can get really creative with pumpkin. I haven’t tried to make pumpkin fries, but I imagine one of you out there among the more daring will try it! So, let yourself go, use up the whole pumpkin and enjoy all its different gifts – you can’t go wrong!
For the Shell:
Extra-virgin olive oil sufficient to oil a baking sheet and the outside of the pumpkin (approximately 2-4 Tbsp.)
1 medium squat cooking pumpkin
1 tsp. sea salt
For the Soup:
4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups finely chopped onions
2 green onions, tops included, thinly sliced
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1 green chili pepper, chopped
6 cups vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 cup plain soy milk
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/2 cup cooked wild rice
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 bunch fresh parsley, roughly chopped
For the Shell:
• Preheat the oven to 325°F.
• Lightly oil a baking sheet.
• Clean the pumpkin thoroughly and pat dry.
• Cut around the stem to make a lid. Scoop out the seeds and the stringy fibers.
• Lightly oil the pumpkin inside and out and sprinkle the inside with the salt.
• Place the pumpkin and the lid on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours, or until slightly soft. (An overbaked shell will not support the weight of the soup, so underbaking is preferred.)
• Remove from the oven and cool.
• Gently scoop some of the soft pumpkin from the wall and the lid, being careful not to puncture the shell. Set the shell aside.
• Purée the pumpkin meat. Set aside.
For the Soup:
• In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the onions, celery, and chili pepper. Sauté until the onions are translucent.
• Add the stock, 2 cups of the reserved pumpkin purée, the bay leaf, and the cumin. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
• Remove the bay leaf. Add the soy milk and the cornstarch and whisk until smooth. Cook over low heat for 5 minutes.
• Stir in the rice and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
• Add the salt and the pepper.
• Ladle the hot soup into the pumpkin shell.
• Garnish with the parsley and replace the lid.
• Serve hot.
Makes 8 to 10 servings