Instructions: That most decorative time of year has arrived, when a few minutes travel in any direction treats us to green fields flecked with bright orange pumpkins. We pick out the perfect pumpkin for carving and then stop at the market on the way home for canned pumpkin to make a pie. Why? Because were unfamiliar with the use of fresh pumpkins.
The pumpkin is such an accommodating vegetable: the mini Jack-o-lanterns make wonderful vessels for dips and pates, the 1 pound size are ideal individual serving containers for soups, stews or casseroles, with the inside of the baked pumpkin being consumed along with the entree, and a 6-8 pound pumpkin makes the perfect soup tureen. In addition to coming in its own bake-and-serve container, the pumpkin lends itself to both savory and sweet dishes.
Sizes of pumpkin available to us range from a few ounces to 827 pounds (the World Record set in 1992 by Joel Holland for growing the Worlds largest pumpkin)
The mini pumpkins known as "Jack-o-lanterns" average 8 ounces and are heavily relied on for decoration this time of year. Hopefully, the recipe for Cambazola-Basil-Walnut Pate will inspire you to also think of these small orange gems as food.
Any pumpkin will make a pie, but sugar pumpkins are the usual choice. Cook, puree and drain very, very well to end up with a thick puree.
Select thick-shelled, firm pumpkins that feel solid and heavy Smaller pumpkins are better than large for eating, partly because they are much easier to handle and cook.
For individual casseroles, soup, or stew containers, choose pumpkins weighing about 1 pound
A 2-3 pound pumpkin is just right for a vegetable or side dish for 6 people.
Store pumpkins, unwrapped, in a cool, dry place with good air circulation.
Cut pieces should be wrapped and refrigerated.
To prepare: wipe or wash pumpkin and cut in half lengthwise. For a large pumpkin, cut off the top, then cut pumpkin in quarters or pieces. Remove and discard fibers (a scissors makes this easy), separating seeds if you intend to use them.
To cook: place quartered pumpkin (seeds and fibers removed) on a baking pan with 1/2 inch water in bottom of pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 1/2 hours, or until tender. Mini pumpkins should be baked at 350 degrees for about 60 minutes, or until tender. Cubes of peeled pumpkin may be steamed until tender
(about 10-15 minutes) and dressed with butter, nutmeg and cinnamon for a sweet flavor, butter, chives and salt and pepper for savory flavor.
To toast pumpkin seeds, separate fibers from seeds, but do not wash seeds.
Toss with salt and melted butter in a large bowl (4 cups seeds, 1 teaspoon salt, and 2 tablespoons melted butter). Spread on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake for 30-40 minutes in a 350 degree oven, stirring every 10 minutes.
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