Ubiquitous pumpkin more versatile in the kitchen than on the porch
Proudly lined up outside grocery stores and farm stands, pumpkins are practically synonymous with autumn—especially here in New England. Most will go the way of the jack-o’-lantern, but don’t overlook the flavor and versatility of this rich winter squash.
This season, put a couple extra in your cart. With a little experimentation and a big knife, the pumpkin will quickly become a staple at your fall table—and not just on Thanksgiving.
You know how to pick the perfect carving pumpkin, but cooking pumpkins are a bit different. Smaller pumpkins—anything under three pounds—have the best flavor. You’ll want to make sure it doesn’t have any bruises, soft spots or punctures and, if possible, pick one with a bit of stem left in place.
Like any vegetable, there are plenty of varieties to choose from, each with its own flavor profile. Baby Pam Sugar Pies come with sweet flesh and a fine, dry grain—making them perfect for pies. Long Island Cheese, named for its coloring and flat shape, is a beautiful heirloom with moderately sweet flesh and a long shelf life—up to a year out of direct sunlight. Red Warty Thing, a newer variety, has hard and—you guessed it—red, warty skin. The fun is in the taste-testing. Once you’ve collected your favorites, store them in a cool, dry, airy space and cook at your leisure through the fall and winter.
Whether for carving or cooking, the first step towards processing will always be the same: Carefully cut off the top along with the stem and thoroughly scrape out the pulp and seeds, reserving them in a bowl or colander. Now, approach like you would any other winter squash—cutting right through the skin and into chunks. To roast the pumpkin for a salad, pasta or fall veggie medley you’ll want the pieces to be about 1 inch square and peeled.
Place in the oven at 400° with a little olive oil or butter, salt, pepper and a bit of fresh sage for just 30 minutes. If you are making pumpkin purée, cut the pumpkin in quarters and place flesh side down on a baking sheet. After baking, as above, you can easily peel the skin right off. Throw the roasted pumpkin in a food processor to make a smooth, pie-worthy purée.
For soup, roughly mash the flesh up and use as is. And don’t forget the seeds! Roasted pumpkin seeds are delicious on top of salads and soups, ground up in piecrusts or, our favorite, by the handful.
Here are some of our favorite ways to enjoy pumpkin: