Whenever I think about the fall, it’s pumpkins that come to mind. On Halloween you see the carved pumpkins peeking off of every porch. While carving pumpkins is fun, I enjoy cooking with them even more. Here are some great pumpkin ideas you can try out around Halloween. If they hold up, you can always use them for Thanksgiving, when you have less time to experiment! If you’re using pumpkins for cooking, do make sure you get a cooking pumpkin, not a carving pumpkin. Cooking pumpkins are smaller and less grainy in texture.
A Pumpkin Dish – Literally.
You can use pumpkins as actual serving dishes during the season. Choose the size of the pumpkin depending on how much you plan on serving. Basically, you just cut off the top of the pumpkin (like a lid) and hollow out the inside. Then just scoop in whatever heated veggies or cooled cranberry you like and replace the top as a lid. I like to decorate the lids with colored sharpies and label each pumpkin with what’s inside. These are fun for Halloween because you can use black sharpies to make pseudo-Jack’OLantern faces.
Dessert in a Pumpkin
A great dessert you can serve in these (without the lids) is an easy chocolate mouse with a healthy dose of whipping cream. You can garnish the whipping cream with cinnamon sugared pumpkin seeds. You can find a recipe for these at southernfood.about.com/od/pumpkins/r/bl51022c.htm
Early American Dessert
Follow the same method as you would to make hollowed pumpkin dishes. But you’ll want to make sure your pumpkins can fit in the oven. Heat the pumpkin for about 10 minutes at 350 degrees without the lid. Then add a mixture of honey and a milk product inside the pumpkin.
I like to use heavy cream because it’s thicker, but you can use milk, evaporated milk or half and half. Throw in a liberal amount of cinnamon and place back in the pumpkin to heat in the oven with the lid on. It can be difficult to figure out when the whole pumpkin is done. It generally takes between 20 and 30 minutes more. Test it by trying to pierce the pumpkin skin with a fork. If it gives, you’ve got it.
If you’re nervous about cooking it whole, you divide it in halves or quarters and place on a baking sheet. This makes for better individual serving than the whole pumpkin. The idea is that you scoop out the creamy and sweet stuff along with the cooked pumpkin. It’s a very primitive, liquid dessert which is something like what early American settlers used to make as a dessert. Half the fun is using your spoon to scrape the inside of the pumpkin and mix it together. You can improve on it by simply using custard ingredients inside the whole pumpkin instead.
Thai Pumpkin Curry
I really love Thai food, so I end up making lots of things with a Thai twist. On Thanksgiving it’s difficult to really play around with recipes, since everyone expects traditional and you’ve got enough going on without kitchen testing a new recipe. But on Halloween, there are no such problems. You can have fun! Here’s my recipe for a delish pumpkin dish that’s anything but boring:
3 cups 1 inch cubed pumpkin, without rind or seeds
1 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1/4 cup shredded carrot
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons Thai brand Green Curry Paste
1 can coconut milk
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 cup of rice
1 bunch fresh chopped basil
1) Mix garlic and pumpkin in a bowl with peanut oil, making sure to coat as much as possible.
2) Throw into a pan at medium heat and brown the pumpkin. Should take about 4-6 minutes.
3) Once it’s browned, set aside.
4) Meanwhile, in a medium pot , pour in the coconut milk and the curry paste. Mix well and heat at medium for about 3 minutes.
5) Throw in the rice, soy sauce and onions. Bring just to a boil. Reduce heat so it stays at a simmer.
6) If the rice isn’t covered by liquid, add a little water. Cook the rice according to the package directions, checking on it after about ten minutes.
7) When you’re down to the last few minutes of cooking throw in the pumpkin mixture and stir. Add the fresh basil about a minute before serving. Serves 3.
Just because pumpkins are traditionally served in sweet desserts doesn’t mean that there aren’t some wonderful savory recipes you can use. I’ve tossed pureed pumpkin into many a sauce as a thickening agent and a flavor booster. Don’t limit yourself to pumpkin pie!