As November begins (and with it the count down to Thanksgiving), pumpkin season is in full swing. When I got a beautiful sugar (or pie) pumpkin from my farm share this week, I actually hopped up and down a little, because I. Love. Pumpkins. So much! Surprisingly I’m not a huge fan of pumpkin pie, but I especially love using pumpkins in savory recipes. “What to do with The Pumpkin” became a topic of discussion amongst my fellow farm share holders, so I thought I would share my favorite ways to enjoy that oh-so-orange squash.
A pumpkin, by any other name…
A pumpkin is, quite simply, a gourd. It is in the same family as other squash (like spaghetti, butternut, and acorn), cucumbers, and melons. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors; some are better for eating while some… well some are made for looking pretty and fall-like on your porch. Pumpkins can get enormously big – this year’s mammoth weighed in at over 2000 pounds! Suddenly a pumpkin carriage does not seem so implausible…
To learn more than you ever wanted to know about pumpkins, learn from the experts.
To learn a bit more about just one type of pumpkin, the sugar or “pie” pumpkin, read on!
Sugar or pie pumpkins
Sugar pumpkins tend to be smaller, oval-shaped, and bright orange – your stereotypical pumpkin, but one you would think would be too small for a jack-o-lantern. Pick out a nice firm one (4-6 lbs) from your local market and proceed to roasting!
Preparing your pumpkin
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
Slice the stem off your pumpkin (or have them do it for you right at the market – that’s what I do).
With a sharp heavy knife, slice the pumpkin in half. Scoop out the stringy gunk and seeds and reserve in a bowl.
Place pumpkin halves face-down in a baking pan or rimmed baking sheet coated with cooking spray.
Roast 40-50 minutes until pumpkin flesh is tender when pierced with a fork.
While the pumpkin is baking…
Get all that pumpkin gunk off your seeds. I don’t like to rinse mine, because I don’t want to lose the yummy pumpkin juice flavor. Just spend a few minutes separating the seeds from the gunk; it’s oddly satisfying.
Place your relatively clean seeds in a bowl and toss with a little bit of oil (sunflower, peanut, your choice) and salt.
Coat another rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray (or line with foil and coat with spray) and spread out the seeds as best you can – they do tend to cling to one another.
Put the seeds in the oven with your pumpkin. After about 15 minutes, shake the pan or use a spatula to move the seeds around and flip them over. Let them bake for another 15 minutes, checking occasionally to make sure they are not burning. They should finish up at about the same time as your pumpkin. Let them cool, and try not to eat them all in one sitting. Maybe even save a few to garnish some of the recipes I will share below!
Once your pumpkin is done…
Cube it for use in soups or salads, or puree it with an immersion blender or food processor.
Cubes or puree will keep in the fridge for about a week, but I like to freeze my puree so I can spread out the pumpkin-y goodness. To freeze, scoop 1 cup of puree into a ziplock bag, flatten, and place in the freezer. This takes up minimal space, is easy to stack, and super easy to thaw,
A 4lb pumpkin will yield about 3.5 cups of puree.
Note: I like to roast my pumpkins and then cut, but you can also cut and then steam them.
Eating your pumpkin
Now the best part – eating your pumpkin! As I said, I am a huge fan of savory pumpkin recipes, so most of the recipes here are savory. Pumpkin goes wonderfully, of course, in sweet breads and pies, and can be used like apple sauce or other fruit purees as substitutions for fat in many baking recipes. First I will share a whole recipe that I recently made (with the puree in the photo above), and then I’ll share links to my other favorite pumpkin recipes (some of which are still on my to-try list).
Pumpkin-Walnut Focaccia with Gruyère
adapted, very very slightly, from a Cooking Light recipe
Makes two 9-inch circular loaves, 8 servings each
169 calories; 6g fat; 6g protein; 26g carbs
- 3/4 cup warm water
- 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
- 3 1/2 cups bread flour, divided (about 15 3/4 ounces)
- 3 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1 cup freshly roasted and pureed pumpkin (or canned)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 3/4 cup (3 ounces) grated Gruyère cheese, divided
- Cooking spray
- 1 teaspoon cornmeal
- 1/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
(full disclosure – for the most part I am really just copying and pasting from the original recipe.)
Combine water, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Add 1 cup flour and butter to yeast mixture; stir just until combined. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 30 minutes.
Add pumpkin, salt, and nutmeg to flour mixture; stir until well combined. Add 2 1/4 cups flour, walnuts, and half of cheese; stir until a soft dough forms. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 8 minutes); add enough of remaining 1/4 cup flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel tacky).
Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in size. (Press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, dough has risen enough.) Punch dough down; cover and let rest 5 minutes. Divide dough in half; shape each half into an 8-inch circle. Place dough circles on a baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Sprinkle remaining cheese evenly over dough circles**; press lightly to adhere. Lightly coat dough circles with cooking spray; cover and let rise 20 minutes (dough will not double in size).
Preheat oven to 400°.
Uncover dough; bake at 400° for 30 minutes or until loaves are browned on the bottom and cheese melts (shield loaves with foil to prevent overbrowning, if necessary). Cool on a wire rack.
** the only change I made to this recipe is including the nuts in the dough itself, instead of on top. I found that they did not stay on the top very well, but added a wonderful taste and texture to the dough.
More Pumpkin Recipes
- Pumpkin Soup with Sage and Bacon (AKA best soup ever! I recommend halving the cream – 1 cup seemed excessive to me and the soup was delicious with only 1/2 cup)
- Black Bean Pumpkin Soup (I have not made it myself but it was served to me at a party and was amazing. Also, it’s Smitten Kitchen. ‘Nuff said.)
Sides and mains
- Roasted Pumpkin and Sweet Potato Pilau (a big hit in my house, especially with the husband)
- Roast Pumpkin with Cheese “Fondue” (have made and served at several gatherings to general “‘oohs and ahhs” – served in the pumpkin itself, it makes quite a presentation and tastes incredible.)
- Pumpkin Pasta (have made and served at several gatherings – always a hit)
- Pumpkin Cheesecake Trifles (my favorite pumpkin dessert. Ever.)
- Caramel Cream Pumpkin Pie (have not tried yet, on my list)
- Pumpkin Bread Pudding (have not tried yet, on my list)
- Spiced Pumpkin Chiffon Pie (have not tried yet, on my list)
Happy roasting, pureeing, and baking!