Scare or fare? Purpose counts when picking out pumpkins

October 26, 1994|By Newsday

Your choice of pumpkin depends on whether you want to eat it or scare people with it. The Jack O'Lantern pumpkin with its thin wall and large seed bed makes the perfect carving vehicle. Your Halloween pumpkin, however, is not the best one for eating. Its flesh is watery and there isn't much of it for the size. For cooking you want the short, squat, beige cheese pumpkin with its thick, deep-colored flesh and small seed pocket.

Pumpkin, high in vitamin C, is a member of the winter squash family and can be used in any recipe calling for butternut or acorn squash.

Pumpkin seeds are a good source of vegetable protein. To roast them, remove strings, wash seeds and pat them dry. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray, add seeds in one layer and sprinkle with coarse salt, if desired. Place pan in a 375-degree oven for 20 minutes, shaking it occasionally. Remove seeds before they brown.

To make pumpkin puree, cut the pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds and strings. If the pumpkin is large, cut it into chunks. Place the pieces, cut side down, in a baking pan and bake in a 350-degree oven until tender, about one hour and scrape out the flesh. Make sure your pan is at least 2 inches deep. As the pumpkin cooks, it will give off water and if the pan is too small, the liquid will overflow.

To boil pumpkin, cut it into chunks or strips, peel, cover with water and cook until tender, 25 to 30 minutes. To steam pumpkin, place chunks or strips in a steamer over rapidly boiling water and steam until fork tender, about 35 minutes.

Whichever method you use, place the cooked flesh in a colander, weigh it down overnight to get rid of excess water and puree it.

Pumpkin Ginger Muffins

Makes 12 muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda (sifted in a tea strainer)

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups pumpkin puree

2 eggs

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/3 cup chopped crystallized ginger

3/4 cup chopped pecans

In a large bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Toss lightly with a fork. In a separate bowl combine pumpkin, eggs, brown sugar and vanilla and stir well.

Make a well in center of dry ingredients and pour in wet ingredients. Add ginger and pecans and stir until ingredients are just incorporated. Do not overmix.

Line 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners or grease the cups generously. Fill the cups evenly with the batter and bake in a 400-degree oven for 20 minutes. Remove muffins to a rack and cool.

Pumpkin and Black Bean Stew

Makes 4 to 6 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large onion, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, sliced

8 ounces turkey kielbasa, sliced

2 cups peeled and diced pumpkin

1 (16-ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced

2 cups chicken broth

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 ear corn, cut into 1/2 -inch rounds

1 (16-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained

hot cooked orzo

Heat olive oil in a large casserole or Dutch oven and cook onion and garlic over medium heat 3 to 4 minutes. Add sausage and cook 3 minutes longer.

Stir in pumpkin, tomatoes, red pepper, chicken broth, jalapeno pepper and cumin and cook 15 minutes. Stir in corn rounds and cook 5 minutes longer.

Mash half the black beans. Stir all the beans into pot and cook 3 to 4 minutes. Serve over orzo.

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