Put those pumpkins to work in the kitchen in no time with these tips. Because there is more to this squash than meets the eye.
1. Beyond the jack-o'-lantern, dinner. Most pumpkins are carved or canned. They end up as ghouls or pies. But pumpkin is squash, squash is healthy and tasty, and this particular squash has a rich, sweet, fresh flavor that lends itself to soups, stews, risottos, or a simple mash-made sweet with butter, maple syrup, and nutmeg or savory with browned butter, sage, and grated Parmesan.
2. That said, carving pumpkins are not really eating pumpkins. Small, thinner-skinned eating varieties are grown for sweetness and flavor that the more fibrous jack-o'-lantern pumpkins lack. So if you're cooking fresh rather than canned, look for varieties like Small Sugar, New England Pie, and Long Island Cheese (which got its name from its wheel-of-curds shape and cooks beautifully). Sure, you can eat the carving kind, but it will taste more like potato than pumpkin.
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3. First, select a good one. Look for a deep, rich, uniform color-no green or light tan spot where it rested on the ground-and a healthy, stiff stem. Avoid any pumpkin with soft spots. Farmers' markets will usually yield the freshest options.
4. Then prep it. Step 1: Place pumpkin on a steady surface, stem side up. Use a small knife to cut around the stem, about 2 inches out. Step 2: Scoop out stringy fibers and seeds; toss the fibers. Rinse and save the seeds to toast (see slide 5). Step 3: Cut the pumpkin in half using a heavy chef's knife. Scrape the flesh with a spoon to remove any remaining fibers.
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5. Toast the seeds. Get the goop off by placing the seeds in a bowl of water and swishing them around: Goop sinks, seeds float. Blot the seeds dry, then spread evenly on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle cumin, garlic powder, or other spices over the top; roast at 325° for 15 to 25 minutes or until dry and crunchy. Shell them or not; either way, pumpkin seeds (aka pepitas) make a great snack.
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