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The classic pumpkin is usually thought of only as it relates to pie, which is of course a legitimate use of this winter squash, and a very tasty one indeed. However, more and more, this excellently nutritious squash is being included in a variety of recipes, some sweet and others savory, which may soon become as classic as pumpkin pie. The field of pumpkin recipes is expanding all the time, so view these suggestions as a launching point and don’t be afraid of experimenting and creating your own ideas.
The simplest way you can serve pumpkin, especially if you purchase it fresh is to slice it, remove the seeds and the strings, and bake or steam it. Top it with butter, a little bit of spice (pumpkin pie spice, nutmeg, ginger or cinnamon all work well) and serve it as a main vegetable course. Choose small sugar pumpkins for this recipe, since they are sweeter, fleshier, and less “stringy” than larger varieties. Don’t forget that you can soak the seeds, roast them with a little bit of salt and have the perfect snack, too.
Sweet dishes that can be made with pumpkin are constantly evolving. When pumpkin is cooked and appropriately mashed, (or purchased canned) it blends very well into other ingredients, and often serves nicely as a substitute for fats like butter. You can make sweet pumpkin breads with nuts, raisins, or even chocolate chips, various bar cookies, cheesecake, ice cream, waffles or pancakes, muffins, scones, or cake. The spices for sweet winter squash, which can usually be substituted in any of these recipes, often tend to resemble spices used in dishes like carrot cake. Pumpkins steamed and added to cake can produce delicious carrot cake like desserts that are exceptionally good when frosted with cream cheese icing.
If you’d like to make a special dessert for friends, consider serving spicy cookies with dip made from pureed pumpkins, brown sugar, spices, and cream cheese. Always taste your cooked squash before adding sugar, since some pumpkins will be sweeter than others, and sugar levels may need to be adjusted. A common mistake is to add too much sugar, masking the true taste of the squash. You can also cook down pumpkins for a delicious “butter” similar to apple or pear butter, which is excellent as a spread on toast. Or alternately, bump up the nutritive value of smoothies and milk shakes by adding pureed winter squash.
There are many savory recipes that include pumpkins. These include cream soups, black bean and winter squash soup, raviolis stuffed with the squash, mole, winter squash enchiladas or tamales, risotto, and small pumpkins stuffed with jambalaya or risotto. You can also use raw pumpkins, sliced in the julienne style, briefly sautéed, and added to pasta.
If you’re at a loss for recipes, let the Internet, or a good modern cookbook be your guide. You’ll find many ways to turn this winter squash into so much more than the occasional ingredient in a pie.
Because of the high nutritive value of pumpkins, it is good to use them as often as possible. Adding pureed pumpkin to any soup or stew, or making some gnocchi with pureed pumpkin is another way of enjoying this plentiful vegetable.
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