Sweater weather has arrived and leaves are now crunching under your running feet—which also means it’s pumpkin season. But aside from carving jack-o’-lanterns, sipping overpriced pumpkin-spice lattes and eating holiday dessert, most people have little interaction with the iconic squash. And that’s a shame—the naturally sweet, tender flesh of pumpkin can be used to take a wide range of dishes up a gastronomic notch.
You can also count on it to deliver a huge wallop of vitamin A, a superhero nutrient for better immune and bone health. So it’s time to think beyond pumpkin-flavored everything grocery store displays (here’s looking at you, Pumpkin Pie Pop-Tarts) and rustle up these sweet and savory seasonal delights.
For cooking and baking purposes, not all pumpkins are created equal. The giants used for jack-o’-lanterns have an unappetizing stringy, bland flesh. Instead search for squash labeled “pie pumpkins” or “sugar pumpkins,” which have a sweet flavor and superior texture. Or look out for fetching heirloom varieties like Long Island Cheese. As long as there are no soft spots, pumpkins can keep for a couple months at cool room temperature.
Pumpkin Spice Is Nice
If pumpkins could speak, they would say to pumpkin pie spice: “You complete me.” For a DIY version, combine 1 Tbsp. cinnamon, 2 tsp. ginger powder and ó tsp. each allspice, cloves and nutmeg. Use it in oatmeal, baked goods, yogurt and smoothies. Or sprinkle on roasted pumpkin and other winter squash.
Cooking with pumpkin can be as easy as dropping a can of purée into your grocery cart. But if you want better flavor and to save some cash in the process, make your own by cutting a whole pumpkin in half and scraping out the seeds and pulp with a spoon or ice cream scooper. Slice the cleaned pumpkin into quarters and place rind-side down on a baking dish. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 to 60 minutes, or until flesh is very tender. Scrape off the flesh and whiz in a food processor until smooth. Extra purée can be frozen for up to 6 months.