Beyond the Jack-O-Lantern: A Plethora of Pumpkin Ideas
Pumpkins anchor many a fall centerpiece, but they also can grace your table a second time on your dinner or dessert plate – or, in seed form, in the snack bowl. So don't chuck that (uncarved) pumpkin. Instead, recycle your Halloween décor at the end of your fork. To get you started, local farmers and foodies offer their favorite serving ideas, from savory to sweet.
Randy Stout of Stout's Melody Acres, a Franklin farm with 30 varieties of winter squash and pumpkins, encourages people to think outside the pumpkin. "You can use pumpkin and squash the same way you would use a potato," he says. Baked, steamed, boiled, mashed or puréed – there are loads of serving options besides the traditional pie.
One of his favorite pairings is roasted pumpkin with another autumn standout, Brussels sprouts. Toss one-inch cubes of pumpkin and halved Brussels sprouts with olive oil and seasoned salt, then roast for eight to 10 minutes at 425° until they caramelize. The result is "to die for," he says.
Definitely don't use the flesh from your jack-o-lantern pumpkin – there lies the road to food poisoning – but do save the seeds. The key to the perfect crunch is to dry the cleaned seeds fully before toasting, says Maria Smietana of Valentine Hill Farm in Zionsville. Dry them a few hours in a food dehydrator or 100° oven, or at room temperature for a few days. Skip this step and you may end up with moldy seeds. To check dryness, nibble a seed: If it's still pulpy inside, give it more time.
Toss the dried seeds with olive oil and your seasoning of choice, and spread on a baking sheet. "The foodie thing to do is flavor them with cayenne or Southwestern flavor, or cinnamon-sugar or sea salt," she says. "The possibilities are endless." About 10 minutes at 350° to 400° is all that's needed to turn those raw seeds golden brown, and you've got a crunchy, high-fiber, high-protein snack. Store the cooled seeds in airtight jars.
All pumpkins produce edible seeds, but Smietana has a variety called Snack Face that's uniquely qualified: It's versatile enough to be used as either a small jack-o-lantern or a pie pumpkin, but big, meaty, hull-less seeds are its defining feature. Another hull-less variety is Kakai, available from Stout's Melody Acres.
This unusual suggestion comes from Tuttle Orchards in Greenfield, the site of many a child's pumpkin patch explorations. Minipumpkins no bigger than a fist are not just for show – they can do double duty as a festive addition to a holiday dinner.
Ruth Ann Roney, farm store manager, recommends baking them like an Acorn squash. Simply cut a hole around the stem, clean the interior of seeds (saving them, of course) and bake at 350° for about a half hour with a pat of butter inside. A half inch of water in the baking pan prevents scorching. Meanwhile, prep a box of stuffing mix and augment it with a handful of dried cranberries and a couple of chopped apples, preferably Gold Rush or Fuji. The warm mixture can be spooned into six baked mini pumpkins and, if desired, topped with a touch of brown sugar.
Here's a twist on pumpkin-flavored delicacies: pumpkin soufflé (recipe follows). Ivy Tech instructor Chef Tad Delay has adapted a carrot soufflé recipe for pumpkins, and it is equally at home as a side dish with roast duck or roasted pork loin – or as a dessert. Delay notes that a variety of winter squash called Jumbo Pink Banana, one of Stout's offerings, makes an incredibly light soufflé because of its creamy, smooth texture. He leaves out the traditional pie spice to let the unadulterated sweetness of the vegetable shine through.
PICKING THE PERFECT PUMPKIN
Whatever variety of pumpkin or squash you choose, Stout says, the rind should be fully colored, bearing in mind that different types come in different shades. Unless you plan to prepare the pumpkin within a few days, the stem should be attached – otherwise it will dry out. And make sure that stem is firm. Rubbery stems indicate an under-ripe vegetable.
Here's where to find the locally grown pumpkins mentioned above:
• Stout's Melody Acres sells produce at Binford Farmers' Market, Indy Winter Farmers' Market and Bloomington Winter Farmers' Market. Find Stout's Melody Acres on Facebook.
• Valentine Hill Farm sells at Green Market at Traders Point Creamery, Zionsville Farmers' Market, Indianapolis City Market, Binford Farmers' Market, Broad Ripple Farmers' Market. ValentineHillFarm.com
• Tuttle Orchards' farm store is at 5717 N. 300 West, Greenfield. TuttleOrchards.com