The season of the pumpkin

When pressed to ponder scary Halloween dishes, I think of childhood games that included being herded into a darkened room and told to thrust your hands into bowls of peeled grapes (eyeballs) and overcooked spaghetti noodles (guts with worms).

I mostly have fond memories of laying newspaper on the kitchen floor and carving pumpkins—scooping the pumpkin guts in heaps all over the place and sorting through the seeds to be toasted later. My brother and I would get dressed up, usually as pirates, and take our orange plastic pumpkins around the neighborhood until they were stuffed full of all kinds of miniature candy bars, malt balls and colored sugar whatnots. Overstuffed pumpkins and pockets crammed full of loot signaled the end of the year’s trick or treating. The rest of the evening would involve sitting around sorting, trading and eating candy until we got sick, which from my new parental point of view, is pretty spooky.

These days I am trying to push the pumpkin carving more than the candy eating, although that is a lesson in futility if there ever was one. The kids love their candy for sure, but they also have a taste for the crunchy toasted seeds of the pumpkin and a lusting for fresh pressed warm apple cider with cinnamon and ginger.

The pumpkins are coming in just perfect this year and right on time, so it is fitting to feature a recipe that shows off this wondrous fruit of the vine. Whether it be a little pie pumpkin from Peifer’s orchard, a beautiful flesh colored Long Island Cheese pumpkin from Peach Mountain Organics or a massive Rouge Vif D’Etampes from Flying Mouse Farms, it is easy to go pumpkin crazy at this time of year if you let yourself journey down that rabbit hole. Here are a few of my favorite pumpkin preparations:

Pumpkin Curry

2 pounds pumpkin flesh, peeled and cubed

1 tablespoon curry powder

1 teaspoon paprika

½ teaspoon ground coriander

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

A few dried chilies given your preference for heat

1 teaspoon fresh garlic, chopped

½ cup onions, julienned

1 tablespoon cooking oil

1 can coconut milk (unsweetened)

A little chicken or veggie stock as needed

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Start by heating the oil in a saucepan and sautéing the onions until slightly browned. Add all the spices and sauté until they become very fragrant. Add in the coconut milk and pumpkin. Cook the curry at a low simmer until the pumpkin is tender and the sauce has thickened. Add stock if necessary throughout the simmering process to provide enough liquid to cook the pumpkin and provide sauce for it to swim in.

Pepitas

1 pumpkin’s worth of seeds (the larger pumpkins are best for this)

Kosher salt

Crushed black pepper

Crushed red pepper

 

Separate the seeds from the slimy guts that they are hiding in.

Place them in a bowl and add the seasoning. I have not given measurements because it is impossible, so far as I know, to guess how many seeds will be inside a pumpkin. Thus making it impossible for me to advise you how much of each seasoning you should use. You’re on your own on this one, I am sure you’ll be fine.

Place the seasoned seeds evenly on a baking sheet. It is very important that the seeds be incredibly even and not piled on top of each other. They will be sticky and slimy but be patient with them, they just got scoped out of guts.

Toast them in the oven at 350F for 10 minutes or until they are golden brown. Keep an eye on them after 7 or 8 minutes as these things have a tendency to go from perfect to utterly burned in seconds.