Last weekend the temperature dropped and I found myself wearing a wool jacket and boots. Returning home at the end of the evening, I stuck my hands in the pockets for warmth, disappointed I hadn’t tucked in a pair of leather gloves. The weather shifted overnight and it felt like a Saturday in August the next morning. Yet, the calendar reminds us we are slipping into autumn.
There are many aspects of this bittersweet season I love. The transformation of the landscape into a dazzling palette: brilliant reds, alluring yellows and regal golds, among green firs. A wardrobe of woolen sweaters, corduroy pants and knee socks that recall a time when we shuffled through the leaves walking along the sidewalk on the way home from school.
There is something else. I love pumpkins. And while chilled pumpkin pie served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream is delicious on a summer evening, it is the perfect autumn dessert served warm from the oven. I always add extra clove, ginger and nutmeg so the flavor of the spice is strong (and I delete sugar from the recipe, but that’s another story).
Over the years I have tried various pumpkin recipes – for muffins, bread and soup.
This year I thought I would experiment with more exotic dishes. It certainly would be appropriate to serve a pumpkin dish to guests the weekend of the Pumpkin Festival.
I found a recipe for a pumpkin curry from Keralu, India, a town on the Malabar Coast. If preparing a curry seems difficult, it doesn’t have to be. There are a number of three-ingredient curry recipes that can be adapted using coconut milk and curry paste. I would serve the curry with rice, warm naan bread and follow it with a light dessert that isn’t sweet or rich to offset the sweetness of the pumpkin.
Of course, what’s wonderful about pumpkin is the possibility of using the pumpkin as a serving bowl. It’s always a conversation piece to carry a handsome pumpkin to the table and use a sliver ladle to serve the soup into flat bowls, leaving the pumpkin on the table as a centerpiece.
It occurred to me that other dishes could be served in a pumpkin as well. I found a recipe for a beef stew that can be slow cooked, and then served in a roasted pumpkin. The stew cooked for one or two hours while the pumpkin was roasted separately in the oven. Using your imagination there are probably other foods, vegetables and rice dishes, that could also be served in a pumpkin if you experiment.
To roast a pumpkin, carve the top off and scoop out the seeds and pulp. This will require a sharp knife or pumpkin carving tools. Rub the outside, inside and the top piece with olive oil, sprinkling a little salt and pepper on the inside. Place the pumpkin cut side up on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and place in an oven which has been preheated to 350 degrees F. Roast for 30 minutes. Then flip the pumpkin over and roast for another 30 minutes until they are golden. Don’t let the pumpkin cook too long.
There is nothing quite as American as pumpkins, as they were one of our earliest known food crops. Technically pumpkins are a type of squash and considered by some Native American tribes as one of the mythological Three Sisters of agriculture, with corn and beans. There are also special powers attributed to pumpkin seeds. When you have scooped them from the pumpkin, wash them carefully and sprinkle with olive oil and possibly salt and spices, then roast, as you would the pumpkin.
If you have a pumpkin recipe you would like to share please send it to me at:
Hope to see you at the Pumpkin Festival.
Elizabeth Howard is an author and journalist. Her books include: Ned O’Gorman: A Glance Back, a book she edited (Easton Studio Press, 2016), A Day with Bonefish Joe (David R. Godine, 2015), Queen Anne’s Lace and Wild Blackberry Pie, (Thornwillow Press, 2011). She lives in New York City and has a home in Laconia. You can send her a note at: Elizabeth@laconiadailysun.com