Sunday, September 26, 2010

Cooked me a Pumpkin

'Tis the season that you can finally buy (or are harvesting) Jack O'Lantern's head.

When Madi saw one among the grocery bags, she immediately begged to make pumpkin soup. I was a little surprised because at four years old, veggies and/or soup is not her thing. Pleased that my daughter's palate was becoming open minded, immediately upon her request I tossed the 2 foot wide squash into the oven.

With the oven rack set as low as it could go, Jack the Pumpkin filled the space. He sat on a ridged cookie sheet for at least 2 hours, roasting at 300 F. He slowly sagged and sweated in the heat. Madi forked him every half an hour, "Is the soup ready yet?" she asked continually. I think she thought that we'd open the pumpkin up and soup would be inside. A nice idea- huge orange bowl of pumpkin soup... perhaps this could be done with a little clever manufacturing (suck out the seeds and insert the spice?).

Once the fork pierced the flesh easily, we pulled out the tray and let Jack cool. On numerous occasions, I have nearly cut my hand off while trying to chop up fresh squash. It was only last year that I began roasting them whole; I'll never know how many fingers this method saved me, but I guarantee a few.

Slicing Jack in half took about half a second and the inside stringy bits and seeds were easy to remove. From this large pumpkin, bought for $4 from Superstore, I gleaned 18 Cups of cooked pumpkin (about the equivalent of 8x 540 ml of canned pumpkin or about $24 worth!)

Another way to visualize our harvest is to imagine my kitchen filled with:

- 4 dozen pumpkin/carrot muffins
- 8 servings of pumpkin/apple/ginger soup
- 5 pumpkin pies
- 1 cup of roasted seeds

What a feast! Gleaning Jack's flesh required us to get our hands dirty (slimy might be a better descriptor), but it was great value for little effort.  What pumpkin I didn't use, I packed in 1 Cup baggies and froze.

See below for my roasted pumpkin seed recipe (for nutritional information see here for seeds and here for pumpkin). I'll post the soup and muffin recipes tomorrow.

Roasted Pumpkin Seed Recipe

1. Wash and dry seeds. If all the strings don't come off, pick them out after roasting when they are crispy and easy to sift out.
 2. Toss seeds with (olive) oil and (sea) salt. You could also use seasoning salt, cajun spice, fajita spice...
3. Spread out seeds evenly on a cookie sheet and roast in 200 F oven until they are crispy like you like them (plan for a few hours). Stir them occasionally for even roasting.

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