“Her godmother scooped out all the inside of it, leaving nothing but the rind. Then she struck it with her wand, and the pumpkin was instantly turned into a fine gilded coach.”
By Dana Zia
For the North Coast Citizen
I love the change of the seasons! It is a new opportunity to fall in love with the seasons’ food all over again. As the light changes to gold and the nights get longer, my thoughts turn to fall foods, particularly pumpkin. There is something about pumpkins that just makes me smile. Maybe it’s their big, bright, orange faces and curly stems that are so emblematic of fall. Or maybe it’s all the memories that swell around the orange gourd of trick o’ treating, pie, and falling leaves.
Pumpkins are royalty of the nutrition world. They take the throne in their lively color which is the herald of their strong content of beta carotene. Beta carotene… pause for applause….is one of the most amazing nutrients we can consume for overall health. It is converted to Vitamin A by our bodies, is an antioxidant that protects cells from oxidative damage, supports eye sight, and is needed for maintaining strong bones and healthy skin. Wow, how good does it get!
The crowning glory of pumpkins is that there are only 83 calories and a mega 7 grams of fiber in a cup of cooked pumpkin. They are also an excellent source of Vitamins C, E and iron and contain potassium, magnesium and Vitamin K. Pumpkins were aptly represented as the gilded vehicle in Cinderella.
It is easy to make your own pumpkin puree to stimulate your fall cooking. The first step is to find a nice fat sugar or pie pumpkin, like “sugar baby” or “Cinderella”. (Cinderella pumpkins look like they are out of a fairy tale. Flat and vibrant orange with pronounced ribs, they are delicious!) Pie pumpkins are very different than the glowing Jack o lantern pumpkins. Jack o lanterns are not a good cooking pumpkin. They are grown to carve, not to be eaten and are very fibrous. Pie pumpkins or any good winter squash are usually smaller and have a thick, short fiber flesh that is sweet.
Simply cut the pie pumpkin in half, scrape out the guts and seeds, then bake at 350 degrees, cut side down in a baking dish with about 2 inches of water in it. Bake until a fork pierces the skin easily, about 1 hour or so. After the pumpkin has cooled, scoop out the flesh, (an ice cream scoop works great) and puree in a food processor or blender. And voila! You have the makings of many a fine meal. The puree freezes well so that you don’t have to get crazy and make everything with it. (Like me)
So, one may ask, how do we get pumpkin on the table in any other form than a pie? I have been exploring that very thought for many years. I love adding cubed pumpkin or other winter squash to soups, salads, smoothies and even mashed potatoes. (It makes the most beautiful orange mashed potatoes!) Yet, I think my fondest autumn recipe is pumpkin chili.
Get creative with it and add a cup of the puree to your favorite spaghetti sauce recipe or anywhere it might be delicious. I thought I’d share my chili recipe with you here tonight so you can get your house fragrant with the smells of fall. Remember that chili isn’t an exact science; it is a very personal dish. I think that is why there is so much hullabaloo over chili cook-offs. So just feel your way along here and add a bit more of this and a little less of that, depending on your personal tastes.