Autumn is most certainly the season of the pumpkin. I admit that, though they are beautiful decorations, I haven’t always been a big fan of the fruit. But, as we get older, our tastes continue to change. These days, I find that I crave them more than ever. The flavor can be sweet, even complex, and I am looking for more ways to incorporate them into our meal rotation. Here, I share some of my favorite, easy preparations for adding pumpkin to your table.
Pumpkin soup is, outside of pumpkin pie, perhaps the most common recipe available. While you can find cans of organic pumpkin at many grocery stores (and I’ve successfully used them on occasion), there is a distinct difference between canned pumpkin puree and a fresh, roasted pumpkin. Don’t be intimidated by the idea of roasting a pumpkin, it is easier than you think. I don’t recommend using carving pumpkins for roasting because they can often be stringy and less flavorful. Sugar pumpkins (also known as pie pumpkins) or any of the smaller varieties are tastier but, depending upon size, you may need to prepare more than one.
2 medium (2-3 pound) sugar pumpkins
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Slice off the stems of your pumpkins, then slice each pumpkin in half. Some people peel their pumpkins before roasting, but I find it easier to separate the meat from the skin after it is cooked. Scoop out the seeds and string with a spoon. An ice cream scoop often works well for this. Don’t toss out those pumpkin seeds when preparing your pumpkin for roasting – they are full of fiber and, when roasted, make really flavorful snacks that even Maggie will eat.
Place the pumpkin halves on a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour. This time might differ depending on the size of your pumpkins, so test their doneness with a fork. The fork should pierce the skin easily.
Allow the pumpkins cool for about 10-15 minutes, then scoop out the flesh. It should pull away from the skin quickly and easily. Depending upon the size of your pumpkins, they should yield about 4-5 cups.
And, that’s literally all there is to it. Roasting a pumpkin really is that easy. Once you’ve completed this step (the supposed “hard part”), making roasted pumpkin soup just amounts to combining a few more ingredients into a stockpot or Dutch oven.
ROASTED PUMPKIN SOUP
2 tablespoons butter
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
5 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon fresh sage
1 bay leaf
4-5 cups roasted pumpkin
1 1/2 cups heavy cream or whole milk
Salt and pepper, to taste
In a heavy-bottomed stockpot, melt butter and sauté onion over medium heat, until translucent. Add garlic and cook another 1-2 minutes, making sure not to burn the garlic. Add the broth and continue to simmer over low heat. Add the spices and cook for about 5 more minutes. Stir in the pumpkin and simmer over low heat for about 15-20 minutes. Once cooked, I used an immersion blender to incorporate the heavy cream and create a smooth soup. Season with salt and pepper.
There are many variations on roasted pumpkin seeds. I’ve had delicious variations of spicy pumpkin seeds, cinnamon sugar seeds, garlicky seeds, even cheesy versions. Perhaps, my favorite is a ginger-spiced seed. But, a basic roasted pumpkin seed is delicious without any additions and they require very little effort.
ROASTED PUMPKIN SEEDS
Seeds of 1-2 small pumpkins
Olive oil to coat seeds
Preheat your oven to 300 degrees. While your oven heats, clean the pumpkin seeds of as much string as possible. You don’t have to be meticulous, because leaving some pulp can be delicious. But, we recommend removing large clumps that stick to the seeds. Rinse the seeds thoroughly in a colander.
Dump the seeds out onto a soft cloth towel; the seeds can be slimy and sticky and will almost certainly stick to a paper towel. Pat the seeds to dry. Once they are dry, spread the seeds in a single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle your dry seeds with olive oil, about 2-3 tablespoons. I just use my hands to spread the oil evenly over the seeds. Coat evenly with salt. This is the point where you could add additional spices or seasonings, like cayenne pepper powder, garlic powder, cinnamon, or ground ginger, if you choose.
Roast in the oven for about 20-25 minutes. Smaller seeds will roast more quickly than larger seeds (which can sometimes take up to an hour), so check on your seeds as they cook. I stir mine a bit as they cook to compensate for any uneven hot spots in the oven. Your roasted seeds should be a light, golden brown when done cooking.
Let the seeds cool before eating them. The roasted seeds will last a few days if stored in an airtight container.
Finally, I have recently discovered pumpkin seed oil and I’m still experimenting with different ways to add it to my seasonal recipes. Depending upon the kind of pumpkin seed oil you use, the flavor tends to be smoky, even mushroom-like. There are varying claims as to the health benefits of using pumpkin seed oil and I can’t attest to any of them. But, almost everyone agrees that the oil is rich in Omega-3 and antioxidants.
If you want to experiment with pumpkin seed oil, I recommend using it as a drizzle over warm vegetables or in a salad dressing. The oil works better at room temperature or when slightly warmed, rather than hot. It can be a flavorful garnish and would work nicely atop our roasted pumpkin soup.
If you find other uses for pumpkin seed oil, please share them with us.