The Life and Oh-so-Delicious Death of a Pumpkin
Editor’s Note: Please welcome our newest contributor: ES reader, DC resident, and noted pumpkin expert Miss K.
We were walking to my lovely Northeast DC rowhouse when we first saw the victim. It was not a pretty scene. The pumpkin’s guts were trailing across the sidewalk, leading to the broken corpse. My goddaughter Nana stopped, gasped, and said, “Oh no! Pumpkin broken.” I explained to her that it was okay, that Halloween was over anyway. Either this convinced her, or her two-year-old goldfish-esque attention span kicked in. One way or another, we were able to keep walking. I thought the matter had been settled. I was wrong.
The pumpkin remained for several weeks, cycling through various stages of decay. And each time we passed the pumpkin, Nana would repeat her original comment, “Oh no. Pumpkin broken.” It became something of a local landmark for us, and by the time it finally disappeared, both she and I mourned its passing.
I may be somewhat to blame for Nana’s pumpkin obsession. I love pumpkins, probably more than most. But not because you can carve them, or in the case of the ones that come in the mixed bag of candy corn, rot your teeth with them. No, I love to eat pumpkins. To me, why leave a perfectly good squash just sitting out on the porch (or sidewalk) to rot? My husband and I took Nana and her sister Bitty to a pumpkin patch this year. We shook our groove thang to the bluegrass band, played in the kiddie land and had one unfortunate accident which I believe was a result of deathly fear of the port-o-potty. But really, can you blame her? We departed in exhaustion with four lovely little pumpkins. The twins took theirs home and I began plotting the tasty demise of ours…
Baked Stuffed Pumpkin
The first thing I did was to hollow them out and roast the seeds. There are many methods of doing this, but here is the one I prefer:
Step 1: Remove seeds from pumpkin. Discard excess slimy orange goo.
Step 2: Boil seeds in salt water. Use enough water to cover the seeds and don’t be shy about the salt.
Step 3: Drain seeds and spread out to dry on unfolded paper bags. Newspaper could work too, but you may end up with ink on your food. Up to you. Leave to dry for several hours or overnight.
Step 4: Put seeds on a cookie sheet. Pour ¼ c. olive oil onto pan. Mix oil and seeds with a spatula. Sprinkle with salt.
Step 5: Roast in 200° oven until seeds become crispy. Sampling is the best way to find out if you have reached this point. Stir occasionally.
Step 6: Store in airtight container-unless you eat them all right out of the oven. This happens. I speak from experience.
So, once the seeds are out, the pumpkin is ready for baking. I baked both small pumpkins for about 45 minutes in a glass baking dish with water in the bottom. I baked the pumpkins upside-down with the skin on.
Once I could stick a fork in the pumpkins without much effort, I took them out. I peeled the skin off one and it came off so easily that I still had a perfect looking pumpkin. I figured I should take advantage of this culinary feat by stuffing the pumpkin with some classic stuffing. My secret ingredient is apples. Like most of my recipes, quantities can be varied depending on how the food looks and tastes while you are making it.
2-3 c. stale bread, cut into cubes (if your bread is not stale, toast it to give it the right texture)
½ c. chicken broth
¼ c. melted butter (½ stick)
½ c. chopped celery
½ c. to 1 c. chopped tart apples (skin may be left on or removed)
1 c. sautéed onions
2 T. Italian seasoning
Pour chicken broth and butter over bread and stir until bread is moist and liquid is absorbed. Add other ingredients, mix until ingredients are evenly dispersed.
That is my basic recipe. I have added other things to it depending on the crowd and the pantry. If you’re looking for suggestions, try nuts, dried cranberries or sautéed zucchini.
Once I had put the stuffing inside, I topped the pumpkin with cheese (because I top everything with cheese) and I put the pumpkin back in the oven for another half hour or so. We ate it for dinner that night, and my husband’s only comment, other than, “Mmmm”, was that he was surprised it didn’t taste more like pumpkin pie.