Out of the Patch, Onto the Table: Last-minute Pumpkin Possibilities
By Deborah Salomon
Pumpkin's on a roll. From Halloween to Thanksgiving, pumpkin stuff is everywhere.
Heretofore, pumpkin arrived with Pillsbury slice-and-bake cookies, revealing a pumpkin (in design if not flavor) hidden within.
Offerings now include pumpkin spice waffles and pancakes, biscotti, ice cream, ravioli, Jell-O pudding, fudge, taffy, salsa, butter, cookies, quick bread, candles, coffee, margarine, yogurt and cream cheese.
The last straws on the witch's broomstick: pumpkin Febreze and maple pumpkin Glade, which perfume the very air we breathe.
Some pumpkin-producers association probably discovered an untapped market.
See how pomegranate's been exploited. Look at the easy-peel clementine revolution. And green tea. Suddenly even gluten gluttons want gluten-free. Who would have thought chipotle sweet potato fries?
The result requires sugar, spice and other flavorings since, truth be told, jack-o'-lantern innards can be watery and mild. This doesn't mean that fresh pumpkin should be ignored. Simply lower expectations.
Start by baking a small, whole pie pumpkin until tender; slice it -horizontally, remove skin and seeds, and cut flesh in chunks. Brush them with melted butter and ginger marmalade, sprinkle with salt and bake in a hot oven until browned and crisp - a wonderful seasonal side dish or vegetarian entree.
For another flavor twist, mash the pumpkin flesh with butter, salt, maple syrup to taste and a tiny bit of pumpkin pie spice. Pile into hollowed-out orange halves and bake until browned on top. Pumpkin absorbs the orange flavor. Nice with roast chicken or, later on, turkey.
Fresh pumpkin melts nicely into curry or chili.
For spooky last-minute jack-o'-lanterns, start with a bumpy, greenish-gray Hubbard squash. Hubbards resemble ghosts with a ghastly skin condition. Two wide eyes and an O-scream mouth complete the horror.
For an edible face, split smallish butternuts lengthwise, scoop out seeds, brush with butter, bake until tender, filled the cavity with a marshmallow, make indentations for black jelly-bean eyes and a black licorice Twizzler mouth, smiling or not.
Moving beyond gourds, for Halloween dinner introduce "The Exorcist" to "Snakes on a Plane." Buy the thickest pasta strands you can find, preferably long macaroni. Cook two packages of frozen peas until tender; drain and puree with a spoonful of chopped garlic, salt, pepper and enough olive oil to keep the blender running. Toss vomit-green pureed peas into cooked thick pasta strands. Delicious, hot or cold. For even more creepiness, fold in a -handful of "cockroaches" - rinsed canned black beans.
Of course the very best (and easiest) homemade Halloween dessert remains ghosts-in-the-graveyard. Stir fine Oreo or chocolate graham -cracker crumbs into instant chocolate pudding. Pour into clear plastic cups. At serving time, rough up the surface and insert a marshmallow ghost Peep. Drape a gummy worm over the side. Double yuck - and perfect.
Contact Deborah Salomon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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