Simone Grandmain
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October 6, 2011
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Dining: Pumpkin cooking 101

TAHOE/TRUCKEE — Pumpkins are the first indication the holiday season is really and truly upon us. The next sign being the family sized bags of Halloween candy you like to keep in the cabinet next to your bathtub, the ones you've been eyeballing since August 12th, are now on sale.

But besides being festive to look at and sit in the middle of the table for the next three months (do those things ever go bad?) what are you supposed to do with that big orange vegetable?

The first thing to remember is that is, in fact, a fruit. The second thing to remember is, in the words of Euell Gibbons, the guy who sold us on Grape Nuts, “some parts are edible.” No, I am not that old. I studied advertising in college. (That is my story and I'm sticking to it.)

There are a couple ways to cook the pumpkin, thus making it easy to scoop out the meat and puree for future recipes. A homemade pumpkin pie, cheesecake (look for it next week!) soup, bread or risotto is really a different story, with a very happy ending, when you use fresh pumpkin.

To begin the process, always look for the smaller “pie” pumpkins, around six-to-eight inches in diameter, when you decide to start from scratch. They are sweeter and less grainy. Also, like picking out a fruit, go with firm and no bruises.

Roasting the Seeds

Coat surface of cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Spread one layer of cleaned, dried seeds over sheet. Bake seasoned seeds oat 350˚ for fifteen minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and loosen seeds with spatula. Cool completely before serving/storing. Will keep for about two weeks.

Savory Seeds

Toss raw seeds with:

2 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. chicken bouillon powder

2 tsp. grated Parmesan

2 tbls. melted butter.

Cook per above instructions.

Sweet Seeds

Toss raw seeds with:

1 tbls. sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon

1⁄4 tsp. nutmeg

1⁄8 tsp. allspice

2 tbls. melted butter

Cook per above instructions.

And your reward for pulling off this Stepford Wife, Susie Homemaker, Martha Stewart-like effort is:

The Pumpkin Daiquiri

Combine in shaker container over ice:

21⁄2 ounces dark rum

1 tbls. pumpkin puree

1 ounce simple syrup

1 ounce lime juice

1 ounce Tuaca

1 ounce maple syrup

Strain and serve garnished with a toasted marshmallow. I know. What marshmallow wouldn't be toasted after hanging on the rim of this cocktail?

Cut the pumpkin in half, from stem to end, and scoop out seeds. Rinse seeds in colander and remove any strings and gunk. Pat dry and save for future use. Remove stem and place halves (one at a time) in microwavable bowl, covered. Microwave on high for 15 minutes, check for softness with fork. Return to microwave and repeat process for another 10-15 minutes or 20-30 minutes total.

Same prep as when using the microwave, but pumpkin halves should be cut down to quarters to fit in large pan with basket steamer. Make sure to add enough water to cover steamer and about and 1⁄2 inch of pumpkin. Steam about 20-30 minutes, checking at intervals for softness and to ensure there is enough water still in the pan. Drain and cool.

Let pumpkin cool until easy to handle, then scoop out meat from rind with wooden spoon into large bowl and let sit for about 30 minutes to make sure any water (some pumpkins have more than others) drains off. Pour or strain all excess water off pumpkin. To puree the pulp into, well, a pulp, use a hand-held blender or a regular blender for two-to-three minutes.

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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Oct 6, 2011 07:51PM Published Oct 6, 2011 07:47PM Copyright 2011 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.