Favorites: Pumpkin

The season of the pumpkin is now. I feel all sparkly thinking about it!
I adore the naturally sweet, satisfying vegetable in all it’s glory.

Note: a friend and author of a DIY blog reminded me that, quite unusually, I classify all winter squash as pumpkin.

The practically perfect, perfectly impractical seeming pumpkin.

Practically Perfect
Pumpkins are amazing for so many reasons.

1. They last for 3 months in cold storage. I keep my winter squash and pumpkin in a large, sealed bin on my back porch where no light hits – in cold months this works. You can also store in a basement or garage.

2. You don’t always have to peel the skin! Kabocha squash, my ultimate favorite pumpkin, have a thin green skin that is absolutely edible. It’s my go-to for that reason, as well as it’s super sweet and not too dry taste. Delicata squash have thin skins that easily fall away from the flesh when cooked, so just slice in rings and proceed with cooking.

3. Pumpkins are an outstanding source of carotenoids, an antioxidant powerhouse. In Chinese medicine, pumpkin/winter squash quell dampness in the body (hello, Portland!) and help regulate blood sugar balance by nourishing the pancreas. Love, love, love.

Perfectly Impractical
I know. Pumpkins can be a pain to work with. It takes a huge knife, a healthy dose of arm strength, and a prayer to open the big guys without creating some damage to your kitchen or your body. But fear not! I am here to share with you the trick that will forever warm your heart to the special pumpkin.

OPEN SESAME!
To make pumpkin opening less of a dangerous sport and more of a “have a cup of tea and wait” activity, pop the whole pumpkin in the oven for 20 minutes on 350 degrees, to soften the skin. Then, once it cools just enough to touch, slice with ease, deseed, and continue cooking however you please. Voila! Easy as pumpkin.

Favorite Pumpkin Recipes?
Oh, the list goes on and on. I will be adding more over the season. However! Here, I am devoted to helping you cook with pumpkin in a practical, everyday way. So I’ll share with you a favorite everyday go-to method for pumpkin, and an “option 2” recipe based on this technique.

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“Sped Up” Pumpkin
Yield: 2-4 servings

This recipe teaches a frequent technique of mine, so it’s more of an improvisation technique than a rote recipe. Try it on any root veggie.

Ingredients:
1 winter squash or pumpkin of choice, softened and deseeded
3 tbsp. coconut oil
1/2 tsp. sea salt

1. Chop the pumpkin into desired shape (slices, rings, bite size pieces).

2. Arrange in a skillet in a single layer. Add water to fill 1/3 the way up the
pumpkin. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt, and cover. Par-steam on high until halfway cooked (knife goes halfway through the pumpkin with ease). This takes about 5-10 minutes, depending on how you’ve sliced your gourd.

3. Remove lid, and let any remaining water evaporate. If your water evaporated before you reached halfway cooked, add more and cover again until ready for the next step. You will hear the sound get louder when the water is close to evaporated (a fun skill to hone, so you don’t burn the pumpkin to the pan with this technique!)

4. Add oil and remaining salt, and sauté in the pan on medium high heat, to brown slightly and finish cooking, about 5-7 more minutes. Squash should be easily cut through with a knife now, and glistening lightly with oil. Add in spices near the end, if desired (fresh ground cumin, cinnamon, coriander, cardamom). Finish with salt, to taste.

Enjoy as a side dish to any fall or winter meal.
Add to a sauce or enjoy as is, like I do almost every week at home.

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Pumpkin and Onion Hash
Yield: 2-4 servings

This hash was a hit at a recent family meal. My sister Kristy came to visit from Seattle, and my other sister Emily and her daughter, Vera, came over for a Sunday brunch – a common occurrence our house. Since it was an unplanned event, we worked with what we had and I whipped up this side dish to eggs since we didn’t have any potatoes in house. Try it out!

Ingredients:
1 kabocha squash, softened, deseeded, cut into 1 inch pieces (skin on!)
1 yellow onion, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
1/4 cup sunflower or coconut oil
2 tbsp. sunflower oil
3/4 tsp. sea salt, to taste

1. Preheat oven to low Broil. In a wide skillet on the stove, arrange the pumpkin and onion pieces. Add enough water to cover just 1/3 ways up the side of the pan. Cover and steam on high for 7 minutes, until pumpkin is half way cooked, so you can penetrate a fork halfway through it.

2. Remove lid so water evaporates away. Add the coconut oil and pan fry the pumpkin and onions over medium high heat, 5-7 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet, sprinkle with salt, and drizzle with 2 tbsp sunflower oil (or melted coconut oil from the pan).

3. Broil the pumpkin and onion mixture until nicely browned and slightly crispy, about 8-10 minutes. Season to taste with salt, as desired.

Serve with eggs and greens for a breakfast or breakfast for dinner meal!

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