Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Pumpkin Power Not Only Are These Golden Squash Halloween Stars, They Also Play Major Roles in Recipes Ranging from Soup to Dessert

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Pumpkin Power Not Only Are These Golden Squash Halloween Stars, They Also Play Major Roles in Recipes Ranging from Soup to Dessert

Article excerpt

You'll see them everywhere tonight: perched on porches, smiling

with eerie gap-toothed grins. The flame-colored sentinels of

Halloween.

But pumpkins have more to recommend them than a mere

resemblance to disenfranchised heads. These globe-shaped squash

are low in calories, virtually fat-free and high in betacarotene

and fiber. They're also extremely versatile, able to masquerade

as both a savory and sweet ingredient in recipes.

Fall menus can be brightened with pumpkin soups and stews,

stuffed and baked pumpkins, pumpkin breads, pumpkin muffins,

pumpkin-filled pastries and pies. Not to mention snacks and

garnishes of roasted pumpkin seeds.

Although gourds existed in Europe, Africa and Asia in

preColumbian times, food historians think that squash --

particularly pumpkins -- are native to the New World. Fifteenth

century explorers reported finding many "melons" in their treks

across North America, which are now known to have been pumpkins.

Cultivated by indigenous tribes for thousands of years, pumpkins

were among the native foodstuffs that sustained colonists during

American winters.

Today, the vast majority of pumpkins grown in the U.S. are

marketed as potential jacko'-lanterns. The giant pumpkins that

best serve as Halloween decorations are actually the worst

candidates for cooking. Generally, they're too tough, too

stringy and too cavernous to use for anything except ersatz

casserole dishes.

Instead, shop for smaller 2to 3-pound pumpkins which have the

dense, sweet flesh preferred for recipes. These may be called

sugar, pie or cheese pumpkins. Buy firm pumpkins that feel heavy

for their size. Pumpkins will keep at room temperature for a

week, sometimes a little longer.

To make fresh pumpkin puree, cut pumpkin in half, scoop out the

strings and seeds and place pumpkin halves facedown in a

2-inch-high baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for an hour or

until pumpkin can be easily pierced with a fork.

Cool, then scrape pumpkin flesh into a colander or strainer.

Cover and weight down with a heavy plate and place over a bowl

in the refrigerator overnight. Then puree pumpkin flesh in a

blender or food processor.

Use this puree interchangeably with canned pumpkin, which

already has much of the natural liquid removed.

Serve pumpkin puree or hot baked pumpkin as a side dish. Or,

try our featured recipes.

Pumpkin shines in entrees, soup, dessert

MEXICALI BEEF IN A PUMPKIN SHELL

2 1/2 pounds beef for stew, cut into 1- to 1 1/4-inch pieces

2 large onions, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 13 3/4-ounce cans singlestrength beef broth

1 cup mild or medium picante sauce

1 5- to 6-pound pumpkin

2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch slices

4 teaspoons cornstarch

1/4 cup water

2 small tomatoes, each cut into 8 wedges

1 2 1/4-ounce can sliced ripe olives, drained

Brown beef, along with onion and garlic, in a non-stick Dutch

oven over medium heat. Pour off drippings if necessary. Add

broth and picante sauce. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover

tightly and cook slowly 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Prepare pumpkin shell tureen. Cut the top off the pumpkin and

scrape out strings and seeds. About 10 minutes before serving,

pour boiling water into the pumpkin shell, cover and let stand.

Add zucchini to beef mixture and continue cooking, covered, 10

minutes. Combine cornstarch and water. Stir into stew and bring

to a boil. …

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