Los Angeles, CA (PRWEB) September 19, 2011
With the coming of fall our thoughts turn to pumpkins. Those lush, orange objects are more than just Jack O Lanterns for Halloween. One pumpkin can create several meals making it not only a multipurpose ingredient but a cost-efficient and nutritional powerhouse. Whether you purchase canned, make your own puree, or just buy one to carve for Halloween, there are so many ways to use this most versatile squash, explains Chef Kristina Vanni. Pumpkins can be turned into soups, casseroles, side dishes, breads, cakes, cookies, pies, and preserves. In addition to its wonderful flavor, pumpkin brings a host of nutrients to the table, particularly Vitamin C, beta-carotene, and potassium.
As a chef, Kristina Vanni is known for her “Easy, Elegant, and Everyday” approach to cooking. Her recipes are approachable but have “that certain something” that makes them unique and special. She is the food writer and on-camera talent for BetterRecipes.com (part of the Meredith Corporation Food Sites). As we head into fall, Kristina shows home cooks how to take a single pumpkin and transform it into a fabulous, affordable fall meal.
You won’t believe how easy it is to make your own fresh pumpkin puree and use it in delicious recipes that everyone will love. The dishes I have created here offer a new way to enjoy the entire pumpkin, all the way down to the seeds!
Once you buy your pumpkin, Kristina has these time-saving tips on how to get the most out of your pumpkin:
How to Cook a Fresh Pumpkin
Start with small pumpkins, about 2-3 pounds. The smaller pumpkins are not only easier to handle, they are sweeter in taste. First, wash the pumpkins over running water and pat dry with a clean dish towel or paper towel. Next, cut the pumpkin into large chunks and scoop out all the seeds (save them for roasting!) and stringy bits. Now you are ready! Here are some easy options on how to cook the pumpkins chunks. Use whatever method is best for you.
1) Oven-Roasting: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place pumpkin chunks, skin side up, in a glass baking dish. Add 1/4 inch of water and bake, uncovered, for 45-60 minutes (depending on chunk sizes) until flesh is tender, checking occasionally to add more water, if needed.
2) Microwave: Place pumpkin chunks, skin side up, in a glass baking dish. Add 1/4 inch of water and cover pan with plastic wrap or wax paper, and vent. Microwave on HIGH for about 10 minutes (or about 5 minutes per pound) until pumpkin is tender.
3) Steaming: Heat water to boiling in a saucepan that fits a steamer. Place pumpkin chunks in steamer container and place over pan. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes or until pumpkin is tender.
4) Slow Cooker: Place pumpkin chunks, skin side down, in slow cooker. Cook on low for 3 to 3-1/2 hours or until pumpkin is tender.
Easy-to-Make Fresh Pumpkin Puree:
For all methods after pumpkin is cooked, scoop out pulp and discard skin. Pulp can be pureed in a blender or food processor, or stirred by hand until smooth, or you can keep it chunky, if desired. Pulp keeps in the refrigerator for a week or it can also be frozen in airtight containers for 6 months. A 2-3 pound pumpkin will make about 2-1/2 cups of puree.
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds:
To make roasted pumpkin seeds, place seeds in a colander and rinse. Pick out all pieces of pulp. Place seeds on a baking sheet and pat dry. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Drizzle a little vegetable oil over seeds and sprinkle with some salt and toss. Bake for 10 minutes, stir, and return to oven. Bake another 10-15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes until golden and crispy.
Now that you have cooked and pureed your pumpkin Kristina has created two unique, but easy-to-make fall dishes that are sure to make everyone say its the Great Pumpkin!
2 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
12 ounce purchased pizza crust
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1 cup fresh pumpkin puree*
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup cubed fontina cheese
1/4 pound thinly sliced Spanish chorizo
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh sage leaves
Additional olive oil and chopped sage for garnish (optional)
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Brush 1 tablespoon olive oil over crust; set aside. Heat remaining tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add shallots, garlic, and pepper flakes to hot pan. Saut
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