How to Cook a Pumpkin

It’s pretty much fall-ter right now – the colder portion of fall, but not quite winter.  While many of you can figure this out by observing the inclement weather in your part of the country, us southern California folks have to rely on other key indicators – namely, the availability of pumpkin spice latte’s at Starbucks and the prevalence of scarves used as accessories (no need for warmth yet, it’s still 75+ outside).

If you follow food blogs you might also know it’s “fall-ter” based on the extreme influx of pumpkin recipes you start reading this time of year, my own included.  But before I ventured into the world of pumpkin cooking, I had to figure out how this:

Sugar-Pumpkin-for-Cooking

Turns into this:

Savory-Pumpkin-Soup3

So take a little journey with me…

First and foremost, you want to make sure you get the right kind of pumpkin.  I found the perfect little sugar pumpkin (also called a pie pumpkin) shown above at Trader Joe’s. You don’t typically want to cook with jack-o-lantern type pumpkins (truly, I didn’t know that before this fall).

You’ll want to start by cutting the pumpkin in half and scraping out the seeds and stringy stuff (I don’t save the seeds, but feel free).

Sugar-Pumpkin-Cut-in-HalfCleaning-a-Sugar-Pumpkin-2From this point you can either microwave or oven roast your pumpkin – think of it as a culinary “choose your own adventure.”  I decided to use the oven, but I’ve included microwave instructions at the bottom for your reference.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a baking sheet with extra virgin olive oil (or any clean non-stick oil), and put your pumpkin halves face down.  Wrap in foil, as shown, and cook for about 35 – 45 minutes.  To check doneness you can stick the pumpkin with a fork, it will be soft when it is done.

Sugar-Pumpkin-Ready-to-Cook

Sugar-Pumpkin-Ready-for-Oven

(I know what you’re thinking, this is probably the best photo you’ve ever seen on a food blog)

Let the pumpkin cool after you take it out of the oven, and once you can handle touching it, the skin peels right off!  Who knew?

Cooked-Sugar-Pumpkin

Done-Sugar-Pumpkin

From here, you can use the pumpkin in chunks, as I did in my Ground Chicken and Pumpkin Burrito, or you can puree it to use as a substitute for canned pumpkin in your favorite recipe, like my Savory Pumpkin Soup shown above, or a homemade pumpkin pie, yum!

Now for the microwave instructions, which are oh so easy:  Cut off the stem and place the pumpkin in a glass, microwave safe bowl with a lid – you may need to cut down the pumpkin to fit, but try to keep the pieces as big as possible for easy scooping later.  Depending on the size of your dish, put 1-2″ of water in with the pumpkin and lid it.  Microwave for 15 minutes, then check for doneness.  Cook an additional 5-15 minutes, or until the innards are soft enough to scoop out.

Easy, right?  Another lesson in not being intimidated by food you’ve never cooked on your own!

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