Pumpkin Man

Pumpkin Man
Photo by Robb Walsh

Truckload after truckload of pumpkins were being unloaded at the Farmer's Marketing Association on Airline this weekend. Last year, the United States of America produced over a billion pounds of pumpkins. We always buy a couple for jack o' lanterns for Halloween. But these days, I am more excited about cooking with them.

While I was in France and Italy for the holiday season in 2005, I noticed that chefs were using bright-orange pumpkin slices as a vegetable. At Le Dome in Paris, Hemingway's favorite hang-out, I was blown away by a plate of five scallops with roe attached in a red-pepper cream sauce with two slices of pumpkin on either side. I had never eaten baked pumpkin as stand-alone vegetable -- it was delicious. The French have some heirloom pumpkin varieties that are especially sweet.

When I got back, I started cooking with pumpkins. This weekend, I picked up a six-pound cooking pumpkin at the Farmer's Marketing Association for two bucks. The easy way to deal with pumpkins is to cut them in big pieces and bake them in a 325° oven until soft. When it's done, scrape out the flesh and throw the skin away. Pumpkin has wads of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and beta-carotene. I'll give you some recipes soon.

If you want, you can toss pumpkin seeds with oil and lay them in single layer on a baking sheet for about ten minutes at 250°, or until lightly browed. I like to eat the toasted seeds warm with a sprinkling of sea salt and a Saint Arnold's Okoberfest.

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