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.
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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.