Pumpkin 101

See that adorable pumpkin patch under the crisp blue mountain sky? (You can't see the mountain sky in the picture, but it's there and it's very blue.) That’s where Josh and I got our first two pumpkins of the season. We were driving to a campground in the mountains bordering North Carolina and Virginia a couple weeks ago (trying to get a last chance at camping before the weather made it too cold for fun) when, there it was. We didn’t even see it until we were almost passed it. It was late afternoon, that hour when the sun turns everything it touches to gold, and the pumpkins looked on fire. Without a second thought, we pulled over, made a U-turn, and went straight back to it. It was my first time ever in a pumpkin patch. I could barely contain my excitement as we walked among the twisting vines and endless sea of bright orange gourds...ideas for fall recipes were galloping through my mind. I wanted to bring home at least a dozen, but after inspecting quite a couple, we (much more realistically) settled on our two favorites.

For the last couple of weeks, those two pumpkins have been sitting patiently on the kitchen floor. This weekend was my first attempt at a recipe with one of them. It was a complete disaster. I attempted gluten-free pumpkin gnocchi. I won’t go into details, but let’s just say that we ended up having tortilla chips and homemade hummus that evening. It was a sad night.

However, all was not lost. For one, I learned how to prepare pumpkin from scratch. It’s really not that different from a butternut squash; it’s just way more intimidating. So instead of sharing a recipe here, I’ll share how to prepare a pumpkin.

The first step is to get the pumpkin on the counter.

Good. Now don't get intimidated. It's just big and orange, but you've got the knife.

Next, you want to stabilize it before you start peeling it. Gently slice off the top and the bottom, so that it will hold still and sturdy when you stand it upright.

Now you're ready to start the peeling. Holding the pumpkin still with one hand, take the knife and slowly start to slice long strips of the skin off, from top to bottom. The skin is not very deep, so you only need to cut off the very outer layer. This will take a little while (and depending on how sharp you knife is, some arm power), but don't rush it. Slow and steady is the key here.

Once you've gotten all the skin off, slice the pumpkin in two. Without its skin the pumpkin is very soft, so there's no need for force here - the knife will slide right through.

Look at all those seeds! Before you take a spoon and start scooping the innards out, pull out all the seeds and set them aside (you don't have to do this, but pumpkin seeds are delicious roasted, not to mention very good for you!). Once you've gotten the pumpkin seeds safely out (if you want them), scoop out the rest of the insides with a spoon.

And voilĂ !

You've got a pumpkin ready for dicing, or slicing, to roast or sauté or whatever else strikes your fancy (just don't try gluten-free pumpkin gnocchi for your first recipe).

I wish you lots of orange pumpkin fun!!

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