Spice Up Your Table with Sugar Pumpkins

When you see pumpkins, you know it's fall.

As part of "The Early Show"'s continuing series, "At the Market," Dede Wilson, contributing editor for Bon Appetit magazine shared ways to make the most of this month's ingredient: sugar pumpkins.

Sugar pumpkins are not to be confused with the ones used to carve jack-o'-lanterns. Also called pie pumpkins or sweet pumpkins, sugar pumpkins are smaller, sweeter, and less fibrous, which makes them a great choice for cooking. They belong to the winter squash family (as do butternut and acorn squash, and kabocha), and are delicious prepared in similar ways.

Sugar pumpkins don't just look like October -- they taste like it, too, Wilson said. Their solid texture turns creamy with roasting, steaming, sautéing, or pureeing. And their sweet-savory flavor works as well with sweet ingredients (like honey, maple, brown sugar, and molasses) as it does with savory ones (like dried crushed red pepper, salty cheeses, and wild mushrooms). Assertive herbs such as cilantro, rosemary, and sage are wonderful with sugar pumpkin, Wilson said, adding, as you'd expect, so are baking spices like ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

How to Buy and Store
Look for a pumpkin that's smaller and rounder with less defined ridges than jack-o'-lantern pumpkins, Wilson recommended. Choose firm ones that feel heavy for their size and have dull, not glossy, skin. Inspect the whole pumpkin, especially the stem area, and pass on any with bruising or cracks. Stored at room temperature, whole unpeeled sugar pumpkins will last for at least three weeks.

Health Matters
Wilson said the bright orange color is a tip-off: sugar pumpkin is rich in vitamin A. It's also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. Eating sugar pumpkin may help support eye health, as well as cardiovascular and digestive health. In addition, Wilson said, it may assist in preventing certain kinds of cancer.

RECIPES:
Creamy Pumpkin and Cashew Curry


This curry is luxurious and vegetarian.

6 SERVINGS

INGREDIENTS
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
4 1/2 cups 3/4-inch cubes peeled seeded sugar pumpkin or butternut squash (from about one 1 3/4-pound whole pumpkin)
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds*
8 curry leaves**
2 small red onions, cut into 1/3-inch wedges
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger
3 dried chiles de árbol
3/4 cup unsalted roasted cashews
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 cups canned unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup coconut cream
1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro plus additional for garnish
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
Steamed basmati rice
* Sold at specialty foods stores, Indian and Asian markets, and Adriana's Caravan.com. If unavailable, use brown mustard seeds.
** Also known as kari patta; available at Indian markets.

METHOD:
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add pumpkin and cook until golden, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to bowl.

Add 1 tablespoon oil to same skillet. Add mustard seeds and curry leaves; cook until seeds pop and leaves sizzle, 30 seconds. Add onions, garlic, and ginger. Sauté until onions are golden, 4 minutes. Add chiles, cashews, turmeric, and cumin; stir-fry 1 minute. Add coconut milk and coconut cream. Increase heat to medium-high. Boil until thickened, 2 minutes. Return pumpkin to pan; reduce heat to medium. Simmer until pumpkin is tender, 4 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup cilantro and lime juice. Spoon over rice; garnish with additional cilantro.

Sugar Pumpkin, Feta, and Cilantro Quesadillas

A squeeze of lime unites all the flavors of these new-wave quesadillas.

6 SERVINGS

INGREDIENTS
3 cups 1 1/2-inch cubes peeled seeded sugar pumpkin or butternut squash (from about half a 2-pound whole pumpkin)
1 finely chopped seeded jalapeño (about 2 tablespoons)
12 8-inch-diameter flour tortillas
10 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
2 limes, each cut into 6 wedges

METHOD
Cook pumpkin in large saucepan of boiling salted water until tender but not falling apart, about 10 minutes. Drain and cool 10 minutes. While pumpkin is still warm, transfer to processor; puree until smooth. Stir in jalapeño; season with salt and pepper.

Divide pumpkin mixture equally among 6 tortillas (about 1/4 cup per tortilla) and spread evenly. Sprinkle feta over each. Top each with 1/4 cup cilantro and sprinkle with black pepper. Top with second tortilla.
Heat heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook quesadillas until golden and dark char marks appear, about 1 minute per side. Serve with lime wedges.

Spiced Pumpkin, Lentil, and Goat Cheese Salad

This fall salad balances earthy, tangy, sweet, and creamy flavors.

8 SERVINGS

INGREDIENTS
3/4 cup French green lentils
6 cups 1-inch pieces peeled seeded sugar pumpkin or butternut squash (from about one 2-pound whole pumpkin)
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon hot smoked Spanish paprika
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
4 cups baby arugula
1 cup soft goat cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup thinly sliced mint leaves
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

METHOD:
Place lentils in small bowl. Cover with cold water and soak 10 minutes; drain.

Cook lentils in boiling salted water until tender but firm, about 30 minutes. Drain lentils. Rinse under cold water, then drain.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Place pumpkin in large bowl; toss with 2 tablespoons oil, cumin, paprika, and sea salt. Arrange pumpkin in single layer on baking sheet; roast 20 minutes. Turn pumpkin over. Roast until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Cool.

Combine lentils, pumpkin, and oil from baking sheet with arugula, half of goat cheese, mint, vinegar, and 1 tablespoon oil. Season with salt and pepper. Divide among plates; sprinkle remaining goat cheese over.

For a Spiced Pumpkin Phyllo Pie, go to Page 2.
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