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December 07, 2016
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The Great Pumpkin

After some initial cooking, this thick vegetable “stew” is stuffed into a hollowed out pumpkin, then roasted in the oven. The dish is served by slicing the squash into wedges.

I prefer this dish to the slightly “kitschy” pumpkin soup served in a pumpkin shell that was popular a few decades ago, primarily because the stuffed version lets you eat much more of the whole vegetable. (And, you don’t have to worry about the leakage issue.) Inside is a flavorful mix of seasonal vegetables sautéed with some of the pumpkin itself and liberally seasoned with spices. This is mixed with a soft cheese—you can’t go wrong with the fresh mozzarella from Tonjes Farm Dairy in Callicoon—sealed with the pumpkin lid and roasted to a bubbling and fragrant stew in your oven. The shell stays intact, often softening enough to be entirely edible, but providing the structure necessary to cut and serve it in thick wedges. It’s a surprisingly rich and hearty dish, and one that’s best offset with an assertive salad of crisp bitter greens.

My recipe is vegetarian, but you could easily sneak in bits of chopped ham, crisp bacon or chorizo, or even add ground beef, pork or lamb. Feel free to use whatever vegetables you have on hand, or to skew the spices to suit your palate. This is really a technique more than anything and you can take it in whichever direction you choose—with lamb, black olives, fennel and feta; with chorizo, zucchini, corn and jalapeños; with tofu, mushrooms, spinach and sesame oil. It should keep you well fed all winter long.

Stuffed & Roasted Pumpkin

Serves 4

1 5-lb round pumpkin or winter squash
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 leek, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
1 teaspoon salt
½-1 teaspoon spicy pimentón
2 teaspoons toasted ground fennel seeds
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced pumpkin
1 cup diced tomato
1 cup diced fennel
1 cup fresh mozzarella or other melting cheese, shredded
4 Tablespoons grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Using a large, sharp knife, carefully cut into the top of the pumpkin to detach a lid, as you would for a jack o’lantern. Scoop out all the seeds and their pulp to make a clean cavity. Use a heavy spoon and/or knife to scrape out some of the inside flesh of the pumpkin, leaving the walls about ¾-inch thick. Dice this flesh and set aside.