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Savory Squash




Pumpkin is known for its affinity with sweet spice, and is famous as a star ingredient in pie. There are many takes on the pie theme—lattes, cheesecake, ice cream and smoothies. The list goes on.

I happen to love pumpkin (and most winter squash, for that matter) cooked up all warm and savory as a companion to roasts or grilled meats. The sweet, nutty, creamy and sometimes pleasantly mealy flesh lends itself to purées, and I have seen nearly a million creamed soup recipes, some of which I have tried (and are very good). But I prefer my squash chunky and simple, with a few choice ingredients to complement the flavors.

When cooking with pumpkin, always use what is termed a “sugar” pumpkin: those adorable two- to five-pound beauties that are bred for cooking. Pumpkins require a bit of work initially—halving, scraping out the seeds and strings from the cavity, and peeling. But then they cook quite quickly and simply, whether in a sauce or on a rimmed baking sheet (or jelly roll pan). Roasting reduces the amount, so cut more pumpkin than you think you will need; plus, these recipes will go fast and make great leftovers.




Bacony Maple Roasted Pumpkin


Cut about 3 pounds of peeled pumpkin into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup bacon fat
1/4 cup real maple syrup (don’t use the artificially flavored kind)
granulated dried onion
salt and pepper

Spray rimmed baking sheet with cooking oil. Spread pumpkin out in one layer and drop in bacon fat evenly in ½-teaspoon blobs. Drizzle with maple syrup and season with salt and pepper and a very fine, even dusting of granulated onion.

Place in preheated 350-degree oven for 10 minutes. Stir and flip pumpkin to coat with melted fat and syrup. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring and flipping at 10-minute intervals until tender. Serve hot. 

Garlic Sage Roasted Pumpkin

Cut about 3 pounds of peeled pumpkin into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 or 4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh sage, minced
salt and pepper

Put pumpkin on rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with oil and scatter flakes of butter over all. Evenly sprinkle remaining ingredients except for sage over all.

Place in preheated 350-degree oven for 10 minutes. Stir and flip pumpkin to coat. Add sage and cook for 30 minutes, stirring and flipping at 10-minute intervals until tender. Serve hot. 

Chile Roasted Pumpkin

Cut about 3 pounds of peeled pumpkin into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 or 4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried chile flakes/powder*
salt and pepper

Put pumpkin on rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with oil and scatter flakes of butter over all. Evenly sprinkle with remaining ingredients.

Place in preheated 350-degree oven for 10 minutes. Stir and flip pumpkin to coat. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring and flipping at 10-minute intervals until tender. Serve hot.

*Mix sweet and hot to your taste. I like to combine roughly 1/3 chipotle flakes, 1/3 sweet Hungarian paprika (make sure it is fresh) and 1/3 smoked paprika. Experiment. You could also omit the cumin and just use a good chile powder.


Coconut Curry Pumpkin

Peel about 2 pounds of smallish-sized pumpkins and slice into 3/4” crescents
15 oz. coconut milk (unsweetened)
8 oz. chicken stock
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 slice fresh ginger
3 inches fresh lemongrass (optional)
1 fresh red chile, sliced (seeds removed if you don’t want it too hot)
1 tablespoon fresh coriander leaves, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet, lightly sauté the spices and garlic in a little oil for not more than a minute. Add the coconut and stock and bring to a boil. Add the pumpkin slices so they don’t overlap and simmer slowly, uncovered, until the sauce thickens and the squash is tender. Add more stock if it gets too thick. Garnish with coriander leaves.


A note from Elaine’s kitchen: Check out Pursuit of Spice, a locally produced line of culinary spice kits available throughout Colorado. Most of them work extremely well with both meat and veggies, and include a shopping list and concise directions for a fun experiment in international cuisine. I’ve tried pumpkin with the Ethiopian Doro Wat kit and it is great. The Moroccan Tagine and Indian Curry would also be fun to try with pumpkin.

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