Native to the Americas, the pumpkin it is one of the most popular ingredients in the autumn and winter period, the true protagonist of many sweet and savory recipes.
It can have very different sizes, shapes and colors depending on the variety, and the most used in the kitchen are often so large that they have a weight and bulk that complicate cleaning and preparation. Fortunately, there are also small pumpkins with a thin skin that can be easily removed with a potato peeler. Furthermore, the pulp is usually compact and free of seeds and filaments. When it has any considerable size, with hard and lumpy rind, cleaning it and removing the peel can be more complex. It is enough, however, to follow some small tricks to render peel and clean the pumpkin a simple and quick operation.
Wash the pumpkin well
It is essential to clean the pumpkin thoroughly under running water, rubbing well with a brush if there is soil residue and dry it with a dry cloth.
The right blade
When cutting, put the pumpkin on the cutting board and with a sharp knife with long blade cut it in half; if it is very large, it is better to cut the rind by sliding the knife along the entire diameter until it is half open.
With a special one corer or a spoon you can dig the pumpkin and remove all the seeds and filaments.
However, it is forbidden to throw the large and full seeds which, in addition to being a mine of mineral salts and fatty acids such as oleic and linoleic acid, are also rich in vitamin E and B. Once all the filaments have been washed and removed, I can be toasted : just cook them in the oven at 200 ° until they are golden, arranged on a baking sheet lined with wet and squeezed baking paper. Adding salt makes them perfect snacks for the aperitif.
Everything in pieces: precision and attention
Better to cut the pumpkin in quarters and then in eighths: the smaller the pieces, the easier it will be to eliminate the rind. Before starting, it is advisable to scrape the inner surface to eliminate any filament residues and to obtain a smaller knife, with a smooth and well-sharpened blade, which can be handled without the risk of cutting yourself. The blade must be inserted between the pulp and the peel, making it slide to peel the skin from the pulp. This can be done by holding the piece of pumpkin on the cutting board and holding it firmly with one hand, cutting it with the other hand to remove the rind. At this point the pumpkin is ready to be cooked, making sure to choose the most suitable format to the dish to prepare.
Every recipe, the right pumpkin
To season pasta or risotto it is better to cut it in cubes of about 1 cm on each side; if it is to be boiled or used in the soup preferable the cubes a little bigger, to prevent disfiguration during cooking. The cloves they are the right size for the oven, at 160 ° it will take about 30-35 minutes to cook.
A trick when added to other vegetables is to first pass it in the oven at 180 ° for a few minutes to dry it to prevent it from releasing too much water during cooking.
The whole pumpkin is maintained up to 2-3 months. Cut into pieces it is preserved in the fridge for a maximum of 2-3 days. If you want to stock it all year round, you can cook the pulp in the oven or steam, blend it and freeze it in well-sealed disposable trays.
"Peel" the pumpkin with the oven? You can!
Another way to peel the pumpkin quickly is baking in the oven. Cut the pumpkin into not too thick slices and then transfer them to the plate lined with wet and squeezed baking paper, cooking it at 180 ° for about ten minutes. Once warm, the peel will go away easily with a sharp knife.
Not only in the kitchen …
In addition to the carved pumpkin that now appears everywhere in the days preceding the Halloween party, the pumpkin lends itself to become original objects to embellish the table. If it is large, it can become one scenographic container to bring to the table a risotto or pasta seasoned with the pulp. Just trace a thin horizontal line on the rind with a felt-tip pen: following it, cut the top cap of the pumpkin with the knife at about 2/3 of the total height. After cleaning the inside from seeds and filaments and removing all the pulp with a digger, the pumpkin is ready for service. The smaller ones instead can be used as bowls or originals soup plates.
The pumpkin is also perfect to transform into centerpiece. After having washed and dried it is sufficient to cut a circle of 16 cm in diameter around the petiole with a knife, remove the cap and dig a large cylinder in the pumpkin, eliminating pulp, seeds and filaments. Just place a sponge for florists soaked in water in the center and insert branches and dried flowers of various colors and heights, following your own imagination, shortening them with scissors.
To create cute place card it is sufficient to choose small ornamental courgettes of similar size but of different shapes and colors, without defects. Polished and embellished with a note with the guest's name will make the table truly original.
7 November 2016
updated November 2019 by Claudia Minnella
DISCOVER THE COOKING COURSES OF SALT & PEPE
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