Halloween and Thanksgiving are long past, but that doesn’t mean we should forget about pumpkin until next year! In fact, markets and grocery stores are stocked with pumpkin, both canned and in fresh wedges called calabaza, year-round. And for good reason. Pumpkin is nutritious, versatile, easy to use and delicious. What’s more, in addition to using it in all the ways we already know—in baked sweets such as cakes, pies and muffins—it also adds wonderful flavor to savory dishes, including pancakes and stews, says Mindy Hermann, RD, nutrition expert and coauthor of several books, including The Ultimate Volumetrics Diet (HarperCollins), a way of eating that enables you to eat “volumes” of healthy, nutrient-dense foods. Here, she tells us how to use one of these nutrient-dense foods, pumpkin, year-round…
WHAT MAKES PUMPKIN HEALTHY
A member of the squash family, pumpkin is high in fiber—a half-cup of canned pumpkin contains about 3.5 to 5 grams of fiber, depending on the brand. (That’s about 16% of the day’s recommended fiber). It is loaded with the antioxidant beta-carotene (that’s the bright orange color!), the plant carotenoid that becomes vitamin A in the body. And it contains about 35 to 50 calories in a half-cup serving. Make sure the can you buy says pumpkin and not pumpkin pie filling.
HOW TO USE
Diced fresh pumpkin—the calabaza sold in cut wedges at supermarkets and ethnic food stores—can be used in soup, stews, chili and risotto. Canned pumpkin can be added to pasta sauce, smoothies and pancake and waffle batters.
Many cooks actually prefer using canned pumpkin because it saves time—and is even more delicious than fresh pumpkin because of its concentrated, creamy flavor and thick texture. In addition to the traditional pumpkin seasonings that we are used to, such as a blend of cinnamon, ginger and cloves, pumpkin also is delicious when seasoned with spices and herbs such as garlic and onions, chile peppers, cumin, cilantro, Thai chili paste, rosemary and thyme or curry powder.
SAVORY PUMPKIN RECIPE
This Curried Pumpkin and Coconut Soup recipe is a winter favorite—and a tasty example of a savory pumpkin dish. You can prepare it in 15 minutes using canned pumpkin.
Curried Pumpkin and Coconut Soup
Makes 6 servings
1 teaspoon canola oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon mild or hot curry powder
¼ – ½ teaspoon red Thai curry paste (depending on your taste preference)
4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup light coconut milk
Juice of ½ lime
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup chopped cilantro, for garnish
1 lime, cut into 6 wedges, optional, for garnish
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, about five minutes, stirring often. Add the curry powder and Thai curry paste and cook, stirring, for one minute.
Add the broth, pumpkin and coconut milk to the pot. Stir to combine, then continue cooking until the soup is hot, about six minutes. Off the heat, stir in the lime juice. Season the soup to taste with salt and pepper. Divide the hot soup among six bowls. Sprinkle on the cilantro, dividing it among the bowls. If using, push a lime wedge onto the rim of each bowl, as if garnishing a cocktail. Serve immediately.
Note: This soup will keep, tightly covered in the refrigerator, for three days. When reheating, add more lime juice (to taste).