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pumpkin recipes

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Chocolate Pumpkin Layer Cake

Easy Pumpkin Pancakes

Old Fashioned Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin Quick Bread

All About Pumpkins

Adapted from
Creativity With Pumpkins; It's Beyond Pies
by Patricia Brooks

For many years, pumpkins were the object of benign neglect in the North American kitchen, making appearances in the fall as Halloween decorations and, especially at Thanksgiving, as pumpkin pie. In recent times, however, as part of the growing creativity in American cooking, pumpkins have been playing a more prominent role. Creative recipes involving the large orange-yellow fruit include pumpkin, sage, chestnut and bacon risotto; pumpkin pots de crème with amaretti-ginger crunch; pumpkin, white bean and kale ragout; and aromatic pumpkin and chickpea hotpot. But old favorites remain, often in inventive variations: many kinds of pumpkin pie; pumpkin pancakes; pumpkin soup.

By early American accounts, pumpkins (often called pompions in Colonial cookbooks) and corn kept the early European settlers in North America alive over the long hard New England winters. The settlers, taught by American Indians how to cultivate this New World crop, baked the wholesome, thick-skinned pumpkins in the ashes, stewed them, made puddings and pies of the meat and even pickled the rind.

The pumpkin was probably cultivated in prehistoric times by Indians of both North and South America. Not only was it a staple of their diet, but they also used the shells as cooking pots and serving bowls.

Christopher Columbus on his first voyage wrote that in the eastern end of Cuba, he found vast fields planted with calebazzas (pumpkins and squashes). Another Spanish explorer, Cabeza de Vaca, observed pumpkins growing near Tampa Bay in Florida in 1528, and Hernando De Soto called the pumpkins of western Florida ''better and more flavorful than those of Spain,'' though he was probably confusing our pumpkins with gourds (a different species) grown in Europe.

In 1883, in ''Mrs. Lincoln's Boston Cook Book,'' there is not a single pumpkin recipe. Under a recipe for squash pie is the note, like an afterthought, ''Pumpkin pies are made in the same way.'' But the pumpkin has long had a much bigger role and greater versatility in other parts of the Americas. In Brazil, home cooks make pumpkin soufflés, custards and a variety of candies (often combined with coconut). Puerto Rican cookbooks have recipes for pumpkin cakes, fritters and puddings.

But nowhere in the Americas is the pumpkin more a part of the cuisine than in Mexico, where virtually every bit of the vegetable is used. The seeds are featured in dips, in moles (complex spicy sauces), as snacks and ground into sauces for pork and shrimp dishes. Pumpkin blossoms are used in soups and are also stuffed, pumpkin meat is made into soups and soufflés, and the rind is often candied or pickled.

It's good news that innovative cooks in the United States have gotten more into the spirit of the great pumpkin. The cheery round vegetable brightens up fall hallways, walks and front porches, and is also served at the dining table.