This time of year pumpkins are everywhere. They are practically giving them away at the market, huge orbs of cheerful orange like summer sunsets for only $3.99 each. They seem to inspire the artistic nature in many unlikely artists. You have probably seen your share of creative pumpkin yard art on facebook or email. And who can help but marvel at some of the intricate pumpkin carving even our most practical neighbors occasionally try their hand at these days?
I have never felt inspired to spend much time carving pumpkins for my porch, at least not since my children hit the teen years. Ever a sucker for miniatures, however, I still love the idea of small edible pumpkins carved for use as a bowl to cradle soup or a side dish. I have been cutting out photos and recipes for that kind of pumpkin art for years.
Roasting Mini Pumpkins
Finally, this year I decided to try it for myself. In the end I totally ignored the clipped recipes and instructions. Instead, as I put a chicken in the oven to roast I saw the mini pumpkins I had bought at the market sitting on the countertop and decided it was time to use them. I washed them, pierced each one near the top with a sharp knife and set them in the oven alongside the chicken. You can rub them with olive oil and dust them with salt and pepper if you like but I didn’t bother.
Pumpkins and squash are great for multitasking in the kitchen. They are good at sharing oven space with other recipes as they are small and can be roasted at most any temperature. The trick is to leave them in the oven just until they can be easily pierced with a fork. I roast chicken in a hot oven so these pumpkins were cooked at 450 degrees for about 20 minutes. Allow for a longer cooking time if your oven is set at a lower temperature.
Edible and Easy
Once they were tender I removed the little pumpkins (maybe Wee-Be-Little variety but they weren't marked) from the oven and let them cool for another 20 minutes or so. Once they were cool enough to handle I removed the lids as if I were carving a jack-o-lantern. Then I scooped out the squishy pulp and seeds leaving the sides and hull in place to make a sweet little bowl.
The recipes I have collected recommend filling the little pumpkins with everything from soup to risotto to a sweet custard type dessert. Frankly it all seemed like overkill as I finished the chicken and a vegetable side dish. Maybe next time. This time I opted to keep it simple. I had a rice pilaf made from a boxed mix on the stove and decided to simply stuff the pumpkin shells with the otherwise unadorned rice.
Kicking it Up a Notch
They made a very pretty fall themed side dish and could scarcely have been simpler to prepare. The way I did it this time was super easy. In the future I can see filling the pumpkins with Basic Italian Polenta drizzled with a touch of olive oil or maple syrup. I think they would also make interesting little bowls for individual servings of Corn Salad with Pecan Dressing, or a cup sized serving of Squash and Hominy Stew. They might also be filled with the same herbed rice and pine nut mixture as Stuffed Patty Pan Squash and rebaked according to those directions.
Whether you take the easy approach or try something a bit more complicated these little pumpkins make delightful table mates and edible dishware. Try them. Use your imagination. Enjoy!