Pumpkin is a squash—a giant, orange squash. It’s a little disheartening to think that such an American institution is second cousin to zucchini, but there it is. Although the kind you make Jack O’Lanterns out of makes lousy eating, small sugar pumpkins are excellent— sweet and rich. They are, however, labor-intensive. Enter, canned pumpkin, arguably the best canned vegetable there is. You get consistent, smooth, flavorful purée, with no slicing, scraping or baking.
Besides being versatile and tasty, pumpkin’s also good for you. It’s rich in fiber and beta-carotene and has almost no fat. And all that nutrition will cost you only 42 calories in a half-cup serving.
When you think “pumpkin,” you usually think “pie,” but that’s not all it’s good for. Here are some quick and easy uses for canned pumpkin.
- Add canned pumpkin to half of your cheesecake filling, and swirl the “pumpkinized” half into the plain half before baking.
- Mix canned pumpkin into softened ice cream and then refreeze for a quick pumpkin dessert.
- Make a simple soup by sautéing an onion and adding about 4 cups of chicken broth and a 28-ounce can of pumpkin. Stir in 2 to 3 ounces of goat cheese, and season with salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg.
- Use canned pumpkin as a thickener. Add a cup to vegetable chili to round out the flavor and beef up the texture. Ditto for a spicy stew, black bean soup and even curry.
- Try substituting canned pumpkin for half the fat in quick breads. It will add color and flavor and pairs well with cinnamon, citrus and even chocolate.
None of this means you can’t have your pie. For a change of pace, try doctoring up a traditional pie recipe by adding brandy, rum, maple syrup, chopped dates, crystallized ginger or candied orange peel.
—By Tamar Haspel