By Barbara Beltrami

Most of us think of pumpkins as the main ingredient in pies, but they’re far more versatile than you might think. I’m not talking about pumpkin martinis or lattes or dishes made with canned pumpkin puree. I’m talking about savory familiar dishes that feature fresh pumpkin instead of their usual main ingredients … dishes such as curry or risotto or even oven fries. Yes, I know it’s a lot of work to cut up a pumpkin, but the taste and texture of what you get from doing it are worth the trouble. If you really think you can’t be bothered, then wait till Halloween and use the pumpkin flesh that’s carved out of the jack-o’-lanterns.

Thai Curried Pumpkin 

YIELD: Makes 3 to 4 servings


One 1½- to 2-pound pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut into bite-size cubes

2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

1 tablespoon red curry paste

One 14-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk

2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce

Freshly squeezed juice of one lime

1 tablespoon brown sugar

¼ cup peanut oil

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil


To a large pot of boiling salted water add pumpkin; cook 5 to 8 minutes, until barely tender. With slotted spoon remove from water and set aside. In a blender or food processor, puree shallots, garlic and curry paste with two tablespoons water; add coconut milk, fish sauce, lime juice and brown sugar and pulse a few times to combine with curry paste mixture. Put oil in a wok and warm over medium heat; add curry mixture and stir constantly just until it releases its fragrance, about 10 to 15 seconds. Stir in coconut milk mixture, bring to boil, add pumpkin and reduce heat to low; cook, stirring once or twice until pumpkin is very tender but not mushy, 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer to serving bowl, sprinkle with basil and serve immediately with rice.

Pumpkin Risotto

Pumpkin Risotto

YIELD: Makes 6 servings


One 2-pound pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1½ quarts chicken broth

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

½ cup minced onion

½ cup minced celery

1½ cups arborio rice

¾ cup dry white wine

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese


Preheat oven to 400 F. Toss pumpkin cubes with olive oil, salt and pepper in shallow baking pan; bake until they are tender but not mushy, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to keep warm. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan over medium heat warm chicken broth and leave on low heat to simmer. In a large heavy pot or saucepan over medium heat melt butter, then reduce heat to medium, add onion and celery and, stirring frequently, cook until onion is opaque, about 5 minutes. Add rice, stir, add wine, and stir for another one and a half minutes. Add one or two ladlefuls of broth and stir frequently until broth is absorbed. Repeat procedure, always stirring frequently, until all broth has been absorbed and rice is al dente, about 20 to 30 minutes. Stir in the baked pumpkin and Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately with a sauteed leafy green vegetable.

Pumpkin Oven Fries

YIELD: Makes 8 to 10 servings


One 2- to 3-pound pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut into ½-inch sticks

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1/3 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese


Preheat oven to 400 F. In a large bowl toss all ingredients together until pumpkin is thoroughly coated. Line baking sheet with parchment paper and spread pumpkin sticks around so that there is space between them. Place in oven and bake 20 to 30 minutes, until crispy and golden brown on outside and tender on inside. Place in a serving bowl and toss with cheese. Serve hot or warm with poultry or meat and a green salad.