I learned early on that pumpkins are good for a lot more than carving. When my sister and I were kids, our father would pile the family in the car to go duck hunting in California’s Central Valley. Because it was fall, it usually rained, and because it was farmland, there were produce stands everywhere. Dad headed out in the gloomy weather, but we refused, choosing instead to stay inside and bake with whatever we could find nearby, pumpkins included. These weren’t the common jack-o’-lantern variety but huge, heart-shaped, dark-orange monsters that took two of us to carry. We’d roast and salt the seeds and crunch on them as we turned out pie after cake after pie.
As I grew up and ate my way around a good chunk of the world, I kept coming across pumpkin in unexpected places, including a rich pasta dish in Italy and a silky green pumpkin seed sauce in Mexico. And I’m still often amazed at how versatile this familiar squash is, especially when you consider the cook’s options, which include the seeds, the flesh, and the shell. I’ve taken that “nose to tail” approach to pumpkin in these recipes, even using the roasted shell to serve a delicious pumpkin purée—a far cry from those carved-out decorations on doorsteps.
Photos: Scott Phillips and Thomas Allen