Oh, don't we know it is pumpkin season! The barista making pumpkin lattes, bakeries selling spice flavored pumpkin donuts and muffins, fields of the deep orange globes dotting the countryside, and neighborhood homes all decked out with pumpkins and Indian corn at the door, are all reminders that it is button down season in New England. And one of the glories of this time of year is choosing a pumpkin for our kids or for ourselves. After all, pumpkins are the symbol of Halloween and a right of passage into winter and who has not carved a pumpkin or two and placed a candle inside its cavity to help set the mood for a dark and scary night.
I take my time when choosing a pumpkin or two for carving for Halloween or for decoration. To me it’s not about how big, or round or how deep the color is, it’s about the stem. I don’t even look at pumpkins with short stems. I am looking for that charming pumpkin with an artistic twist or edgy stem that tells me that this is a pumpkin with attitude and personality.
Pumpkins have come a long way since I was a kid; it’s not enough to hollow out the seeds, carve triangular looking eyes, a nose and ratchet looking teeth. That is so yesterday. Today we have intricate carving kits; we can quilt a pumpkin, stencil it, and add veggies to it to create a face. We can paint them to resemble people we know or our favorite pet. We can make lanterns out of them. And of course, we can take a selfie.
1 pound sugar pumpkin
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/4-cup warm honey
3 fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces
4 fresh mint leaves, minced
1/3 to 1/2 cup extra virgin
1 large clove garlic cut in half
Freshly ground black pepper
Cut the stem off and peel the pumpkin. Cut the pumpkin in half, remove the seeds and stringy pulp, and discard. Cut flesh into strips 1/8 inch thick, 2 inches wide, and about 4 inches long. Set aside.
In a 9-x-12-inch glass dish, mix the vinegar and honey until the mixture is smooth. Add the basil and mint, mix, and set aside.
In a skillet, heat the olive oil, add the garlic, and press it into the oil with the back of a wooden spoon. Remove the garlic when it starts to turn color and discard it. Fry the pumpkin in batches for about 10 to 12 minutes, or until they soften and start to look glazed and brown.
Remove the strips from the skillet and add them to the vinegar mixture. Add salt and pepper, and stir to mix well. Cover the dish and marinate at room temperature for 3 to 4 hours before serving. Or refrigerate and serve the next day at room temperature.