Have pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. Leave jack-o'-lanterns for children. This Halloween scatter radiant autumn leaves throughout your home to highlight a bright orange pumpkin harvest party. Here's a chance to cook a palette of colors.
The first step is your decor. Adorn an orange-clothed table with crimson and rust leaves, curved winter gourds and a clay pumpkin from American Plant Food ($10) filled with fall flowers. Brighten your windows with chrysanthemums in baskets.
To map out your menu, spend an hour leafing through the pumpkin index of Caribbean, Mexican and American cookbooks and the back November issues of your favorite food magazines. Unusual pumpkin soups, puddings, breads, cheesecakes, mousses, and flans might feed your fancy.
For edible openers, clean and dry all the seeds from your sugar pumpkins. Briefly toast them in an ungreased heavy frying pan. Salt them lightly and scatter in small bowls as you would nuts. (As guests crack them between the teeth, the seeds shed their shells easily.) Provide a dip of ground pumpkin seed, tomato and pepper set in a medium pumpkin, with orange-tinged Doritos surrounding it.
After your guests are seated and spooning up hot pumpkin soup, offer them a loaf of homemade pumpkin bread on a board graced by two miniature pumpkins, one filled with butter, the other pumpkin preserves.
Every meal needs a piece de resistance: this time it could be Argentinian carbonada criolla, a large pumpkin overflowing with vegetables, fruits, meat and rice.
If the meal alone is not enough to hammer home your pumpkin theme, tack this 1623 New England ballad to your front door:
"Instead of pottage and puddings and custards and pies,/Our pumpkins and parsnips are common supplies./ We have pumpkin at morning and pumpkin at noon,/If it were not for pumpkin, we should be soon undoon." Carbonada Criolla Stuffed pumpkin 1 large diced onion 4 cloves garlic, mashed 3 tablespoons vegetable oil 2 pounds chuck, cut in 2-inch chunks 1 pound tomatoes, peeled and chopped 4 cups beef broth 1 bay leaf 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley 1 teaspoon oregano 1 teaspoon thyme 1 teaspoon paprika Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste 1 large pumpkin or Hubbard squash 4 tablespoons butter or margarine 2 sweet potatoes (about 1 pound), peeled and chunked 3/4 cup uncooked rice 1 handful dried apricots 1 handful dried prunes 1 8-ounce can corn 1 10-ounce package frozen peas 1 16-ounce can peach halves, drained
In a large heavy frying pan, saute the onion and garlic in the oil. Add the beef, stir and brown on all sides. Add the tomatoes, broth, herbs and seasonings. Cover and simmer 20 minutes.
Halve the pumpkin. Remove the seeds, sprinkle with salt, dot with butter and dampen with a little water. Bake about 20 minutes or until tender.
Add the potatoes and rice, simmering covered for 15 minutes more, adding more broth if necessary.
Add the apricots, prunes, corn and peas, simmering for another 10 minutes.
Just before serving add the peach halves to heat, and turn the mixture into the pumpkin shell.