Pumpkin dishes can transfer the grin to your family's faces

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

What was more fun this past week than spreading a thick layer of newspapers on the kitchen table and watching the kids - Boy Scout knives in hand - pull all that slimy, stringy goo from a fresh pumpkin and carve a smile just slightly smaller than their own on a jack-o'-lantern? Unless, of course, it was doing it yourself.

And how many of those orange, toothy grins are forgotten on the front stoop - only to end up on the street, smashed by pranksters or nipped by Jack Frost. Remember that before it became a jack-o'-lantern it was a pumpkin, and another metamorphosis can turn it into some plain, or fancy, fare. And that smile of ol' jack's will be on your family's faces.

If you belong to the nouveau group of jack-o'-lantern decorators that paints on a face, or sticks on some vegetables, so much the better. For tucked away in that bulbous behemoth is, literally, a dinner from soup to nuts - complete with its own serving tureen.

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So grab that pumpkin from your front steps before someone else does, and you'll have dinner on the table before sundown.

If you have an uncarved pumpkin, here are two recipes to consider. The seeds the kids can do. The soup requires some careful consideration. Pumpkin Seeds

After scooping out seeds from pumpkin, rinse them off and pat dry. Grease a shallow roasting pan with a tablespoon or two of butter, then spread seeds on pan. Salt them liberally.

Bake in a 225 degree F. oven, turning them every 3 or 4 minutes until golden. This should take approximately 30 to 45 minutes.

When cool, seeds may be eaten shell and all.

The following recipe is an original one. Partly it was a way to rid my freezer of a small covey of quail that had been taking up space for well over a year.

At best it's an interesting and rather surprising soup to serve, but certainly you can forget this soup and fill a heated pumpkin with any soup you think appropriate. Simply pour very hot water into the raw, hollowed-out pumpkin , let stand for 20 minutes, pour off water, and fill with an appropriate soup. A cream of squash, pumpkin bisque, or pea soup should work well. If the pumpkin won't fit in your oven, the choice has been made for you! Quail Soup in Pumpkin Tureen 1 6-to-8-pound pumpkin 6 quail, or 1 per person 3 sweet Italian sausage links 1 large onion, thinly sliced Leafy tops of 3 or 4 celery ribs, chopped 3 tablespoons butter 1/4 teaspoon sage 1/8 teaspoon thyme 1 bay leaf 6 cups rich chicken broth Salt and pepper to taste

Pull sausage from casing and lightly saute until completely crumbled. Drain off any excess fat. Season with thyme, sage, salt, and pepper. Set aside to cool.

In a heavy 2-quart pot, saute onions in butter until soft. Add chicken broth, bay leaf, and celery tops. Simmer until ready to use.

Rinse thawed quail, cut off and discard necks, pat dry, and season cavity with salt and pepper. Stuff with sausage meat and lightly butter breasts of birds. (Trussing should not be necessary.) Roast in a pre-heated 400 degree F. oven 18 to 20 minutes.

Now it's decision time.

If you want to try cooking soup in the pumpkin, pour in chicken broth and cover with top. Cover with a tent of aluminum foil, and place on large roasting pan in 375 degree F. oven.

After 1 hour, add quail to pumpkin. It may be necessary to ladle off and reserve some of the broth. This is a good time to taste and correct seasonings.

Continue cooking for 1/2 hour or until inside of pumpkin begins to soften. Remember, if you are going to err, err on the safe side and remove pumpkin early or it can collapse.

Place pumpkin on large serving dish; decorate with autumn leaves.

Serve quail whole, one to a person.

A tossed green salad, toasted bread, and hard-boiled quail eggs, if available , are nice additions.

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