Cooks Exchange

First, pick a perfect pumpkin. Then, get cooking.

Baking fresh pumpkins is just one way to enjoy the fall favorite. It also can be boiled and microwaved.
Baking fresh pumpkins is just one way to enjoy the fall favorite. It also can be boiled and microwaved. Getty Images/iStockphoto

Pumpkin recipes range from sweet to salty to savory.

Now that October is here, pumpkins are popping up in fields, church yards, pumpkin patches, farmers’ markets and supermarkets.

Two weeks ago, I asked Coast area pumpkin patches to send me information on their events. Two responded, one in Saucier and the other in Wiggins. Other pumpkin patch owners are most welcome to send me information on their events, too.

Aaron and Lynnise Brown own and operate the Pumpkin Patch Critter Farm & BBQ. The farm, located at 19162 Borzik Road, Saucier, opens at 11 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Oct. 28. Each family gets to pick out a pumpkin.

For $10 a person, event-goers can enjoy barbecue dinner, pumpkin carving, feed farm animals, face painting, horseshoe games, sack races and hay rides. Drinks are extra but benefit special tours for special needs children.

Amber Williams and her husband own and operate Williams Family Farms in Wiggins. They have some 7 acres of pumpkins and gourds. Activities kicked off Sept. 29, and throughout October, the Williamses have a maze, pumpkin patch and more. Hours are from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 28.

Pumpkin patch admission is $9 for ages 3 and up. Children 2 and under are admitted free. Cost for the outdoor movie and flashlight maze is $5 for ages 3 and up. Admission to the Saturday and Sunday events includes maze, animal barnyard, hayride to pumpkin patch, farm playground, unlimited rides on the cow train and corn box.

On Saturdays, there is an outdoor movie and flashlight maze from 7 to 10 p.m. At the movie and flashlight maze, patrons can enjoy the movie, flashlight maze, animal barnyard and hayride. The pumpkin patch is closed during this time.

At Williams Family Farms, check out Katie J’s Café. There also is a general store. For more details, call 601-716-7968 or check out their website, www.williamsfamilyfarms-ms.com/

Picking out just the right pumpkin is a fun activity for kids and adults. A smaller pumpkin makes a good eating pumpkin. The dark orange-colored flesh is sweeter than the large pumpkins found in the field or in pumpkin patches. The large ones are too stringy to work well in main dishes, soups and desserts.

Of course, kids always want to have the biggest pumpkin. The answer? Buy two, a big one for a Jack-o’-lantern and a smaller one (about 4 to 4 1/2 pounds) for cooking.

Using fresh pumpkin requires work. Three ways to cook pumpkin work well, roasted in the oven, boiled or cooked in the microwave. To start, cut the pumpkin (about 4 1/2 pounds) in half, scooping out all the strings and seeds, but don’t toss the seeds -- save them for roasting or baking. The seeds make a crunchy addition to baked goods, casseroles or soups.

Here is how to cook a fresh pumpkin. I will share pumpkin recipes, including roasted pumpkin seeds, in the Oct. 14 column.

BAKING METHOD

Cut the pumpkin in half and discard the stem section and stringy pulp. Save the seeds to dry and roast. On a sheet pan, place the two halves face down and cover with foil. Bake in preheated 375-degree oven for about 1 1/2 hours for a medium-sized sugar pumpkin or until tender, according to All Recipes magazine and www.allrecipes.com/ . Let baked pumpkin cool and scoop out the flesh, puree or mash the flesh. For silky smooth custards or soups, press the pumpkin puree through a sieve.

BOILING METHOD

Cut the pumpkin in half, discarding the stringy insides. Peel the pumpkin and cut it into chunks. Place in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook until the pumpkin chunks are tender, according to www.allrecipes.com/. Again, let pumpkin meat cool, puree in food processor or mash with a potato masher or food mill.

MICROWAVE METHOD

Cut the pumpkin in half, discarding the stringy insides.

From All Recipes: Microwave on high power for 7 minutes per pound, turning pieces every few minutes to promote even cooking. Let cool and mash or puree in food processor. Pumpkin puree will last up to three days in the refrigerator or store in airtight container in freezer for up to six months.

Wanted: Stuffed eggplant from Margarites Italian Village

Rupert Leslie of Germantown, Tenn., is searching for a recipe for stuffed eggplant from Margarites Italian Village in Pascagoula .

“Back in the ‘80s, I stumbled into this restaurant on a beach road trip to New Orleans and ordered their seafood stuffed eggplant, and to this day it sits heavy in my memory. Simply the best eggplant I ever ate.

“My question to you is did the original owners (Ocain family) publish any recipes? Did the purchaser of Margarites (Adrian Halpaus of Adrian’s Restaurant) purchase their recipes with the acquisition? Through my culinary contacts on the eastern Gulf Coast the last known location of Chef Adrian Halpaus was the Palace Casino in Biloxi.

“If you can offer any help with this quest for Margarites Stuffed Eggplant, I would be forever in your debt,” said Leslie.

OK, readers do any of you have this seafood stuffed eggplant recipe? Perhaps chef Halpaus has the recipe? If so, please send me an e-mail.

Catfish Charlie’s co-owner, Karen Sinopoli, remembers eating at the Pascagoula restaurant. She thinks maybe Scranton’s Restaurant’s owner Richard Chenoweth might have more information, too. Readers and fellow restaurateurs please share any information that you have on Margarites.

Andrea Yeager can be reached at ayeager51@cableone.net and Cooks Exchange, 205 DeBuys Road, Gulfport, MS 39507.
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