Little pumpkins with big flavor

A few weeks ago at the Cel Dor Asado wood-fired grill restaurant in Westcliffe a stuffed miniature pumpkin was offered as a side vegetable.

Of course I’d seen these little pumpkins in stores over the years, and have always thought they were more a decorative vegetable, like a gourd or something. So the chance to actually eat one was just too much to resist.

I was not disappointed. The Cel Dor mini pumpkin was so good in fact that I made a mental note to try cooking these myself. And while the vegetarian version roasted over an open fire would be difficult to improve upon, I knew deep in my soul that pork products were the answer.

Today I found some mini-pumpkins in the local grocery and made them in my oven. Here’s how I cooked four of them.

First, wash the pumpkins well, then cut a top into them just like you were carving a pumpkin for Halloween. Scrape out the seeds and then place them with the tops at the side in the oven at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, sauté 1 chopped onion, 2 cups mushrooms and 1 red pepper in some olive oil. I also added 1 small bunch of spinach for color, and 3 cloves garlic for flavor. But here’s the kicker — I stirred in about 2 cups browned Larga Vista Ranch ground pork.

Stuff the pumpkins with this mixture, add the tops for effect, and put them back into the oven for another 15-20 minutes until the skin is tender.

I think it’s best to let these set for a few minutes before serving. I like to cut them with a steak knife and eat them skins and all.

One note: While the photograph shows one pumpkin that’s some sort of multi-colored squash (upper left), I don’t recommend using these. I found they simply don’t have the flavor or texture of the regular orange mini-pumpkins.

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