Pumpkins are getting all the press because Halloween is a few days away, but other fall and winter squashes are in their prime now, too. Shown here, from left: Sweet Dumpling; the strange, striped Turban; yellow Spaghetti; Green Table Queen; Golden Acorn; Sweet Dumpling; Turban; Kabocha; two creamy Butternuts, and a pair of miniature pumpkin look-alikes, Golden Nuggets. PRODUCED BY ROBIN TUCKER
PUMPKIN SOUP 1 large whole pumpkin or squash 2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted 2 pounds uncooked pumpkin or squash Salt 1 pound bacon 1 green pepper, seeded and finely chopped 2 onions, finely chopped 1 pound grated Queso Cotija or dry Jack cheese Ground dried red chiles 1 cup milk 1/2 cup Sherry Croutons
To make tureen to hold pumpkin soup, cut top from whole pumpkin evenly to form 6- to 7-inch-diameter lid, leaving stem on for handle. Scoop out strings and seeds and discard. Brush inside of shell, including lid, with melted butter. Place lid on shell and place pumpkin in roasting pan large enough to hold it easily. Bake at 375 degrees about 45 minutes. Pumpkin should be cooked but not too soft to hold soup, so check inside flesh frequently during last 15 minutes of baking period. Set aside to cool.
Peel and cut uncooked pumpkin into large pieces. Place in pan and add just enough water to cover. Season to taste with salt. Cook over medium heat until very tender, about 45 minutes. Add more water, if necessary. Drain and puree in food processor or blender.
Cook bacon until crisp, reserving fat. Crumble bacon and set aside. Discard all but 3 tablespoons bacon fat. Saute green pepper and onions in reserved bacon fat until tender. Stir in crumbled bacon, cheese and pureed pumpkin. Season to taste with ground chiles and salt. Cook over low heat until mixture is heated through and cheese begins to melt. Stir in milk and Sherry. Heat through. If mixture is too thick, more milk can be added.
To serve, place whole pumpkin on large platter and fill with soup. Garnish each serving with croutons, if desired. Makes about 8 servings. CANDIED GINGER SQUASH 3 pounds banana or other winter squash 1/2 cup boiling salted water 1 teaspoon chopped, candied ginger cup light corn syrup
Cut unpeeled squash into 2-inch cubes. Place in saucepan with boiling salted water. Cover and cook 15 to 20 minutes or until just tender. Cool slightly, remove peel and puree squash pulp in blender. Place squash in serving dish to keep warm. Meanwhile, heat ginger in corn syrup. Pour over squash and serve at once. Makes 5 to 6 servings. SPAGHETTI SQUASH JALAPENO 1 3- to 4-pound spaghetti squash, cooked 6 ounces jalapeno cheese, shredded 1/2 cup crushed corn chips 1 1-pound can stewed tomatoes Grated Parmesan cheese
Cut cooked squash in half. With fork, pull strings from center, discarding seeds. Place half of squash strands in bottom of greased 10x6-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with half of cheese and corn chips. Repeat layering with remaining squash, cheese and corn chips. Arrange stewed tomatoes over top of mixture. Bake at 350 degrees about 20 minutes or until heated through and bubbly. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and cook about 5 minutes longer. Makes about 6 servings. SQUASH RING 1 pound banana squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes 1/2 onion, chopped 1/2 green pepper, seeded and chopped 1 small clove garlic, minced cup milk 1 cup shredded Jack cheese Butter or margarine teaspoon dried tarragon leaves 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram leaves 1 tablespoon sugar Salt, pepper cup fine, dry bread crumbs 2 eggs
Combine squash, onion, green pepper and garlic in saucepan. Add water to cover. Cover pan and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Drain off liquid. Combine vegetables with milk, cheese, cup butter, tarragon, marjoram, sugar and season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in bread crumbs and eggs, mixing thoroughly but lightly. Cool.
Grease 1-quart ring mold well with 4 teaspoons butter. Spoon squash mixture into mold. Place mold in large pan filled with 1 inch of water. Bake at 350 degrees 45 minutes or until wood pick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool 15 minutes, then run knife around edges to loosen and invert onto plate. Fill center with cooked and drained peas or other vegetable, if desired. Makes 6 to 8 servings.