Best known when cooked, pureed, and well-spiced in holiday pies, pumpkins are also great in soups, breads, and many other dishes.
To cook fresh pumpkin, scrape out the seeds (known as pepitas). (Set the seeds aside if you plan to use them later.) Cut the pumpkin up into small pieces, remove the hard outer peel with a vegetable peeler or sharp knife, and boil the pieces for 15 or 20 minutes in lightly salted water. The pieces then can be drained and mashed, or run through a blender to make pumpkin puree. The puree can be seasoned with salt, pepper, and butter (if you like) and served as a vegetable side dish, or used as the basis for soups and other dishes.
In the Caribbean, pumpkin is braised into spicy, fragrant stews with chiles, legumes, and sometimes meat. The French cook it into soup and serve it decoratively in its own shell.
To bake a whole pumpkin, cut off the top with the stem to use as a lid. Scrape out the seeds and pulp. Brush with melted butter, sprinkle with salt, and, if you like, add a touch of sugar. Replace the lid and bake at 350°F (177°C) until tender, about 45 minutes. Serve as is, cut into pieces, or scrape the flesh out and puree.
Pumpkin seed oil is dark brown, pleasantly flavored, and popular in Austrian cuisine. To roast pumpkin seeds, wash them well, and spread them in one layer in a pie tin or other baking dish; bake in a low oven (250°F or 121°C) for 15 or 20 minutes or until well-dried.