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Pumpkin: Don't just carve it, eat it
(CNN) -- The temperature drops, leaves start turning, and pumpkins adorn porches everywhere. This festive squash has inspired many people to hunt for the largest, roundest and brightest one they can find to carve into a jack-o'-lantern. But when it comes to cooking pumpkins, smaller may be better.
Chef Peter Zampaglione of the Ritz-Carlton in downtown Atlanta says the best pumpkins for cooking are cheese pumpkins, so named because of their flatter shape.
He says they are sweeter and less stringy than larger jack-o'-lantern pumpkins found at the grocery store. They are often lighter in color on the outside, with deep orange flesh. The best place to find cheese pumpkins is at your farmers' market.
Tiny pumpkins often called "jack-be-littles" are also great for cooking because they are so tender. They can be stuffed with grains, meat or vegetables or substitute for squash in recipes.
Michael Krondl, author of "The Great Little Pumpkin Cookbook," recommends getting creative and using the small pumpkins as flower vases or containers for dips, soups and even cheesecake.
When buying a pumpkin, make sure it doesn't have blemishes and a portion of the stem is still intact; otherwise it could be decaying.
Store your pumpkin in a cool, dry place, and it could last several months. Once it's cut open, it has to be used that day.
Pumpkin pie is still the most popular pumpkin dish. But is it better to use canned pumpkin or the real thing in a homemade pie?
Krondl says canned pumpkin is a safe way to ensure your pie doesn't turn out runny. He recommends buying canned pumpkin and adding your own spices instead of using the canned pumpkin pie filling. If you use a fresh pumpkin, Krondl recommends cooking the pumpkin and draining it in a colander overnight to reduce the water content.
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Ritz-Carlton - Atlanta Grill
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