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Sweet Or Savory: Stuff, Bake And Devour A Pumpkin

You can do more with a pumpkin than carve it and stick a candle in it -- you can also stuff it, bake it and eat it all up.

That's what cookbook author Dorie Greenspan suggests in her new cookbook, Around My French Table. Greenspan says she loves her recipe "Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good" because it has "almost no rules."

"So you can play with it. You can change the filling a million different ways," she tells NPR's Michele Norris in Norris' Washington, D.C., kitchen. "We're going to use a stuffing of bread, bacon, garlic and cheese, but you could add spinach or chard, or once I used some leftover cooked rice in place of the bread. It became almost like risotto. You can put in nuts, you can put in apples ... you can put in chestnuts."

The possibilities depend on your imagination and your pantry, Greenspan says. And there's also a big payoff from this very simple recipe -- one she says she almost missed.

"My wonderful friend Helene Samuel in Paris had told me about this dish, and I thought, 'That's nice, that's nice,' and finally she said, 'You're not paying attention to me. This is a great dish. You have to make it. I'm going to have my sister send you the recipe.' And her sister lives in Lyon. And she said, 'Here's how I make it, but I'm sure you'll make it a different way, and maybe you'll improve on it.' "

But there was one thing Greenspan couldn't improve on -- the pumpkin.

"Her husband is a farmer, and he grows pumpkins. And when the pumpkins are very, very small, she goes into the fields with her children, and they carve their name in the pumpkins. And as the pumpkins grow, their names grow with the pumpkin, and then they each have their own pumpkin to make this dish."

Greenspan says the French tend to use pumpkins for savory dishes, not for sweet treats. But when she travels to France, she makes sure to pack at least one American convenience: canned pumpkin, which Greenspan says is impossible to find in Paris.

"Every recipe you see with a pumpkin puree starts with cutting the pumpkin, roasting it and pureeing it. But when I want pumpkin muffins, I want them now!" she laughs.

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