1 cup heavy cream

extra virgin olive oil (for garnish), optional

Preheat an oven to 375 degrees. Sprinkle the two halves of pumpkin with salt and pepper, place on a sheet pan and then into the oven. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour (when you can easily pierce the pumpkin with a knife, it is done). Remove the pumpkin from the oven and let cool. Once the pumpkin is cool to the touch, scoop the flesh out of the halves using a large spoon. Set aside the cooked pumpkin and throw away the skin. In a large heavy pot over medium heat, add the bacon and render the fat until the bacon bits become crispy. Transfer bacon bits to a paper towel. Turn the heat down to medium-low, add the onions and when they begin to become translucent, add the garlic. After two minutes, add the cumin, coriander, bay leaves, paprika, salt and pepper and stir to combine. Add the stock and pumpkin, turn the heat up to high, and bring the soup to a boil. Once it has reached a boil, turn the heat down to medium-low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Carefully puree the hot soup in a blender, a food processor or with a stick blender. Stir in the cream until combined and serve garnished with bacon bits and a drizzle of olive oil.

Tip: Reserve the seeds from the pumpkin and roast them as a snack. Wash and dry the seeds, place them on a sheet pan and toss with a vegetable oil. Place into a 325 degree oven for 45 minutes or until the seeds are a dark golden brown. Pull them out of the oven and toss with fine salt and any dry spices or herbs that you like. Let cool and serve.

Honey mustard-and-ale-glazed pumpkin

This is a sweet-and-sour presentation that leans more to the sweet side. It is based on the Italian agrodolce sauce, which is a sugar and vinegar mix. In this version, honey stands in for the sweet while whole grain Dijon mustard takes the place of the vinegar. To balance the two out, I added pumpkin ale to reinforce the pumpkin flavor. You can use any dark and malty ale if you cannot find pumpkin ale; if you do not partake of alcohol, chicken stock will suffice.

Makes: 8 servings

2 cups pumpkin ale (I used Heavy Seas' The Great Pumpkin)

1/2 cup course Dijon mustard

1 cup honey

3 pounds pumpkin, cut into 1 1/2-inch-by-1/2-inch pieces

1 teaspoon salt

In a large pot over high heat whisk together ale, mustard, honey and salt. Bring liquid to boil. Add pumpkin, turn the heat to medium low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Pull out pumpkin and reduce liquid over medium heat by 3/4 or until syrupy. Return the pumpkin to the sauce and toss to coat. Serve immediately.

Tip: You can make this dish into a jacked-up smashed pumpkin by cooking the pumpkin for an extra 15 minutes. Add 1/4 stick of butter and mash all of it together until it is your desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Baked stuffed pumpkins

Makes: 8 servings

This dish is a show-stopper and one of my personal favorites. Using the pumpkin as a serving dish makes for a nice presentation but it is the pumpkin itself that ties this dish together. Once baked, the soft pumpkin flesh is easily scoopable and when mixed with the stuffing makes for an incredible main course. Feel free make substitutions for the bread, apple, cheese or sausage.

1 pound hot Italian sausage, removed from casings if applicable

1 large red onion, chopped to a small dice

6 cloves garlic, minced