Farm to Fork, A CSA Series: How to Cook a Pumpkin and More

This is part 9 of a series about our CSA boxes and what we do with them. Recipes for Fish en Papillote ("Packet Fish"), Butternut Squash Soup, and Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes Follow.


When I last wrote, I was too busy to cook, as my post was aptly titled. I write this update reflecting on another set of weeks where I was still pretty busy, but not so busy that I couldn’t cook a little.


The wedding weekend went well. In fact, it went better than well. All of the details I had been anxious about seemed obsolete as Jake and I said our vows and enjoyed the company of our family and friends. It sounds cliché, I know, that the details and anxieties flew out the window. But even though many people had told me that this would be the case, I did not quite believe them until it had happened.


During the weeks leading up to the wedding weekend, I made salmon en papillote, steamed in a parchment paper bag along with thinly cut vegetables. Cooking fish fillets en papillote is certainly nothing new. I’ve seen fish cooked in parchment packets on television many times. But it didn’t occur to me to actually try this method until my teacher described it in culinary school. Cooking “en papillote” seems to hearken back to an old-school style of dramatic tableside service. My teacher recollected a restaurant where she used to work, where servers opened the steaming packets in front of the customers.   


FIsh en papilloteFIsh en papillote

I made fish en papillote after the longest of days and on the busiest of evenings. The packets were receptive to all of my CSA vegetables and stray herbs including julienned carrots, chopped bok choy, parsley, and shaved onions. If you want to include potatoes, I would recommend blanching them first, even if they are shaved or finely julienned. The most difficult part of making this meal is Fargo was finding fresh fish, which should be less difficult in the Twin Cities.


Our last CSA boxes have overflowed with colorful squash of all sizes and flavors. Even though I gave some squash away, I made sure to keep a butternut squash and pie pumpkin. One Sunday evening, I made a big pot of butternut squash soup for the upcoming week. I kept the soup simple, only using what was already available in my pantry. Then, I garnished it with freshly baked croutons made from scraps and crusts of bread. Whenever I make squash soup, I always think of an old coworker who invited me over for a lunch years ago.  She served butternut squash soup (from a box), which I had never tried. I was fascinated by her method of using ginger powder and fresh cilantro to make the boxed soup more flavorful. On several occasions, I have added these flavors to squash soup for a flavor a little more out of the ordinary. As an alternative to croutons, you could try roasting potatoes instead and serving them in the soup or on the side.


Roasted Pumpkin SeedsRoasted Pumpkin SeedsWhile the butternut squash was familiar and comforting, the pie pumpkin was new to me. I knew one could eat pumpkin, but hadn’t actually prepared this vegetable before. Growing up, we only bought pumpkins and squash as Halloween decorations and used canned pumpkin to prepare pumpkin desserts. It wasn’t until recently that I connected real pumpkins with food, but I do have fond memories carving pumpkins with my family and my mom roasting pumpkin seeds. These were a fleeting treat we looked forward to once a year and they never lasted long. My mom passed away in the fall, four years ago. As I cut open my CSA pumpkin, I smiled as I realized I hadn’t thought of this fall memory for over a decade.


I had originally found the concept of cooking my own pumpkin intimidating but the process was surprisingly simple. The post How To Roast A Pumpkin from Elena’s Pantry provided me with an illustrated guide. With my mom on my mind, I roasted the pumpkin’s seeds. Those of my childhood were only roasted with a little oil and salt, but I flavored them with a spicy paste reminiscent of snack mix. Then, I incorporated the pumpkin flesh into mini cheesecakes, another special treat she only made during the holidays that I haven’t thought of for years. Her version rested on vanilla wafers and was topped with cherry pie filling right before serving. Any cookie could serve as a crust and any tart fall fruit could be easily cooked and replace the canned pie filling. Last weekend, I eyed fresh cranberries at the St. Paul Farmers market but could not find them in Fargo. Instead, I topped the cheesecakes with cooked apples and found that I preferred the bite of a ginger snap crust.

 Mini Pumpkin CheesecakesMini Pumpkin Cheesecakes


On this sweet note, I will add that I was mistaken in my last post. We will actually get one more CSA box after this one, which will contain more squash, plus the new additions of Brussels sprouts and kale. Join me one more time as I explore our final box and provide reflection on our first experience participating in community supported agriculture.


Fish en Papillote (a.k.a. “Packet fish”)



Parchment paper

Fish fillets

Vegetables (shave or finely julienne firmer vegetables)

Olive oil

Lemon juice





1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Fold a piece of parchment paper in half and cut out round or heart shapes.

3. Remove skin from fish fillets. Check for bones and remove with tweezers. 

4. In the middle of one half of a parchment round, place the vegetables.  Season with salt and pepper.

5. Season both sides of the fish fillet and place on top of the vegetables.

6. Drizzle with a little olive oil and season with fresh lemon juice. 

7. Fold the parchment over the fish, forming a packet.

8. Starting at one side of the packet, fold the edges together, working your way around the packet until the fish is completely sealed.  It’s like crimping a piecrust or dumpling. 

9. Place the crimped packets on a sheet pan and bake until the fish is just cooked. Our salmon fillets took about 8-10 minutes. Don’t forget to account for carry-over cooking. Cut open the packet to release the steam and serve.



Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes

Adapted from my Grandmother Hill’s recipe for Individual Cheese Cakes. 

Makes about six dozen mini cheesecakes.



Mini vanilla wafers or any other small cookie.  Can also use crushed cookies such as ginger snaps.

2 eight oz. packages of cream cheese, softened

1 cup of mashed or pureed pumpkin

½ cup sugar

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pumpkin spice (ground cinnamon, ginger, allspice, ginger)



1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Line mini muffin or cupcake tins with foil liners (foil liners hold their shape better but doubled paper liners work in a pinch).

3. Place a small cookie or crushed cookies in the bottom of the liners.

4. Combine cream cheese with pumpkin. Mix in the sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt, and pumpkin spice(s).

5. Drop spoonfuls of the cheesecake mixture into the liners until mostly full.


6. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until firm. 

7. After a few minutes, remove the cheesecakes from the baking pan and cool. Eat plain or top with your favorite fruit or whipped cream before serving. I topped mine with apples cooked with butter, brown sugar, a pinch of salt, and lemon juice until al dente. The lemon juice makes the apples tart, which helps cut the sweetness and richness of the cheesecake.


To Cook A Pumpkin


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Wash pumpkin.

3. Cut in half (or into smaller pieces).

4. Scrape out the seeds and pulp. While the pumpkin is roasting, separate the seeds from the pulp for roasting.

5. Place in a baking dish, skin side up, and add about a quarter inch of water. Bake until the flesh is fork tender, about 45 minutes to an hour.

6. Scoop the flesh from the skin and puree or mash.



Roasted Pumpkin Seeds



Pumpkin seeds

Salt and pepper

Flavoring possibilities: sugar, peanut oil, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, garlic salt, celery salt, white pepper, black pepper, and cayenne



1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Remove seeds from pumpkin and rinse off pulp. 

3. Drain well and pat dry.

4. Toss with salt, pepper, and sugar. I made a paste with a little peanut oil, sugar, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, garlic salt, celery salt, white pepper, black pepper, and cayenne. 

5. Bake until the seeds are toasted, tossing often. 



Butternut Squash Soup



1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into cubes

1 onion, roughly chopped


White pepper

Ginger, powdered (fresh ginger could be chopped and simmered with the squash)

Herbs (I used a little sage and rosemary)

Optional: Hot pepper flakes

Worcestershire sauce

Half and half

Chives, minced



1. Wash and peel the butternut squash. If the waxy skin is too hard to peel, try using a knife.  Keep peeling until you reach the orange flesh. Roughly cut into cubes.

2. Place in a pot along with onion and enough stock to just cover.  Simmer until the squash is fork tender.

3. Blend the mixture in small batches (hot liquids expand) in a blender or food processor, or with an immersion blender. Blend until as smooth or chunky as desired.

4. Return to the pot.  Season with salt, pepper, ginger, herbs, hot pepper, and Worcestershire. 

5. Add half and half or heavy cream (or substitute milk) and simmer.  Serve. Garnish with fresh herbs like chives, thinly sliced green onion, or cilantro. I also like to garnish with a splash of vinegar. 


Homemade Croutons



Leftover bread

Olive oil

Salt and pepper



1. Preheat oven to about 350 degrees F.

2. Cut any leftover bread and/or crusts into small cubes. 

3. Generously toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Bake until the croutons are crispy all the way through.  Toss occasionally while cooking. 



Easy Roasted Potatoes




Olive oil

Salt and pepper



1. Preheat oven to 375-400 degrees.

2. For baked potato chips, use a mandolin to slice or slice as thinly as possible. Otherwise, cut into small pieces.

3. Line sheet pan with parchment paper to avoid sticking. Toss potatoes with olive oil, salt, and other seasonings if desired.

4. Bake until the potatoes are crispy and golden brown, tossing occasionally. 

5. I like to season potato wedges with lemon juice and toss with fresh chives before serving.



Jeni Hill grew up in the Twin Cities and recently moved to Fargo. Her two sustaining passions are food and writing and she combines the two whenever she gets the chance. Jeni believes food is never just about the food and considers it the finest medium to connect with others. When she is not crafting contributions to Simple Good & Tasty, she may be posting to her blog An Herbalist Eats20food, or Fargo's High Plains Reader. Her last CSA article for us was Too Busy to Cook.