With all the cooking and baking that’ll ensue in the coming weeks, it might be easiest to stockpile cans of pumpkin. All I can say is don’t. This year, I encourage to you pick up a couple plump sugar pumpkins and do some pre-Thanksgiving experimenting.

I started my “research” with a recipe for pumpkin soup with chicken and ginger-braised leeks from the late-Charlie Trotter, who sadly passed away last week. The end result was a hearty bowl flavored with pumpkin and ginger and deep with buttery sautéed leeks and tender strips of chicken. The soup can stand on its own (serve with a rustic slice of country wheat from Babette’s Artisan Bread), or a small cup’s worth would make an interesting side dish on the Thanksgiving table.

Another favorite was this fresh pumpkin pie recipe (linked with a video here). The dessert becomes even more holiday-worthy when you add a pecan-praline topping: Simply toss together 1 cup chopped pecans, 1 teaspoon vanilla, ½ a cup dark brown sugar, and 1 tablespoon of light corn syrup, add it to the top of the pie 10 minutes before it’s done baking. Top each slice with a dollop of Bourbon whipped cream, and serve on a plate drizzled with your favorite caramel sauce.

Tip: Wow your guests by sending home beautifully wrapped bundles of Bon Appetit’s pumpkin seed brittle. You can make it up to a week in advance from the seeds of your pumpkin.

—Pumpkin photo courtesy of Erin Maybach