Bake the Pumpkin:
Preheat oven to 350℉ (place oven shelf on lower 1/3rd of the oven)
- Using a sharp paring knife, make a “lid” by cutting all around the top of the pumpkin to make a wide “bowl”, leaving about a 2-inch border. Remove the “lid” from the pumpkin and reserve.
- Scoop out the pumpkin seeds and scrape to remove the stringy parts until the flesh is smooth. Also scrape off the stringy parts from the lid.
- Season the inside of the pumpkin generously, with garlic and cinnamon. Place the pumpkin with the lid on a very large sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Carefully place the sheet pan in the oven.
- Bake for about 30-40 minutes or until the pumpkin is lightly browned and tender throughout. You can tell by pressing the skin with your finger and if it gives a little, it is ready. Don’t overcook it or the whole pumpkin will collapse and fall apart. It needs to have structure to hold all of the ingredients.
- Remove the pumpkin from the oven and let it cool to room temperature.
- Refrigerate overnight if making in advance. Bring to room temperature for at least two hours before reheating.
Make the Lentils Layer:
(Can be made 2 days in advance)
- Dry sautè the onion: Set a large saucepan with 2-3-inch sides, over medium high heat for 1-½ minutes. Add diced onion and stir quickly so that the onion doesn’t stick to the pan. Lower the heat to medium low and place the lid on the pan for 2 minutes. Lift the lid, allowing for the steam to drip back into the pan. Stir and cover again for another minute or two, or until the onion is translucent.
- Add the minced garlic and 1-½ tablespoons of the spice mixture. Stir to combine and cook for another minute or until the mixture becomes fragrant.
- Add the carrot and bell pepper, stirring occasionally, until barely tender, about 3 minutes. Add the tomato paste and lentils and stir to combine.
- Add 4 cups of cold water, raise the heat to high, and stir in the remaining spice mixture. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to maintain a low simmer, stirring occasionally until the lentils are just tender, about 30-45 minutes. (There should be just a tiny bit of liquid left in the pan.)
- If using salt, stir it into the mixture, then remove mixture to a bowl, and cool to room temperature.
- Refrigerate overnight if making in advance. Bring to room temperature (for an hour or two, before cooking in the pumpkin.
Make the Bell Pepper mixture:
(can be made 2 days in advance)
- Place a large sautè pan over medium heat for 1-½ minutes. Add the sliced onions and bell peppers and stir for 1 minute. Lower the heat to medium low and place the lid on the pan. Let cook for 1 minute, then lift the lid letting steam drip back into the vegetables, and stir. If vegetables are sticking, add just a little water, scraping up brown bits from the pan. Cover again and cook for another minute or two.
- Add in minced garlic and freshly ground black pepper and stir until fragrant. Remove from the pan.
Make the Rice Mixture:
(can be made 2 days in advance)
- Dry sautè the onions: Place a large saute pan over medium high heat for 1-½ minutes. Add diced onion and stir quickly so that the onion doesn’t stick to the pan. Lower the heat to medium low and place the lid on the pan for 1 minute. Lift the lid, stir and cover again for another minute or two, or until translucent.
- Add minced garlic, stir to combine until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Add diced mushrooms and increase heat to medium. Stir until mushrooms exude their juices and start to break down, about 2-3 minutes.
- Season mixture with balsamic vinegar, liquid smoke, freshly ground black pepper and red pepper flakes, if using, and stir for 1 minute.
- Add kale and rice, stir and cook for another couple of minutes until the kale has wilted. If using salt, add it in and stir to incorporate..
- Remove and reserve. Refrigerate overnight if making in advance. Bring to room temperature for an hour or two before cooking in the pumpkin.
Make concentric circles with the layers:
- Place the pumpkin on a large parchment covered sheet-pan.
- The lentil mixture goes in first: spoon the lentils into the pumpkin and with the back of the spoon, push the lentils against the inside perimeter of the pumpkin, making the outside layer. It should be about 1-½-inches thick.
- Spoon in the red and yellow bell pepper mixture circle inside the lentil circle.
- Lastly fill in the middle with the rice, mushroom and kale mixture.
Bake the Pumpkin:
- Place the filled pumpkin, uncovered, in the preheated oven and cook for 30 minutes or until the center layers are hot. Test by dipping a paring knife in the mixture, and if the knife is hot to the touch, then the mixture is too! Cook longer if the knife is barely warm to touch, about 10 minutes more. The lentils will look dry and will crisp up to a yummy texture.
- Allow the pumpkin to rest for 30 minutes or so, before carving.
- With two wide spatulas, scoop under both sides of the pumpkin, lifting off of the parchment paper and placing on a large flat platter.
Surround the pumpkin with curly kale for a beautiful presentation. Slice into 2-inch-wide “pie” slices. Using a cake server, place the fairy-tale pie slice on each plate.