Makes 8 cups pumpkin -- 6 servings

Here's the perfect hearty meal for a crisp October evening. Cornbread and red wine complete this fresh palette of brilliant colors and earthy flavors.

If you prefer, rather than baking the stew in a pumpkin, serve it in Roasted Acorn Squash Soup Bowls. You'll find the recipe here.

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 ½ cups coarsely chopped onion

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 large tomatoes, cut into ½-inch cubes

1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped

1 medium russet potato (about 10 ounces), peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes

1 medium orange-fleshed sweet potato (about 12 ounces), peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes (see Tip)

1 cup dried apple slices

2 cups vegetable stock plus more as needed

1 medium pumpkin (8 to 10 pounds)

2 tablespoons melted butter

½ teaspoon salt plus dash for pumpkin

½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper plus dash for pumpkin

One 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed

¼ cup dry sherry

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, bell pepper, potatoes, apples, and 2 cups vegetable stock. Increase the heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat; cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 325° F. Lightly oil a shallow baking pan large enough to accommodate the pumpkin. Slice off the top of the pumpkin, leaving about a 6-inch opening, and discard. Scoop out the seeds and stringy membranes, leaving the pumpkin flesh intact; brush the inside and top edge with the melted butter and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Place the shell in the prepared baking pan.