Roasted pumpkin seeds
Pumpkins are everywhere now — pureed into soups, roasted and carved into scary faces. You've scooped out those white gooey strands and the slimy seeds inside and while you might think about throwing them out, think again. Those seeds are tasty, versatile and healthful.
Nay, do not toss them into the trash, for they are the pepitas, beloved in Mexico and Spain. Save them and savor them with these 13 ways of looking at and cooking a pumpkin seed.
The following two techniques will be needed for some of the later recipes:
Wash the seeds and soak for an hour. Let dry for a day. Toss with a teaspoon of cooking oil. Spread on a cookie sheet and salt. Bake at 300 degrees for 30 minutes, tossing every 5 minutes or so. Let cool. Use in salads or atop ice cream.
Wash and drain the seeds and brush or spray a cookie sheet with olive or coconut oil. Spread seeds on the sheet and coat with more oil. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes at 350 degrees, or until lightly brown. Remove, drain or blot on a paper towel and sprinkle with salt.
You've got many many options here. Use Worcestershire sauce and butter instead of oil to toss before roasting or toasting. Toss with cayenne, chili powder, ground cumin, onion powder or curry powder. Sprinkle with finely grated Parmesan. Add a little truffle oil to the cooking oil as you roast.
In holiday stuffing
Use hulled raw seeds in stuffing instead of walnuts or pecans. This works especially well in a cornbread stuffing with perhaps a bit of Poblano chile.
Peanuts schmeanuts. Use your pepitas! Heat the oven to 250 degrees and keep an oiled and foil-lined rimmed baking sheet warm in the oven. Toast a cup of hulled raw pepitas. Cook a cup of sugar, 1/2 cup water and a pinch of salt in a heavy saucepan, stirring with a fork, until melted and golden. Keep cooking by swirling the pan until even more deeply golden. Stir in the seeds and pour the mixture quickly onto the prepared baking sheet. Spread thin before it hardens. Let cool until completely hard and then break up the brittle into bite-sized pieces.
In a skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Add a cup of shelled pepitas, a torn slice of bread, a crushed clove of garlic and a small chopped onion and cook, stirring, until the bread is golden brown. Stir in 2 tablespoons chopped green chilies. Transfer to a food processor and blend until smooth. Add 14 ounces chicken broth, 1/2 cup of whipping cream and a dash of salt and blend again until smooth. Use for pork, pasta, chicken and/or grilled salmon.
Use your toasted pepitas as a garnish for pumpkin or squash soup, atop a taco, on a beet salad (any salad), or sprinkled over chili.
Use pumpkin seed oil in vinaigrette with fig vinegar. You can also toss it on potatoes for a potato salad, or brush it on meats before roasting.
Add toasted pumpkin seeds to dried chopped apricots and candied walnuts. And OK, even Chex Mix.
This is great on crusty Italian bread hot out of the oven, or as a dip. Combine 1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds, 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, and 2 cloves of garlic in a blender or food processor and process until combined. Add 1/3 cup softened butter, and salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Process until well-combined. Store in the refrigerator, but serve at room temperature. Omit the garlic and cilantro and add nutmeg and use it on hot gingerbread.
Toast 2 cups of pumpkin seeds and a touch of ancho chili powder in a saute pan with a bit of oil. Crush up the seeds and add 2 teaspoons of fresh thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. Dredge chicken breasts in the mixture and saute the chicken in olive oil until golden brown. Finish cooking in a 425-degree oven. It'll take 15 to 20 minutes.
This sauce can be used to toss in pasta or blended into sour cream or cream cheese for a dip, or it can be used as a flavor-booster in any stew, soup or sauce. This one has basil in it as well, but is particularly good with pork, and even for firmer fish like trout or bass.
Combine 1/2 cup hulled, roasted pumpkin seeds, 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan and 2 cloves garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Process until the seeds are finely ground. Add 1 cup basil, 1/2 cup parsley, 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 2 teaspoons lemon zest. Pulse a few times, then, with the food processor running, pour in 1/2 cup of olive oil. Continue to process until the herbs are chopped and olive oil is just incorporated. Serve immediately, or freeze for up to two months.
Line up the children and the rest of the family and see how far you can spit the pepitas. It's not how far it goes or where it lands that matters, but the journey it took to get there.
A few more recipe ideas:
High-Test Pumpkin Seeds
These are a good garnish for a pumpkin martini (recipe below), a rum or bourbon based cocktail or for ice cream.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
1 1/2 cups pumpkin seeds, raw and cleaned
1/2 cup dark rum
1/2 cup bourbon
1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground mace
Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Mix the pumpkin seeds, dark rum, bourbon and brown sugar in a small saucepan set over low heat. Simmer until the pumpkin seeds begin to turn gray in the center.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and drain all of the liquid from the seeds. In a bowl, toss the seeds with the spices and then spread into a single layer on a baking sheet.
Bake until crisp, stirring every 10 minutes, about 45 minutes. Let cool completely before serving.
This has many ingredients but it's so worth it. Serve before your holiday meals.
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 tablespoon vodka
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 teaspoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon canned pure pumpkin puree
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Toasted pumpkin seeds, such as High-Test Pumpkin Seeds (above), for garnish
Mix the sugar and half of the pumpkin pie spice on a small plate. Dip the rim of a chilled martini glass in water, then dip in the sugar to coat.
Fill a martini shaker with ice cubes and add the vodka, maple syrup, cream, pumpkin puree, vanilla extract, and the remaining pumpkin pie spice. Shake vigorously, then strain into the prepared glass. Serve.
Rachel Forrest is a former restaurant owner, reviewer and Exeter, NH, resident who now lives in Austin, Texas. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo (pumpkin seeds in bowl hero): Brian Jackson/Flickr (license)
Photo (spiced pumpkin seeds): clogsilk/Flickr (license)
Photo (pumpkin soup): Cala/Unsplash
Photo (raw pumpkin seeds): Breville USA/Flickr (license)
Photo (pumpkin martini): Personal Creations/Flickr (license)