Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Michelangelo steals Halloween, leaves the seeds

Pumpkins got complicated.

When I was younger, before TV and cars (well, before iPods and cell phones anyways), pumpkins were simple. Round orange things that appeared shortly before Halloween, were smashed to bits on Halloween eve, and not seen again for a year.

Pumpkins involved triangles. Several appropriately spaced triangles. For eyes, nose, and even the mouth was really just some conjoined triangles. At least, that’s how they were cut out. All able to be carved by very young hands using very dull knives.



And pumpkins involved seeds. Which were spit at other siblings. At the dog. At various targets around the house. And for maximum distance competitions. Seeds popped up the entire year. Hidden under furniture, victims of errant attempts to hit something with the slippery little projectiles.

Oddly enough, we never ate either the seeds or the pumpkins back then. When spitting was done, and trick-or-treating over, everything was tossed. Too bad.

Nowadays, pumpkins are complicated. They have to be carved into incredibly intricate designs using complicated stencils and tricky little ‘knives’ and miniature saws specially designed the purpose. Each one takes hours and hours. Assuming you can get it to look anything like the stencil. It’s like Michelangelo stole Halloween.

The first time we saw these new, complicated pumpkins, two conflicting thoughts crashed into our minds. You could see in the kid’s eyes that we were going to have to have these things. And you could also see in their eyes that they knew they would not be doing the carving.

They argued for a week about which design they had to have. I anguished for a week over all the time it was going to take me to try to pull one of these fancy carvings off. Assuming I could even do it. Of course there is a kit you can buy with everything necessary (except patience and valium). And of course the instructions say it’s easy. Even though it’s not.

So for several years, Halloween was all about my ability to do a Michelangelo on a pumpkin. Eventually, everyone got old enough to try it on their own. And of course, when the pumpkin inevitably gets smashed on Halloween night, which is really the main reason for the holiday in the first place, everyone cries. And of course, even if the intricately carved pumpkin is kept in a window, safe from vandals, it molds immediately, and everyone cries as the dripping, oozing mess is shoveled into a garbage bag.

But all that has ended. Now pumpkins are about soup, and ravioli, and especially about the seeds. Of course, a great advantage of the seeds is they don’t have to be carved. They remain within my grasp.



I got to like the seeds when I discovered that they can be roasted with additional flavorings. Flavorings like cayenne pepper. Or cinnamon. Things that take the simple seeds beyond the ordinary and turn them into addictive snacks.

This year, I will certainly carve one big pumpkin for display. And cook many, many more. One or two more carved ones may appear if homework, parties and sports schedules permit. And that makes for a bunch of seeds.

So I usually roast the seeds. In olive oil. Ideally with a liberal sprinkling of something hot and spicy. As mentioned, cayenne being my personal favorite, although Tabasco works, along with other hot things.

But this year, while wandering around the internet, I stumbled across a very simple recipe for seeds that are both spicy and caramelized. Hot and sweet. Now that’s a treat I couldn’t resist.



This recipe recommends pepitos, which are the green inner parts of the pumpkin seeds, with the hulls removed. These can be purchased in small amounts at many stores. I do not recommend anyone spend the time it would take to hull pumpkin seeds. Unfortunately, I think using the whole pumpkin seed for this recipe would not work, as the seeds are not roasted till crisp, but instead simply swirled in the caramel sauce. The heat is added via cayenne pepper and a few other spices. The result? Fantastic. This is an idea that really works well.

Since I had a lot of pumpkin laying around after extracting all the seeds, I roasted up the flesh, and made a simple roasted pumpkin soup. I used the spicy caramelized pepitos as a seasoning and garnish for the soup.

A wonderful way to use both the pumpkin as well as the seeds.




Roasted Pumpkin Soup with Spicy Caramelized Pepitos
Recipe by surfindaave
Serves 4 as an appetizer

Ingredients:
1 sugar pumpkin (pie pumpkin), about 3 pounds, cut into slices, seeds removed (reserve), peeled, and cut into 1 inch pieces
olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
salt, pepper
1-2 tbsp cumin
¼ cup heavy cream
4 cups chicken broth
Spicy caramelized pepitos, recipe follows

Preheat oven to 425ºF.

Toss pumpkin pieces with olive oil, and arrange on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast for about 1 hour, until the pumpkin is very tender and well browned in many places. Remove from oven and let cool.

In a heavy soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, carrot and celery, and sauté until tender. Add pumpkin, cumin, cream, and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a bare simmer, and cook for 30 minutes. Taste, and season with salt and pepper as necessary.

Let soup cool slightly, and puree in a food processor. Return soup to pot, and reheat.

Serve the soup with a sprinkle of the spicy caramelized pepitos. Enjoy!


Spicy Caramelized Pepitos (Green pumpkin Seeds)
Recipe by surfindaave

Ingredients:
½ cup green pumpkin seeds (pepitos)
1 ½ tbsp butter
1 ½ tbsp agava nectar (or sugar)
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp paprika
dash of salt

In a small heavy skillet, heat the butter and nectar (or sugar) together without stirring until it caramelizes. Add the seeds and spices. Cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove to a plate lined with wax paper. Let cool. Serve as is, or use as a garnish.




Cayenne Pumpkin Seeds
Recipe by surfindaave

Ingredients:
1 cup fresh pumpkin seeds, well cleaned and rinsed
2-3 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

In a small baking pan, toss pumpkin seeds with olive oil and cayenne pepper. Roast in oven for about 30 minutes. Remove and let cool. Enjoy as a snack!

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6 Comments:

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Blogger Brilynn said...

I love roasting pumpkin seeds but for some reason have never added them to the soup... I don't know why. These recipes look very tasty!

9:59 AM  

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