Thursday, October 30, 2008
There's a great farmer's market by my house that sells freshly toasted pumpkin seeds. They toast them right there on the street and you can smell their salty allure from about a block away. I absolutely love 'em and can't go to the farmer's market without treating myself with some. But they can't come remotely close to homemade toasted pumpkin seeds.
My favorite method for toasting seeds may be a bit different than what you're used to, so I thought I'd share. Most people I know toast their seeds in the oven, but I think they come out much better when done in a skillet. It's faster and the final product is superior in both flavor and texture.
First, let's talk about harvesting the seeds. I hate tangling with the fibrous innards of pumpkin while I attempt to liberate every last seed. Here's the best method I've tried so far:
Set up your pumpkin station with a knife, a large metal spoon, a large bowl of water, and a colander. Cut your pumpkin open and begin extracting the goods. Seeds that immediately fall free should be placed in the colander. Big clumps of pumpkin fiber wrapped around seeds should be placed in the bowl of water. Once they are in the water, the seeds can easily be manipulated free with your fingers. Once free, they float right to the top and can be transferred to the colander. This method makes things so easy! Continue as usual, sorting seeds as described above, and scraping down the inside walls of your pumpkin until you are satisfied.
Next, rinse your seeds to get any last remnants of pumpkin off, and transfer them to a sheet pan lined with a paper towel or a fine-weave drying rack. Spread them out as much as possible and allow them to dry - at least over night.
When you are ready to toast your seeds, heat a couple tablespoons of oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. I like to pair my oil to whatever I'm flavoring the seeds with. For curried pumpkin seeds, I use peanut oil. Just about any oil will do so experiment and see what you like.
When the oil is hot, drop the seeds in the pan, salt and season them. Stir the seeds to coat them in oil and seasonings. Shake the pan when needed and stir the seeds often. They cook fast, like 3-7 minutes depending on your heat. As they cook, some of them will pop like popcorn.
You can season them with whatever you like. When I make curried pumpkin seeds, I cook them in a healthy dose of curry powder and a light dusting of pumpkin pie spice. Delish!
When they start to get that golden color, pull them off the heat. They will continue browning and crisping after they've been removed from the heat, so pull them before you think they are quite done.
You can make savory or sweet seeds, depending on what you like. Get creative! Five spice powder, garam masala, pumpkin pie spice with a bit of brown sugar, cayenne pepper, the possibilities are only as limited as your imagination.
I have no idea how long these babies keep because I always inhale them too fast to find out. I made a batch this afternoon with the intention of providing them as a garnish for the pasta dish I'm bringing to our neighborhood Halloween potluck tomorrow night, and I've already eaten about a third of them.
With regard to pumpkin recipes ...
Earlier this month I tempted you all with my pumpkin recipes and said I'd try to work some of them into this month's theme. Unfortunately, that didn't quite happen. Fellow pumpkin fiends, I haven't forsaken you! I do hereby promise that I will have a "pumpkin week" sometime very soon. Hopefully, in early November, but we'll see how it goes.
I also intended to cover canning this month, and never got around to it. I had no idea I had so much to say about various food preservation methods! I'll also try to get back to canning at some point for those of you who may be interested.
Only one more MoFo post to go! This has been quite fun. Until tomorrow...