Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Getting ready for Halloween: roasted spicy pumpkin seeds

My first Jack O' Lantern...
October is by far my favorite month of the year. The crispiness in the air, the Fall's colors, the crunchiness of the leaves under your feet...Since I moved to the US I love Fall and this time of the year even more: October marks the start of a long festive roller coaster journey that takes you to Christmas through Halloween and Thanksgiving...

Although Halloween is increasingly celebrated in Europe, the celebrations are nothing compared to the US ones. (Incidentally, I must say though that this year I am seeing less Halloween house decorations than over the past two years. I wonder if the economic crisis is playing a role here).

One thing I had never done in the past was to carve a Jack O' Lantern. I guess that the disappointment of discovering that most American pumpkins, so big and beautiful, are not edible, kind of spoiled it for me last year....This year though, with Charlie Brown (my 3 1/2 month old son)  in the house and all, I just had to do it. And so I did it! And this is the result.

The process...
The whole thing turned out a lot easier than I thought it would be. A friend last year had given me a "carving set" as a present, containing different designs to transfer on the pumpkin, and saws and other tools to carve. I find it fascinating that "carving kits" even exist...Considering that it was my first time, I am satisfied of the results.

But what I was even more satisfied with was the result of an experiment I attempted with the seeds. I normally eat them roasted with salt, but this time I felt like going a tad crazy. I roasted them all, but while I kept part of them "simple", to use in soups or bread, I caramelized the majority of them in sugar, coating them in a sugary and spicy mixture afterwards. They were DELICIOUS. Here is the very quick recipe:

Spicy caramelized roasted pumpkin seeds
  • 2 TBSP of olive oil
  • 4 TBSP of sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp medium hot chili powder (if you don't have it, try paprika)
  • Seeds of 2 pumpkins (or 4-5 butternut squashes)
  • pinch of salt
  1. Heat the oven at 350F (175C). 
  2. Wash the seeds from the pulp of the pumpkin and dry them with paper towel. Put them in a baking sheet, and pour 1 TBSP of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Mix the seeds directly in the baking sheet with your hands, so as to coat them evenly with olive oil and salt. Put them in the oven for 20-25 minutes, depending on the oven. The seeds are ready when they start to turn a darker shade of brown.  
  3. In the meantime, mix 2 TBSP of sugar, the cumin, the ginger, the chili powder (or the paprika) in a large bowl. 
  4. When the seeds are roasted, take a skillet. Heat up the remaining 2 TBSP of olive oil, add the toasted seeds and the remaining 2 TBSP of sugar. Stir constantly, until the sugar is melted and it has coated the seeds. This should not take more than 5 minutes max. 
  5. With a jotted spoon, take the seeds and throw them immediately into the bowl with the sugar and spice mix. Stir to ensure that the seeds are coated with the mixture. Let them cool a little. 
  6. Devour them. 

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