Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Pumpkin seeds

I don't recall my mother toasting pumpkin seeds in my youth, but I do remember buying paper bags of them for a nickel at Mary's, the corner store in our neighbourhood, where the eponymous owner would sit behind a counter with a cigarette constantly burning and a tv blaring, frightening the children brave enough to venture into the Aladdin;s cave of hockey cards, nutty buddies, swedish fish and pop rocks.

I loved the salty crunch of the seeds, along with the toasty, nutty taste, and I've made it a point over the years to always make my own at Halloween, usually with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.

This year, I learned from Alton Brown (I won't post the YouTube link, because he bugs me, but I'll pass on the relevant information,.) that it's easier to separate the seeds from the stringy guts if you do it in a bowl of water, not unlike a pomegranate. I added this chestnut of Halloween wisdom to our discovery last year that Jack O'Lanterns work better if you cut the bottom rather than the top of the pumpkin off to get inside (the candle is easy to light and sits snugly on a small plate, or right on the concrete.

I made 4 batches of pumpkin seeds this year, brushing a piece of foil on the baking pan for my toaster oven with a couple of teaspoons of olive oil, arranging a layer of seeds (no stacking) and then sprinkling them with kosher salt and, for the 4 respective batches, pepper, cajun seasoning, taco seasoning and barbeque rub, and baking at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes, until golden. All are great; the plain are the most kid-friendly.

I'm making tacos for dinner tonight, and, after scanning the Internet, I am going to try making a dip by grinding 1/2 cup of the mexican take on the seeds, along with a clove of garlic, 1/2 cup of cilantro and a chopped jalapeno (I may leave in a few seeds, since the peppers from my garden are not that hot), and then mixing the result with a cup of yogurt, the juice of a lime, and a little honey. That is really a combination of this recipe, for classic Aztec salsa, and this Food Network Mediterranean version.

I'll take some pictures of the yard and the Gs and let you know how it turns out.

I made the dip. When I finished processing the pumpkin seeds, garlic, cilantro and jalapeno, I tasted the mixture. Although I have never eaten wood chips, I am quite certain that this is what they taste like. Thinking that adding the liquids might facilitate the processing, I tried again. No change. Disaster. I strained out the liquid and tried to re-process the solids in my spice grinder. A little better, but the mixture still had a decidedly twiggy texture. "Told you." said Worldwide, who had thought it an ill-advised experiment from the start.

I figured that the yogurt/lime juice mixture would have absorbed some of the flavors, so I kept that out as a condiment. I also put out the remaining detritus, in case anyone wanted to taste the errant result. When Sarah arrived, I explained my misadventure, and she decided to give it a try. "Not bad." was her pronouncement, and when I tried it again, I had to agree. The scope of my failure seemed to have clouded my judgment.

If I did it again (and I don't expect to), I would grind the pumpkin seeds first, and then proceed as the recipe directs. The BG often complains that cooking shows never show failures. This one's for you, kid.

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