Saturday, October 28, 2006

seeds: pumpkin (roasted)

One of our neighbors staged their annual pumpkin carving party last night, an extravaganza featuring lots of kids with sharp objects, piles of pumpkin innards, divers food and drink, and even a large fire. It's odd, a fall party isn't complete here in the midwest until someone carts out their portable fire pit, a large pile of dry wood, and expresses a strong commitment to ten-foot tall flames. Nice.

By the time we left at 10pm there was a long line of carved pumpkins along a low wall, each one glowing from the votive candle inside. I'll attach a photo of my object d'art later - normally I'd be content to fit a circular router bit to a power drill and zip zip zip, two round eyes and a mouth make a jack-o-lantern, but last night I went for free-hand.

But I digress.

One of my seasonal conceits is roasting pumpkin seeds. And with all the pumpkin carving last night, I came home with two big Ziplock backs full of seedy guts, ready for my Special Process.

Bob's Special Pumpkin Seed Roasting Process

  • Beer
  • Large steaming pile of pumpkin innards
  • Running water
  • Olive oil
  • Seasonings (I used Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning; Garlic Powder and Chili Flakes; Salt and Pepper)
  • Large pot
  • Kitchen towel
  • Oven, preferably convection
  • Flat rectangular cookie sheets
  • Tin foil
  • Wooden spoon
  • Oven mitt
  • Paper towels
  • Small plastic bags

Open a beer. Start drinking it.

Deposit steaming pile of pumpkin innards into the large pot and put it in your sink under running water. Get your hands into the pile and squish it around - your goal is to separate seeds from innards as quickly as possible.

Pull out large stringy bits and discard. You won't catch every seed, so don't try. Do try to pull out little chunks of pumpkin flesh, as those will burn later if they make it into the oven with your seeds.

Once you'd separated all the guts from the seeds, lay out the seeds on the kitchen towels to let them dry off as much as possible. You can cover them with a second towel or paper towels to accelerate the drying process.

Enjoy some more beer as you pick out the stray bits of pumpkin guts, small knobbets of pumpkin flesh and the occasional ammo casing from among the drying seeds. Also pick out any seeds that look nasty - black spots on seeds are a sure sign of Something Bad.

While the seeds are drying, clean and dry the big pot from earlier and set the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit with the convection turned on if you have it.

When you're content that the seeds are as dry as you want them to be, put them back into the big pot and pour a few healthy glugs of olive oil into the pot. Use your hands to make sure that all of the seeds are coated.

Careful at this step - too little oil is preferable to too much oil.

Tear off enough aluminum foil to cover the bottom of your cookie sheet, then pour out a quantity of pumpkin seeds to form a single layer over the entire sheet.

Choose your seasonings, then sprinkle them liberally (to taste) over the seeds. Once you've covered them all, use your fingers or a spoon to mix them up and make sure that all of your seeds are covered, on both sides if possible.

Slide the sheet into the oven, and check them at 15 minute intervals for "doneness" - this means eating a few. This is another excellent time to enjoy some beer.

When you can smell the seeds in the kitchen and they start to look dry, slightly blistered and a little brown, pull them out.

Lay out a double-thick layer of paper towel on a flat surface and transfer the seeds from the aluminum foil to the paper towel. The goal here is to soak up any stray oil and let the seeds cool before you put them in bags for storage.

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