Ingredient Introduction #48 – Pumpkin Seeds

When it comes to edible seeds, I think the ones given to us by the sunflower end up being the Belle of the ball.

I mean, they’re everywhere. Get ’em in narrow pouches that stand at attention on the end caps in gas stations. Go to a restaurant and cafe and you’ll find them as a garnish on your salad.

I dare you to find a sunflower and harvest the seeds yourself. Go ahead, I’ll wait. That’s what I thought. I could’ve turned into a pumpkin you took so long.

Speaking…er… I guess it would be writing… of pumpkins, or their friends the butternut and acorn squash… they’re easy to find and full of seeds. How’s that for a double-duty ingredient?

These are the seeds I like.

When I was a kid I’d bypass the sunflower stuff and grab a pack of pumpkin seeds. You can eat the shells, too. Who wants to spend the time cracking cases just to get to an even tinier treat? Not me.

You cut open the gourd, harvest the seeds, and roast them for later. Then, use their former home to build a festive face or a seasonal soup.

I know Fall is quite a while away. The good news is that you can get shelled pumpkin seeds just about anywhere. I found some at one of my favorite new places, The Grain Loft.

Pumpkin seeds, also known by their Spanish name “Pepitas,” give you a good dose of zinc and magnesium. If you eat the shell, too, you’ll get even more zinc per bite, and some fiber. They’re also a good source of protein.

I love their green color (when shelled).

Because they’re so small, I used them in 3 different ways.

First, I made bean dip. It’s like hummus, but with pumpkin seeds instead of sesame seeds.

Here’s what you need:
1/4 cup grape seed of olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 clove of garlic
1 tsp. curry powder
1/4 cup shelled pumpkin seeds

I put everything into my Vitamix and let it work its magic. You can do this in a food processor, by putting in everything but the oil, pulsing it till mixed, and then drizzling in the oil with the processor running.

The dip is creamy and packed with flavor from the curry powder.

To serve, add a drizzle of Sriracha and a good sprinkle of pumpkin seeds.

For my second use, I made chocolate bark.

Think of it as a homemade candy bar, that’s not too bad for you.

Here’s what you need:
4 4oz. baking bars (I used 2 semi-sweet and 2 60% cacao)
2/3 cup shelled pumpkin seeds
Fleur de sel or sea salt

I recommend using the bars of chocolate rather than chocolate chips, because the chips get thick when melted, while the bars will be pourable.

Line a 9×13 baking pan with aluminum foil (I use non-stick) or parchment paper. Set aside.

Set a skillet over medium heat and dump in the pumpkin seeds. Let them toast for about 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep them from burning.

When they’re ready they’ll be golden brown and fragrant. Dump onto a paper towel to cool.

Chop up two of the chocolate bars and put into a microwave-safe bowl.

Then, chop up the remaining two, adding half of each one to the other bowl of chocolate. Keep the remaining chopped chocolate separate.

Put the bowl with the most chocolate in it into the microwave and cook in 30 second intervals stirring between each one. It took me 4 intervals to get the chocolate melted. Once it’s melted, stir in the remaining chopped chocolate. Stir till it’s melted and combined. This is a form of tempering, which will help the chocolate set-up for the bark.

Pour the combined chocolate into the prepared pan and sprinkle on some of the fleur de sel. I LOVE chocolate and salt together.

Now sprinkle the toasted and cooled seeds all over the bark. You’re just about cover up all the chocolate.

You can stick this in the fridge to harden faster or leave it on the counter to set for 4-6 hours.

When it’s set, peel off the foil and either break or cut into bars. I store mine in the fridge because I like it cold.

This bark is rich, decadent, crunchy, and salty. Toasting the seeds makes a huge difference. Don’t skip that part.

For my last use of the seeds, I made spicy/sweet trail mix. It just felt right.

Here’s what you need:
1 cup of shelled pumpkin seeds
1 cup of dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup of dried cherries
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. Sriracha

Preheat the oven to 300.

On a large baking sheet lined with foil, combine the seeds, the oil, the Sriracha, and the a good inch of salt.

Spread out the coated seeds into a single layer and roast for 7 minutes. Then stir and roast for another 8 minutes. Keep an eye on them. Oven strengths very, so you don’t want them to burn.

Once out of the oven, dump the seeds onto some paper towels to let the excess oil drain and to allow the seeds to cool.

Once they’re cool, dump them into a big resealable plastic bag and add the chocolate and cherries. Seal the bag and shake it.

I can’t get enough of this stuff. Of the three preparations, this is my favorite!

It’s spicy, sweet and rich from the chocolate and just a bit tangy and chewy from the cherries.

I’ve been putting it into smaller bags and bringing it to work as a guilt-free snack.

Whether you try these recipes or not, give the sunflower seed’s wickedly wonderful stepsister a shot! Add them to salads, sprinkle on soups, or top your ice cream. You won’t regret it!

Tip: Look for unsalted seeds. They’re better for you. Plus, you can always roast them with your own (preservative-free) seasoning blends. Just swap out the Sriracha in the above recipe for maple syrup, or forget the sauce and go right for garlic power, curry powder, cinnamon, or pumpkin pie spice.


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