Thursday, October 29, 2009

Spicy Pumpkin Seeds: A Halloween Treat

homemade pumpkin seeds -
the delicious byproduct of a carved pumpkin

Among my fondest Halloween memories (aside from the embarassing disaster that was dressing up like uncle fester) I cherish moments of gorging myself on delicious treats that only come at that time of year: copious amounts of orange, yellow, brown and black candy in a plastic jack-o-lantern with a handle on it, bottomless bowls of candy corn, impossibly sticky caramel apples with peanuts all over, and freshly baked pumpkin seeds, fresh from the pumpkin.

The latter are probably my favorite (despite having a professed weakness for almond joy and three musketeer bars) because they are something that not only conjure spooky Halloween memories, but also the flavors of Mexico. (image credit)

Pumpkin seeds or "pepitas" are an unofficial national
snack in Mexico**. As a child I was known to constantly carry a bag of them in my backpack, snacking on them secretly during class, recess or after school. You can buy them in tiny home-made bags on any corner in Mexico City, perfectly toasted and heavily salted. Maybe it's the salt I crave more than the actual seeds, or maybe it's the special un-shelling technique I developed over time (look mom, no hands!) that I take so much joy in, but either way, there's something about "pepitas" that still inspires childish glee in me.

This year's pumpkin; inspired by Roman's big brown eyes :)

But back to Halloween. I am a devout pumpkin carver (partly because of the hidden snack inside) and this year was no exception. After I wooed Matt one year with my (not-so) secret "pepita" recipe, which converted him from a pumpkin-seed-ambivalent to a bonafide pepita-lover, he has harassed me to make it every year and last night as I carved the Roman-o-lantern, insisted I write a blog about it (flattering, yes).

Here is my recipe so you too can enjoy pumpkin seeds with a kick. It's not Mexican, but it sure is Halloween for

* * *

Las Pepitas de Brenda
(Brenda's Pumpkin Seeds)

Serves 4 mere mortals
but only 2 greedy-pepita-eating-monsters

I like this recipe because it involves a couple of my favorite flavors, is quick, easy and also aesthetically appealing. The Paprika gives the pumpkin seeds an orange Halloweeny look, and the lemon juice balances out the salt. And after they're baked, they leave a lovely orange-black Halloween residue on the foil. :D

You can eat them whole or peel the shell off (after you suck all the tastiness off of it, of course). Feel free to adjust spices to your liking. I love sour, spicy things -
you've been warned. Amazingly, these seeds are probably the healthiest thing you'll eat the whole 31st. :)

* * *

Pumpkin seeds from 1 large pumpkin
1 tbsp salt
2 tsps paprika (or cayenne pepper if you're brave :) ), plus extra for sprinkling
1 lemon (not lime, mom!), juiced
a sprinkle of pepper (optional)

1. Preheat your oven to 375F / 175C. Once you have removed the seeds from inside the pumpkin, put them in a bowl and rinse them thoroughly with cold water until all the pumpkin membranes come off.

2. Pat the seeds dry with paper towels and transfer to a small bowl. Add all the ingredients and mix until all seeds are thoroughly coated.

3. Transfer the seeds to a cookie sheet lined with foil. Make sure the seeds are in a single layer
and not overlapping each other. Sprinkle with extra paprika for more color.

4. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until dry and toasty. The seeds should be somewhat crunchy. Allow them to cool and transfer to an air-tight container for storage or eat immediately!

These make a great Halloween party snack. :)

Happy Halloween!

**Not to be confused with
Argentinian "pepitas" which are cookies,
Pepitas are also used in widely in Mexican cooking in dishes such as Pipian, or Papadzul, and they are used to make a variety of desserts as well as ground up to thicken or make sauces or garnish dishes.
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  1. I will be trying out this recipe.

    Love that you dressed up like Uncle Fester for Halloween -- was it SEXY Uncle Fester??

  2. Sexy Uncle Fester? Ummm sadly no. That was the travesty. I got called a "condom-head" by some nasty older kid who was trick-or-treating on the same street.

    Ah, memories.

  3. I adore pepitas too, and as you stated, great minds think alike. I love that your recipe is so simple, and I bet so tasty too.

    I'm curious - any pics of this sexy Uncle Fester costume? =)