Fennel and Leeks

Fennel and Leeks

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds Three Ways: Cinnamon-Sugar, Spicy and Salty

Photos Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy

Happy Halloween week! Since having Olivia, we have come to realize that Halloween is not a day-long holiday but instead a week-long holiday. We decided to embrace the full week so three years ago, we instituted our annual family pumpkin carving night (which includes Brad, me, Olivia and Brad's best friend, Carl). I usually think of extracting pumpkin seeds as cumbersome but this year, I decided to save them for roasting. We ended up carving five pumpkins (one for each of us and one for our cat). Needless to say, seeds abounded.

Who knew there were so many recipes for roasted pumpkin seeds and so much discussion about how to prepare them? The biggest point of discussion seemed to be whether to boil the seeds in salt or to allow them to dry on cookie sheets prior to roasting. The second point of debate was whether it is better to leave some of the pulp with the seeds for extra flavor or to remove all pulp. I had already spread my seeds across cookie sheets and removed all pulp so I moved forward from there. Next time I roast seeds, I will try boiling them in salt water because this process is supposed to help the seeds absorb and retain a salty flavor. I will also leave some of the pulp with the seeds because I kid you not, it took me an hour to separate the two.

Because there are so many pumpkin seed recipes, it was impossible to narrow my options to one. With an abundance of pumpkin seeds on hand, I decided to roast them three ways; sweet, spicy and salty. The only difference in the recipes is the way they are flavored. Roasting instructions for all three are exactly the same.

Cinnamon-Sugar Roasted Pumpkin Seeds-

1 1/2 cups pumpkin seeds
2 Tbsp melted butter (I used Earth Balance Buttery Spread)
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt

Spicy Roasted Pumpkin Seeds-

1 1/2 cups pumpkin seeds
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (I couldn't find my cayenne pepper so I used chile powder.... it worked great!)

Salty Roasted Pumpkin Seeds-

1 1/2 cups pumpkin seeds
2 Tbsp olive oil or melted butter
2 tsp kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Scoop out inside of pumpkin and separate seeds from pulp. Don't worry if there is some pulp remaining on seeds before roasting..... pulp may add flavor. Just remove biggest pieces so seeds are easy to toss.

In bowl, toss seeds with melted butter or olive oil until fully coated. Add salt and seasoning. Spread seeds in even layer across greased cookie sheet (or cookie sheet covered with aluminum foil). Bake for 30 minutes or until seeds are golden brown. Stir occasionally while baking so seeds toast evenly. 

This roasting project was 2/3 successful. The spicy seeds are by far my favorite with the salty seeds coming in second. The idea of cinnamon-sugar seeds is fantastic but they are unfortunately, quite easy to burn. I turned them frequently throughout the 30 minute roasting time. I even took them out three minutes early but half of the batch was slightly burned. I ended up separating the good seeds from the burned seeds so we were at least able to enjoy a few of them. I highly recommend changing the baking time for the cinnamon-sugar seeds to 20 minutes. 

After realizing that the seeds might cook quicker than the recipe states, I ended up removing the spicy and salty seeds from the oven at the 25 minute mark. The textures and flavors of both were perfect after this slight alteration. 

All in all, this was a fun cooking project and the end result was pretty tasty. I would like to thank my little blonde kitchen helper for measuring and adding the ingredients to each of the batches. She does fabulous work. 

Recipe Source:

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Easy Manicotti

Photo Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy

This has been the most beautiful northwest summer that I can remember. Days were sunny and warm without being too hot and evenings were clear and and dare I say, a bit balmy. We had no recorded rain in July, a fraction of an inch in August and about the same in September. Although we could begin to smell Fall in the air, it did not arrive until four days ago. And with a change in temperature, came the rain. Needless to say, it is time to pull out the sweaters and rain shoes and to start preparing comfort foods for dinner.

I ended up choosing this easy manicotti as my first comfort dish. Lucky for me, my friend Kasia had a bumper crop of tomatoes and I was the recipient of the overflow. I started my morning by blanching the tomatoes and then cooking them down into a beautiful homemade tomato sauce. I tend to wing my tomato sauce recipes so my final product is a little bit different every time. This time I added minced garlic from my garden, chopped white onion, olive oil, fresh garden basil and oregano, kosher salt, black pepper and white sugar. I am convinced that the best way to make sauce is to add ingredients based on your personal taste so I am not providing measurements for each ingredient. I also love starting in the morning and cooking the sauce down for 6 to 8 hours. The house smells great as the sauce cooks and the flavors have time to meld.

Once the sauce was done cooking all day, I was ready to prepare the following manicotti recipe. 

1 box organic manicotti shells ( I used Garden Time organic shells)
olive oil
16 oz low-fat ricotta cheese
1/3 cup grated parmesan plus 1/4 cup for topping
1 lb ground beef, ground turkey, sausage or tofu (I used grass fed ground beef)
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp pepper
4 cups spaghetti sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Saute meat in splash of olive oil, set aside. Cook manicotti shells according to package directions and set aside. Combine cooked meat, spinach, ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, nutmeg and pepper.

Stuff manicotti shells with mixture and arrange in 9" X 13" baking dish. Pour spaghetti sauce over manicotti and bake for 45 minutes. Serve and top with Parmesan cheese.

I am going to make my overview short and sweet today. This recipe is quite flavorful. My favorite part of the dish is the way the nutmeg compliments the creaminess of the ricotta. I always grate my own whole nutmeg (see photo below) with a microplane zester/grater which adds a depth of flavor that does not occur when you use pre-ground nutmeg.

I also appreciated the ease of preparation. If I hadn't prepared sauce from scratch, total preparation time would have been less than 20 minutes. As a side note, I prepared half of the manicotti with sliced olives instead of beef. I cut large whole black olives into three slices and then added them to half of the ricotta mixture. I liked the vegetarian version as well as the beef version and Olivia couldn't seem to get enough of it. You could easily forego meat and prepare the manicotti with olives or another firm vegetable. 

Finally, I know I often get on my soap box about using fresh and organic ingredients but I swear it makes a huge difference. Grass fed beef has a more robust flavor than run-of-the-mill beef and using fresh herbs adds a brightness to food that can be found no other way. Enjoy!

Recipe Courtesy of Garden Time Organics