My favorite reason for cutting open a pumpkin is to extract the seeds. Once roasted, I snack on them throughout the day but also use them to garnish salad, soup, and even risotto.
You can roast many winter squash seeds in the same way. Most varieties have smaller, thicker, and sometimes more flavorful seeds than sugar (aka pie) or carving pumpkins. You can even set a few aside to plant for your own crop next year. Spread the cleaned seeds in a single layer on a screen or paper towel until completely dry, and then store them in a labeled envelope in a cool, dry place until planting time.
Sugar pumpkins and other edible winter squash have tasty flesh. I cube it to cook in risotto, curry, or pasta or roast and puree it for pie, cookies, or bread. Carving and large display pumpkins typically have less appealing flesh, but you can still roast or save their seeds.
The flavoring blend I give here, with popular pumpkin pie spices, is one of many choices. For roasted seeds to scatter on many dishes, simply season them with oil and salt. To garnish a specific dish, spices in that recipe can season the seeds too. For snacking, I like to sprinkle on smoked paprika, garam masala, or curry powder and then squeeze fresh lime juice over the seeds before the final five minutes of roasting time.
Spiced and Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Makes about 1/2 cup
2-1/2 pounds whole sugar or carving pumpkin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Slice the stem and blossom ends off the pumpkin, and then set the pumpkin on the now-flat bottom and cut down one side from top to bottom, slicing deeply enough to split the flesh but not damage the seeds. Repeat the cut on the other side to separate the pumpkin halves. Scoop out the stringy center, separating the seeds into a colander set over a bowl; compost the stringy sections and end cuts and set aside the remaining pumpkin flesh for another use. Briefly rinse the seeds under cold water and let drain.
In a small bowl, mix the cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves. Measure the volume of seeds, and then pour them into a medium bowl. Toss with about 1 teaspoon of olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon of salt for every 1/2 cup of seeds you measured. Sprinkle with the spice mix, using about 1 teaspoon for every 1/2 cup of seeds, and toss again. Store any remaining spice mix in an airtight container in a cool, dark place for future use.
Spread the seeds on a rimmed baking sheet and bake, stirring occasionally, at 350°F for about 30 minutes, until golden. Let cool slightly before eating, or store fully cooled seeds in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.
Julie Laing is a Bigfork-based cookbook author and food blogger at TwiceAsTasty.com.
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