Pumpkin and Squash Seeds

Yikes, I have gotten behind in blogging. I guess that’s just life sometimes.

I actually started this post way back before Halloween, because we had several winter squash and a pie pumpkin from our CSA box. However, we actually carved a jack-o-lantern this year (the first time at least since the kids were born, and by “we” I mean my husband with an enthralled audience of 4), so it seemed a good time to finish up the post.

Many of you probably already know how to roast pumpkin seeds, and the process is the same for winter squash. From The Joy of Cooking, the instructions are basically to separate the seeds from the strings and gunk, don’t wash them, toss them with some vegetable oil, spread out on a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 250° for a very long time (Joy suggests 1 1/2 hours, but basically until they are dried out). Then you can toss them with salt or other seasoning or, if you are really feeling like torturing yourself, break off the outer shells to use the seed kernels in fancy dessert recipes. (My sister makes an excellent pumpkin brittle, but I think she’s gone to buying pre-shelled seeds.)

The problem with this process is that, as far as I can tell, there is really no quick and easy way to separate all those seeds, and the smaller the pumpkin/squash, the harder it takes. However, I’ve gotten a process down that seems to work fairly well, so I share it in case it proves useful to anyone else.

pumpkin_seeds_towelFirst, once I scoop the seeds out of the squash or pumpkin, I spread them out on a dishtowel–preferably a terrycloth towel over a tea towel. Then I use a spoon to sort of scrape the seeds away from the strings. It’s not fast, but it seems to go faster than using my hands to separate the seeds, since they are so darn slippery. I usually separate the seeds in small batches, and it took me about 40 minutes to get them all out when I did our pie pumpkin. My husband did the jack-o-lantern seeds, and he was a lot faster, which is normal for anything we both try to do, but I say he had the advantage of fewer strings in the bigger pumpkin.

The first picture shows them all spread out, while the second shows where a couple of the seeds have been pretty well separated.pumpkin_seeds_separated

After that, I just follow the recipe instructions and spread them out on a cookie sheet, bake, shake with salt, and enjoy!



Zucchini and Summer Squash

I like zucchini and summer squash, but I can’t say I love either one (at least not in their purest forms), and we have gotten a LOT of them this year. My basic plan for using them is:

  1. Make zucchini bread. Possibly a double batch, and you can use shredded summer squash just the same as shredded zucchini. (I use these two vegetables basically interchangeably no matter what.)
  2. Have at least one meat and potatoes dinner where zucchini or summer squash is the vegetable. The default way I cook it is sauteing with onions and butter–I really like it best when it has cooked so long (at a low temperature) that there is probably no nutritional value left, but nobody else in my family seems to especially like it at all, so I cook it my way. I tried grilling it this summer, but it just didn’t seem quite done enough for me.
  3. Hide extras in such dishes as ratatouille, chili (they make a good substitute for meat if you want to make a vegetarian chili, at least in terms of bulk), soups, stews.

This plan generally makes use of all the squash I have laying around, but this year it wasn’t enough. I don’t know if I didn’t make enough stews or what, but we had a LOT of extra summer squash lying around, and I wasn’t ready to make more zucchini bread yet.

This led to my most recent food discovery, which is zucchini or summer squash parmesan. It’s exactly like eggplant parmesan, only substitute squash. Now, I used my one “real Italian” cookbook to make this (that’s where I found the recipe), so it was a somewhat involved process including homemade sauce (hey, we had a lot of tomatoes, too) and sliced vs. shredded cheese, but I think this was a recipe that can easily adapt. So if you have a good eggplant parmesan (or chicken parmesan, for that matter) recipe that you like feel free to sub in zucchini or summer squash as the main event. The one point I wouldn’t have thought of is to slice the squash long-ways, instead of in rounds–this will also make the overall process faster, since you can fry the bigger pieces.

This extra option for squash-usage has successfully rid me of all the squash that were hiding in my crisper drawer.

Now if I can just figure out how to use up all the cucumbers.