October 25, 2011

Home Alone, Part One

Pumpkin Seeds, right, and Kabocha Squash Seeds, left

I won't say never, but I hardly ever am home alone. Today was different. I kissed My Baby goodbye this morning, and had the whole day at home to myself. The day in the making started with the faint scent of woodsmoke in the crisp air, the kind of morning for which fuzzy warm slippers and a cup of hot coffee are made. This was going to be fun.

Designs for the adventure I'd literally cook up with my home alone day included:
  • four pounds of pork waiting to be made into two kinds of sausage
    • 2 pounds apple sage sausage
    • 2 pounds hot Italian sausage
  • one large Kabocha squash and a medium Cinderella pumpkin for a winter's worth of puree.
Ever since last summer when I had my leaf-to-root epiphany, I've been trying to do a better job of using all the edible bits one foodstuff offers, and it's been both fun and humbling.  My "using it all" intentions are twofold; to be in fraternity with my fellow citizens who have no choice but to use it all in this time of economic depression, and at least as importantly, to be a more responsible citizen by honoring the food that is available. Rather than to cut into several squashes for their succulent flesh alone, it makes sense to pick one and exploit all of its nutritional value before reaching for another.

As I split open the blue-skinned squash for its oven roasting debut, its big, puffy seeds nearly burst out. I hadn't planned this, but today, grateful that I have the luxury of time in the kitchen, I scooped the slimy seeds into a strainer to prepare them for roasting.

 My good intentions quickly went astray. I grew more and more anxious as I tried to clean the slippery squash seeds, most of which refused to release their fiberous hold from their mother ship. I had a lot to accomplish with my day alone, and I didn't want to spend it all on one scant cup of seeds. The morning's calm was turning to subtle irritation. My commitment to the seed project grew challenged as my breathing grew shallow and I grew increasingly antsy. Who knew that squash seeds could be so unraveling?
Not So Slippery, Easier to Clean Pumpkin Seeds

What happened next is a testament to my five-year yoga practice.

I began to notice the seeds. As I paid attention to their nature, it occurred to me that the seeds were quite like so many other things in life... Neither a hold too tight nor a hold too loose proved productive. A "Mama Bear" hold allowed the seeds to easily come free from their pulp. My favorite little calming phrase began to repeat itself over and over in my mind, "Quiet mind, peaceful heart." As my breathing once again deepened, an untroubled karma yoga "discipline of action" filled me.


After a few minutes, the silent phrase was unconsciously replaced by my usual barely audible hum, a sure sign that my inner joy had returned. And, as a bonus, piles of spicy squash and pumpkin seeds and a winter's worth of sweet puree resulted for us to enjoy.

Sweet, Smoky and Spicy Roasted Squash and Pumpkin Seeds
Preheat oven to 375. Cover a baking sheet with foil and set aside.

Fill a small saucepan 2/3 full with water and add 1 tablespoon salt. Add seeds from winter squash, thoroughly removed of fiber and rinsed, bring to a boil and simmer for ten minutes. Drain, and pat dry.

Per squash, combine in a small bowl:
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon smoked paprika

Add seeds to bowl and stir several minutes to combine and coat evenly. Drizzle baking sheet with olive oil. Spread seeds atop in one layer. Lay several thin slices of butter ( about 2 Tablespoons) on seeds. Place baking sheet in oven for five minutes. Remove and stir seeds to redistribute and mix in butter. Roast for another 10 minutes, stir again. At this point, roast in five minute increments until the seeds are as toasty as you prefer, another 5 minutes or so for smaller pumpkin seeds, another 10 minutes or so for larger squash seeds. Allow to cool completely before eating, as they crisp up as they cool.

Eat out of hand for a snack, or sprinkle on salads, breads or casseroles.

There was more to my home alone day...

8 comments:

  1. Beautiful on every count!
    Namaste.

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  2. I love the spice you put on these. Yummy!

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  3. Definitely a bit of an adventure. We try to feed our local animals with squash guts and the leftover skins after we've baked the flesh and parlayed it into another form.

    Reuse is not only responsible, but can be a lot of fun. We've been making bread from our spent brewing grains. A part wheat bread with the rich grains from a stout is pretty incredible to smell while baking and then a joy to eat!

    Jason

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  4. That writing is wonderful! I love all squashes and pumpkins and the seeds too.

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  5. That is the joy of cookery, right there :)

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