Lately, toasted pumpkin seeds have found their way into almost everything I’ve been cooking, from carrot soup to coleslaw. I love them because they add texture and a layer of flavor. That extra kick of nuttiness with chile, cumin and salt makes a dish go from good to great.
Whenever I toast a batch, I make a few extra to have on hand to add to salads, sprinkle over a pot of beans and stir into my newest lunch obsession, which I call the Trader Joe’s vegetarian special. It is a savory combination of a package of pre-cooked brown rice and a can of Cuban black beans—both from TJ’s. I heat both, then mix them together and pack it to go. I eat it at room temperature topped with pumpkin seeds.
Recently, when I toasted a batch of pumpkin seeds to add to cilantro pesto, I made twice as many as I needed and set the leftovers in a bowl on the counter. We ate them by the handful and it occurred to me they’d make a great snack with wine before dinner. They are the quintessential aperitif, teasing your appetite but not ruining your dinner.
Chile and Cumin-Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
Yields: 1 cup
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup (about 8 ounces) raw pumpkin seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add the pumpkin seeds. Sprinkle the cumin and cayenne over the top and stir to coat evenly. When the pumpkin seeds begin to make popping sounds, stir frequently to prevent burning. Cook until slightly crisped, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with the salt. Stir and transfer to a plate to cool.
When cool, serve or transfer to an airtight container.
What to drink: Rosé. The fresh, fruity flavors of a cold Rosé will be the yin to the spicy pumpkin seed’s yang. My favorites: Stepping Stone, a fruity-forward rose that will brighten any summer meal.