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Pepita-roasted Tomatillo Dip


Pepitas, or roasted pumpkin seeds.

San Antonio loves a good tomatillo dip, and this version benefits from the addition of garlic, tangy lemon juice, the nuttiness of roasted pumpkin seeds, and the freshness of cilantro leaves mixed with the tart tomatillos.

It’s a  perfect treat, whether you’re looking for something to snack on while cheering on the U.S. Women’s National Team as they play in the World Cup finals or just munch on any mid-afternoon.

“For a special presentation, try serving this smooth, rich-tasting dip in a hollowed-out squash,” say the editors of the new “The Sunset Cookbook” (Oxmoor House, $34.95).

Pepita-roasted Tomatillo Dip

3 fresh tomatillos (about 6 ounces), husks removed
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds or pepitas
2 medium garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
Tortilla chips

Put tomatillos in a small baking pan and broil 4 to 6 inches from heat, turning once, until skins are lightly charred, 5 to 8 minutes.

In a small, heavy skillet over medium heat, toaste pumpkin seeds until golden brown, 2 to 4 minutes.

In a blender, whirl tomatillos, pumpkin seeds, garlic, lemon juice, oil, cilantro and salt until combined but still slightly chunky. Scrape into a small bowl; add more salt to taste. Serve with chips.

Make up to 1 day ahead, chilled.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

From “The Sunset Cookbook”

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Chilied Peanuts and Pumpkin Seeds


Chilied peanuts with toasted pine nuts

“You can buy tangy chilied peanuts from street vendors all over Mexico,” Rick Bayless writes in “Fiesta at Rick’s” (W.W. Norton & Company, $35). “The vendors will likely have salted toasted pumpkin seeds, too, which I like to mix with the peanuts. A very good (and quite good for you) snack — so good, in fact, that we’ve set a bowl of the stuff on every table in Frontera Grill for nearly two decades.”

If you want to work ahead, use fresh, preferably vacuum-sealed peanuts and pumpkin seeds. “The finished mixture will keep for several weeks in a tightly closed container,” Bayless writes. “For longer storage, keep them in the freezer (I’d vacuum-seal them with a Food Saver or the like if one is available).”

I didn’t have pumpkin seeds on hand when I made this dish, and it was approaching midnight, so I made do with what I had on hand: pine nuts. I toasted them lightly and tossed them with the peanuts. The end result worked well, especially for the pine nut fans, who loved the heat that the chilied peanuts brought to their favorite nut.

Chilied Peanuts and Pumpkin Seeds (Cacahuates y Pepitas Enchilados)

2 cups roasted peanuts (preferably without salt)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons ancho powder or guajillo powder, plus a little árbol chile powder if you like it spicy
Salt, to taste
1 cup hulled, raw pumpkin seeds or pepitas

Turn on the oven to 250 degrees and position a rack in the middle. In a medium bowl, toss the peanuts with the lime juice until all the nuts have been moistened. Sprinkle evenly with chile powder, then toss until the chile evenly coats the nuts. Spread the nuts into a shallow layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Slide into the oven and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until the chile has formed a light crust on the nuts. Remove from the oven and sprinkle generously with salt, usually about 1 teaspoon.

In a large skillet over medium heat, toast the pumpkin seeds. Spread the seeds into the skillet and, when the first one pops, stir constantly until all have popped from flat to oval, about 5 minutes. Scoop on top of the peanuts, toss the two together, allow to cool, then scoop the mixture in a serving bowl.

Makes 3 cups.

From “Fiesta at Rick’s” by Rick Bayless with Deann Groen Bayless

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How to Roast a Pumpkin


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That pumpkin you buy for a jack-o-lantern is not just a decoration, regardless of the sticker that may appear on it.

It’s a fruit, like any other squash, with nutritious seeds at the center and firm flesh that you can eat as a side dish or in a pie.

But getting it ready to eat takes a little effort on your part.

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The first step is to select a pumpkin. The more colorful heirloom pumpkins, such as those blue-gray or green, are actually better for eating, though some are marked for decoration. The worst for eating is said to the standard carving pumpkin, but those cook up as well as any other, even if they are slightly stringier. (Just run it through the food processor a little while longer and you won’t know the difference.)

Look for a pumpkin without any bruises on the outside; or if there are bruises, cut around them.

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Cutting into the pumpkin can take some effort. I’ve seen people use a hammer to drive a knife into the skin. That requires some skill and careful attention. I haven’t tried it. I’m the type who would drive the knife into my hand first. So, I use a bread knife with a serrated blade and a strong handle.

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Cut the pumpkin roughly in half first. That way, you can scoop out as much of the seeds and string as possible. I use my hands for that, though a spoon works almost as well. (Don’t throw the seeds, or pepitas, away. Click here for directions on toasting them.)

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Then I cut the pumpkin into pieces and place them on a half sheet pan (18 inches by 13 inches) with the skin side up. It doesn’t matter the size of the pieces as long as they lie relatively flat on the pan. Don’t bother trying to peel the pumpkin before cooking, it takes too much time and effort.

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About halfway through the carving, preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Once the pan is full or the pumpkin is cut up, then pour a little water until the pan, so it is about 1/4 inch deep. Tent the top of the tray with aluminum foil and place in the oven.

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Cook for about 25 minutes.

Shortly before the first phase of cooking is up, melt a stick of butter in a small saucepan.

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Remove the tray from the oven and uncover the pumpkin. Turn the pumpkin over and brush the slices with melted butter. Return to the oven uncovered and cook for another 20-25 minutes or until the flesh is soft when poked with a fork.

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Remove from the oven and drain the water. When the pumpkin is cool enough to handle, peel it.

If you are serving the pumpkin as a side dish, season it with more butter, salt or brown sugar to taste.

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If you are processing the pumpkin for soup or pie, cut the pieces into 1-inch squares. Process in a food processor or blender, a little at a time until smooth.

I measure out leftover pumpkin into 2-cup freezer bags. The pumpkin will keep for up to 1 year in the freezer.

Why do all this work? Because fresh pumpkin is vastly superior to the canned variety. To find out, decorate your pumpkin on the outside, then cut it up, cook it and discover for yourself just how delicious it is.

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