By J.M. Hirsch Associated Press
Plenty of people will have a tough time taking pumpkin seeds seriously.
Fair enough. Americans unfamiliar with Hispanic foods generally encounter them only in the glop you scrape out of jack-o-lanterns.
But roasted, hulled pumpkin seeds (properly known as pepitas) are a delicious, nutty backbone of many Mexican dishes and are well worth getting to know.
And thanks to the popularity of Hispanic foods, they are easy to find. Trader Joe’s alone sells several varieties, raw, roasted, salted and not, among others.
Pepitas resemble long, narrow teardrops and are greenish in color (because their hard, white hulls have been removed). Don’t buy regular “snacking” pumpkin seeds still in their hulls.
Like many nuts and seeds, pepitas taste best when toasted and salted. The flavor is nutty, pleasantly oily and crunchy, but not hard.
If you can only find raw pepitas, they are easy to toast at home. Simply add a handful or so to a dry skillet over medium heat. Stir constantly until the seeds puff and begin to brown. If you like, stir in a few drops of vegetable oil, then salt.
Traditionally, pepitas are used both ground and whole. They often are included in mole, a rich and thick sauce-like dish that usually includes chicken. They also can be mixed into roasted vegetables (especially butternut and other squash varieties) for a pleasantly nutty crunch.
Pepitas really shine when added to salads. Think of them as this decade’s update of the rather tasteless sunflower seeds that have long populated salad bars.
For more ideas for using pepitas, check out the Off the Beaten Aisle column over on Food Network: http://bit.ly/wYEx3M.
This bold sauce is inspired by chimichurri. The steak can be served alone with the sauce, or thinly sliced over toasted bread.
Grilled flank steak with pepita-cilantro sauce
For the steaks:
1/4cup olive oil
1/4cup red wine vinegar
2cloves garlic, minced
1/4teaspoon ground black pepper
2pounds flank steak
For the sauce:
1cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4cup packed fresh cilantro
1/2cup toasted pepitas
1/2cup olive oil
1/4cup red wine vinegar
1tablespoon dried oregano
1tablespoon ground cumin
1/2teaspoon red pepper flakes
In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper. Add the steaks, turn to coat, then refrigerate for 30 minutes (or up to several hours).
To make the sauce, in a food processor combine the parsley, cilantro, pepitas, olive oil, vinegar, oregano, cumin, salt, garlic and red pepper flakes. Process for 2 to 3 minutes, or until very smooth. Set aside.
When ready to cook, heat a grill to high.
Remove the steaks from the marinade, then grill for 7 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer the steaks to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes.
Slice the steaks across the grain into thin slices. Serve topped with the sauce.
Makes 4 servings. Per serving: 750 calories; 500 calories from fat (67 percent of total calories); 55 g fat (11 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 75 mg cholesterol; 6 g carbohydrate; 55 g protein; 2 g fiber; 740 mg sodium.