Sassi’s Toasted Pumpkin Seeds, Four Ways

Now five ways! Updated for 2018; originally posted November 19, 2017

I have a recipe/technique I love for toasted pumpkin seeds, but it’s buried in/interwoven through this Lamb and Pumpkin Stew recipe. So no-one has to dig through that one, here’s the pumpkinseed recipe on its own, with some other flavor combination experiments:

  • Gut a pumpkin (or multiple pumpkins).
  • Get most of the goop off the seeds.
  • Soak goopy seeds in heavily smoked-salted water overnight. (You could use un-smoked salt, I guess, but I like the extra layer of flavor.) I used 6 cups of boiling water and 1/2 cup of smoked salt + 6 cups of cold water, but I was soaking about ten pumpkins’ worth of seeds (I had managed a big community pumpkin-carving activity, with lots of people all carving pumpkins on the same porch, and it seemed a shame to throw so many seeds away…). So, the proportion is 2 tsp salt to every cup of water, and you need enough water to cover your seeds. (They’ll float. Don’t fret.) 2018 update: You can leave the seeds hella goopy when you soak them, and then–instead of trying to get the seeds out of the goopy brine, try to get the orange goop out instead. This was a lot faster, for some reason. A spider is also very helpful (the kind that’s like a small wire mesh colander-on-a-stick, used a lot in Asian cooking, not the arthropod).
  • Rinse them off the next day. Lay a flour sack or linen tea towel on a sheet pan, and spread the seeds out on that to dry. (Do not use a loopy-pile towel or paper towels–too much stickiness/fiber transfer/annoying and gross.) It will take them a day or two to dry–just move them around a little whenever you walk past them, until they are dry to the touch. (2018 update: It occurred to me that I was writing from a place of privilege here. You can definitely dry them in a very low oven—180 degrees or so, for about 90 minutes—if you were in a hurry or if you are afflicted with kitchen vermin. I’m not judging. I lived in a hella roachy apartment building for a long time, and I know it’s not about your housekeeping; it’s about their knack for surviving anything once they have a foothold).
  • When they are dry, preheat the oven to 275 degrees. (I like a slow oven. Some people roast seeds at 350 or 400 or even 425, but I like to give them a lot of time to dry out and crisp vs blasting them with heat and risking scorching. Sort of like the “slow and golden” school of marshmallow roasting vs the “set it on fire!” school.)
  • Coat your seeds with some combination of seasonings that you like. I did four different kinds today. For 1/2 cup seeds, you want about 2 tsp fat and 2-3 tsp of other flavorings. (2018 update: I did the bacon-mushroom-thyme one again, and a new honey-orange, below.)
Four Pyrex bowls with four different flavor combinations

Bacon Mushroom Thyme (for omnivores)

  • 1/2 cup cleaned/soaked/dried pumpkin seeds
  • 2 tsp bacon fat
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/4 tsp pepper (I fresh-ground peppercorns in an electric spice grinder)
  • 1 tsp porcini mushroom powder (standard caveat re. “I have access to weird ingredients”–the porcini powder was a gift from my dear friend/culinary partner/instigator Derek)

Spicy Orange Duck (for omnivores)

  • 1/2 cup cleaned/soaked/dried pumpkin seeds
  • 2 tsp duck fat
  • 1/2 tsp applewood smoked salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp dried orange peel
  • 1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper

Spicy Honey (vegetarian)

  • 1/2 cup cleaned/soaked/dried pumpkin seeds
  • 2 tsp grapeseed oil
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp sherry vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper

Vaguely Greek* (this one is vegan)

  • 1/2 cup cleaned/soaked/dried pumpkin seeds
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp dried lemon peel
  • 1/4 tsp pepper

*If I do this one again, I would either infuse the oregano in the oil for longer first, or I would add the oregano partway through the toasting. This time through, the oregano got quite scorched.

Different Spicy Honey (2018)

  • 1/2 cup cleaned/soaked/dried pumpkin seeds
  • 2 tsp grapeseed oil
  • 1.5 tsp Mike’s Hot Honey
  • 1 tsp sherry vinegar
  • 1/8 tsp ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried orange zest
  • Big pinch of smoked salt

The method is the same for all the flavorings:

  • Put your seasonings of choice in an oven-safe bowl that is big enough for however many seeds you want to do.
  • Warm seasonings in the oven for about 5 minutes so fat melts/honey liquifies/flavors combine; whisk with a fork.
  • Add seeds and stir to coat.
  • Spread out in a single layer on a sheet pan–you can put baking parchment on the sheet pan if you want (I did, just for easier cleanup).
Four different pumpkin seed flavor combinations on one sheet pan
  • Toast them for about an hour and a half, stirring every 15-20 minutes, until they are toasty-gold and/or they make dry-autumn-leaf rustling sounds when you stir them. Kind of hard to say because different seasonings have vastly different color and burnishing clues. This is a long time, I admit, but this low temperature/long time makes the seeds very crispy, which to me is the most important quality.
  • Take them out of the oven and try not to burn your mouth. They’ll stay good for more than a week in a ziploc bag or airtight container, but they probably won’t last that long.
Four flavors of pumpkin seeds, all toasted. My kitchen lighting is terrible.
Four flavors of pumpkin seeds, all toasted. My kitchen lighting is terrible.

Simone’s Make Friends with Kale Salad

I originally posted this as a Facebook note in January 2013, but people ask me for this recipe from time to time and Facebook notes are getting weird. (e.g., I post a link that works for me, and other people can’t access it.)

A friend commented on the note, “Make Friends With Kale Salad? As in, ‘Become a friend of kale,’ or ‘Use kale to make friends with others’?” The answer is “Both!”

This makes a lot—maybe 20 servings? I usually make it for potlucks/parties, and I don’t think I have ever had leftovers—but if I did I would be happy, because it’s kind of a pain to make only three or four servings of this, and it keeps long enough to eat for lunch a few days in a row.

  • 2 bunches regular kale or red kale
  • 3 cups other salad green(s) you like. (I like a mix of parsley and arugula best.)
  • 2 bunches scallions (or about 6-8 shallots, if the scallions at your grocery store are pathetic)
  • 2 Granny Smith apples (or other apple you like/can get)
  • Fresh garlic as you like—at least 2 fat cloves, up to 8 fat cloves
  • 3 lemons
  • 1/2 c extra-virgin olive oil
  • Champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar (possibly—depends on how juicy the lemons are)
  • 1.5 tsp Penzey’s shallot pepper seasoning, or a mix of salt, pepper, and dried herbs you like in salad
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard

Ideal equipment: Knife, whisk, huge salad bowl, salad spinner, garlic press, lemon reamer, liquid measuring cup with spout.

Tear the tough stems out of the kale (like 2/3 of the way up the leaf—leaving some stem is nice for texture, especially with red kale which is so pretty) and wash it in two changes of water. Spin dry and set aside.

Trim parsley and arugula to your liking; wash in two changes of water (curly parsley in particular can hold a lot of grit); spin dry and set aside.

Press the garlic into the salad bowl. You could also mince/smash/mash it with a bit of sea salt if you’re all anti-garlic-press like Anthony Bourdain, or if you don’t have a garlic press.

Wash the scallions, trim off the root ends and any wiltiness at the top of the greens, and slice them as finely as you have patience for. Put them in the bowl with the garlic. (If using shallots: Peel, trim root ends. Mince a couple of them; slice the rest very thinly and muddle them a little so they fall apart into rings.)

Squeeze the lemons into the liquid measuring cup, pick out the seeds with a fork, and add vinegar if necessary to make 3/4 cup. Pour over garlic and scallions-or-shallots. Add seasonings and mustard. Mix well with whisk.

Pour oil very slowly into the lemon juice/vinegar/allium/mustard mixture, whisking constantly.

Quarter and core the apples and slice them directly into the dressing. You can make them a little chunky or thin. I like them slightly better in thin slices. Stir well to coat apples with dressing. (The lemon keeps them from turning brown).

Shred the kale and other green(s) of choice into thin ribbons (about 1/4 inch)—for the kale, stack/roll as many leaves as you can hold down with one hand and slice across. (This is called a “chiffonade.”) For the other green, just use your own judgment. (Arugula and parsley are too small to use the chiffonade technique so I just bunch ’em up and chop pretty finely.)

Add greens to salad bowl and toss gently but thoroughly until well coated with dressing.

This can sit at room temperature for several hours (hence ideal for potluck) and in the fridge for a couple-three days without getting wilty and gross.

Walnuts would be a good addition if that sounds appealing to you—but I would add them to each serving on the plate, not toss them in [because (a) nut allergies, and (b) walnuts could get soggy sitting in dressing for too long.]

Kernel: When I decided to be an artist

Franklin was asking a couple weeks ago for me to write another Imbolc blessing. Imbolc is a Celtic holiday, halfway between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox. It’s associated with Brigid, goddess of inspiration, poetry, and smithwork. For me, the holiday is also about cheese, and fire at the heart of snow, and making it through the stored foods of winter to the first through-the-frost greens and new milk. The previous Imbolc blessing I wrote was for babies—or newcomers, really. And since that writing, it has also been used as a farewell. Continue reading Kernel: When I decided to be an artist

Yule Tree Family Tradition

I might put more about the whole tradition here, but right now I just need a link to the song…

Tree-Hunting Song

Tune = Polly in the Holly (trad.) | Words by Anna-Marie York and Simone Parrish, circa 2001

*Oh the Oak rests in the winter time to marshal his strength
But the Holly stays bright and green the whole winter’s length
Green branches in the winter promise life to be,
and the first tree in the greenwood, it was the holly.
Holly! Holly! Oh the first tree in the greenwood, it was the holly.

*Oh the fir waits in the wood, its boughs bearded with snow
To come inside for the Yuletide the axe it must know
Green branches in the winter promise life to be,
and the first tree in the greenwood, it was the holly.
Holly! Holly! Oh the first tree in the greenwood, it was the holly.

*The Stag leaps through the wood with his proud crown of horn
And it is through his sacrifice the Sun is reborn
Green branches in the winter promise life to be,
and the first tree in the greenwood, it was the holly.
Holly! Holly! Oh the first tree in the greenwood, it was the holly.

With an axe we go a-hunting the green-boughed fir tree
as our forebears have done through the long centuries.
Green branches in the winter promise life to be,
and the first tree in the greenwood, it was the holly.
Holly! Holly! Oh the first tree in the greenwood it was the holly.

The Oak burns in the hearth for to give us good cheer
From the Darkness comes the Light at this turn of the year
Green branches in the winter promise life to be,
and the first tree in the greenwood, it was the holly.
Holly! Holly! Oh the first tree in the greenwood, it was the holly.

The Wheel keeps on turning, through dark and through light,
and we sing to its honor, on this longest night.
Green branches in the winter promise life to be,
and the first tree in the greenwood, it was the holly.
Holly! Holly! Oh the first tree in the greenwood, it was the holly.

*These are the verses we sing most often.

 

Children’s Song: Green Grows the Mistletoe

[Edit: I’m updating this post on May 1, 2017, significantly enough that I’m going to re-post it with a new publication date.]

I wrote this in January 1999, as a nursery rhyme for my then-baby godson Aiden. Its tune and structure are borrowed from “Green Grow the Rushes-O,” which dates back to at least the mid-1800s. It’s traditionally sung as a call and response, but that’s totally optional. I sing it by myself all the time.

I posted the lyrics as a Facebook note in May 2013, and moved them to this blog in August 2016. At this re-writing, in April-May 2017, I am grieving Aiden’s untimely death. In considering whether I could sing this at his memorial gathering on April 29, 2017, I was worried about choking up. I started experimenting with Garage Band so I could sing along with myself to get the song back in working vocal memory. During a day of practice in the car, I realized I was often dropping in little bits of harmony, so I recorded those as a separate track. I’ll probably do another more-polished version with more harmony lines eventually, but this one’s OK, and at least it’s complete.

Green Grows the Mistletoe, Take 3 with improv harmony track, April 25, 2017 (see P.S. for Take 1…)

Lyrics:

I’ll sing you one, o
Green grows the mistletoe
What is your one, o?
One Great Wheel a-turning, and ever more shall be so

I’ll sing you two, o
Green grows the mistletoe
What is your two, o?
Two, two, for day and night, spinning round and round, o
One great wheel a-turning, and ever more shall be so

I’ll sing you three, o
Green grows the mistletoe
What is your three, o?
Three for the Morrigan
Two, two for day and night, spinning round and round, o
One great wheel a-turning, and ever more shall be so

I’ll sing you four, o
Green grows the mistletoe
What is your four, o?
Four for the sacred quarter-days
Three for the Morrigan
Two, two for day and night, spinning round and round, o
One great wheel a-turning, and ever more shall be so

I’ll sing you five, o
Green grows the mistletoe
What is your five, o?
Five are the points on an apple-star
Four for the sacred quarter-days
Three for the Morrigan
Two, two for day and night, spinning round and round, o
One great wheel a-turning, and ever more shall be so

I’ll sing you six, o
Green grows the mistletoe
What is your six, o?
Six is still a mystery
Five are the points on an apple-star
Four for the sacred quarter-days
Three for the Morrigan
Two, two for day and night, spinning round and round, o
One great wheel a-turning, and ever more shall be so

I’ll sing you seven, o
Green grows the mistletoe
What is your seven, o?
Seven returned from Caer Sidi*
Six is still a mystery
Five are the points on an apple-star
Four for the sacred quarter-days
Three for the Morrigan
Two, two for day and night, spinning round and round, o
One great wheel a-turning, and ever more shall be so

I’ll sing you eight, o
Green grows the mistletoe
What is your eight, o?
Eight for the kinds of poetry**
Seven returned from Caer Sidi
Six is still a mystery
Five are the points on an apple-star
Four for the sacred quarter-days
Three for the Morrigan
Two, two for day and night, spinning round and round, o
One great wheel a-turning, and ever more shall be so

I’ll sing you nine, o
Green grows the mistletoe
What is your nine, o?
Nine for the woods on the Beltane fire
Eight for the kinds of poetry
Seven returned from Caer Sidi
Six is still a mystery
Five are the points on an apple-star
Four for the sacred quarter-days
Three for the Morrigan
Two, two for day and night, spinning round and round, o
One great wheel a-turning, and ever more shall be so

I’ll sing you ten, o
Green grows the mistletoe
What is your ten, o?
Ten, for Brigid and her maids
Nine for the woods on the Beltane fire
Eight for the kinds of poetry
Seven returned from Caer Sidi
Six is still a mystery
Five are the points on an apple-star,
Four for the sacred quarter-days
Three for the Morrigan
Two, two for day and night, spinning round and round, o
One great wheel a-turning, and ever more shall be so!

* “Except seven, none returned from Caer Sidi” is a line in Robin Williamson’s version of The Spoils of Annwn, a poem attributed to Taliesin.

**I don’t know where this came from, so it might be totally without documentable basis, but I have the lore in my head that bardic poetry has eight purposes: Arbitration, blessing, cursing, worship, prophecy, remembrance, praise, and mockery. (This one is blessing, worship, and remembrance.)

P.S. Here’s Take 1 because Franklin asked for it. It’s a partial take and ends with a funny mistake. (I would have re-recorded it anyway, because I wasn’t warmed up and was trying to sing very quietly/not disturb neighbors late at night, so I’m not pleased with how long it took me to find the tuning/breathing.)

Sassi Saucier vs the Terpenoids (Anniversary Edition)

This piece was originally published as a three-part note on Facebook, March 21-26, 2014. Facebook’s “Memories” feature helpfully reminded me of the anniversary in 2017, prompting me to post it here.

Part One

Where does this tale begin? The struggle with the Terpenoids only lasted a day, but the roots of the story go much deeper. I can’t tell every tale starting with the universe that came before it, though. It would help if you knew me, a little—that I approach cooking from sacred and social and scientific perspectives, and that for me it’s only partly about eating, and feeding others. It’s also about taking pleasure in technique, and honoring what has come before: the struggles of various collections of molecules to find joy in the processes of survival and creation. Continue reading Sassi Saucier vs the Terpenoids (Anniversary Edition)

Sassi Saucier, Cookie Butter, and Magic Bean Water

TL;DR: This is complicated, even for Sassi. Simplified individual recipe links (which won’t work until after the “Continue reading” jump): Cookie Butter Shortbread (Vegan) | Sticky Pumpkin-Cookie Butter Blondies, Maybe? (Vegan) | Hazelnut Meringue Cookies (Vegan!!!)

The Saga of the Pumpkin Noisette Fancies

When it comes to holiday baking, I have a mission: Bake something delicious for the two vegans on my team. Bake sales and dessert buffets are sad for vegans unless someone is looking out for them. I’m a militant omnivore, but I like to take care of my people, and I like the challenge of baking without eggs or dairy products. Continue reading Sassi Saucier, Cookie Butter, and Magic Bean Water

How I Woad: Using Woad for Body Painting

(This is mostly about body painting, but if you like you can skip down to the bit about the colors you can get using woad as dye.)

Caution: Woad can cause allergic reactions and irritate eyes and other sensitive areas. Your use of any techniques or instructions herein is at your own risk. Be sensible.

TL;DR: For the impatient, here’s just my recipe: 1 packet (5g) powdered woad pigment, 2 tsp whisky, pinch of rosemary, wet-ground in a mushroom-shaped mortar and pestle. That makes a concentrate. Mix 1/2 tsp of the concentrate with another 1-2tsp of whisky to achieve your desired coverage quality. Many, many more details below. Gum arabic is optional. I’ve started but not completed some chalk experiments. Continue reading How I Woad: Using Woad for Body Painting

Sassi Saucier and the Potluck Revelation (Two Summer Salads, Good for Potluck)

Originally posted as a Note on Facebook, June 7, 2014. (I’m gradually moving my oeuvre from there to here as other life priorities and the material tolerances of my arm tendons permit.)

TL;DR: Don’t make boring things for potluck.
Skip to the recipes:
Watermelon, Feta, Watercress
Vaguely Southwestern Roasted Vegetable Salad

We had a potluck at work recently. I signed up to make a salad, and then I specified: “Watermelon, watercress, feta cheese, red onion.”

I had a moment of nervousness about that. In my 20s, I thought potluck food had to be “safe”—something I could count on most people being OK with. I think I underestimated other people’s palates, or undervalued my own. I would bring basic salads, or interesting but not terribly challenging cheeses.

Continue reading Sassi Saucier and the Potluck Revelation (Two Summer Salads, Good for Potluck)

Evidence, Innovation, and Adaptation

There’s a tension in the social sector between “evidence-based” and “innovative.” Policy-makers and funders have largely gotten behind the concept that basing decisions on evidence is a good idea. At the same time, they want to see proposals and work plans full of innovative thinking. (It’s hard to get support to keep doing what we’re doing—even if what we’re doing seems to be working just fine—without some innovation in the mix.)

This has bothered me for years on a purely semantic level. If something is truly innovative, then it hasn’t been done before. If it hasn’t been done before, it can’t possibly have been studied. If it hasn’t been studied, there can’t be evidence—at least, not rigorous, gold-standard evidence. So how can something be both “evidence-based” and “innovative”?

My answer? Adaptation.

Cultural and technological advancement—the stuff that builds humanity, that moves us forward as a species—has been driven much more by adaptation than by pure inspiration or creativity. Taking solutions proven in one context and applying them in another. Hearing or reading about pieces of diverse ideas, and fitting them together into something new. Adjusting to the cultural shock when an old way of thinking proves less than useful, or even untrue.

(More to come on this, some day. I just wanted to get the core of the thought articulated.)