Roast Pumpkin with Arugula and Candied Pumpkin Seeds

by

Difficulty level Easy

YIELD Serves 6

Okay, the fun and games of Halloween are over and now it is time to turn your attention to the serious business of Thanksgiving. Over the next few weeks, I am going to give you some suggestions for easy to make side dishes which you can take as your contribution to the dinner. Or maybe this is the year that you are hosting the event and need some ideas.

Being mindful of just how hectic the kitchen can be on the big day-and how frazzled the cook may become-the focus of this series will be on recipes that you can make ahead of time, or that need very little last-minute attention.Today's recipe originally included grilled polenta, but that just seemed more complicated than necessary and the rest of the recipe sounded quite good so I just dropped that part of it. Don't be a slave to a recipe.

Part of learning to cook is learning to drop things and substitute. If you don't have pomegranate juice, use cranberry juice. The pumpkins in my local market didn't look terrific, so I got a butternut squash instead. The spinach was local and the arugula wasn't, so I used the spinach. I didn't want to buy special vinegar, so I used red wine vinegar. This recipe was designed to serve the pumpkin warm, but we ate it at room temperature and it was delicious.

A word to the wise: Hide the candied pumpkin seeds until you are ready to serve the salad or they will be gone. In fact, they are so good you could make batches of these and take them in jars or bowls to parties as a hostess gift.

INGREDIENTS

1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 cup raw green (hulled) pumpkin seeds, also called pepitas
1 tbsp fresh pomegranate juice, or cranberry juice
2 tsp sherry vinegar
1 tsp minced shallot
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 small pumpkin or butternut squash, about 2 lbs peeled, quartered lengthwise and seeded
1 piece Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
8 oz arugula, washed

PREPARATION:

  1. Cut pumpkin quarters in 1/2 thick pieces. Toss with 1 tbsp oil and salt and pepper and arrange in one layer in a shallow baking pan. Roast at 450 F for until just tender, about 20 minutes. If you are using squash, you can roast it with the peel on and then remove the flesh. That will take more like 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and cover and keep warm if you are intending to serve the salad warm.
  2. Meanwhile, melt 1 tbsp butter in a heavy saucepan over moderate heat. Stir in sugar, cumin, cinnamon, paprika, cayenne and 1/4 tsp salt, then cook without stirring, until caramelized. Add pumpkin seeds and cook, stirring occasionally, until seeds are puffed and golden. Transfer to a plate to cool. When seeds have hardened, break up any clumps with your fingers.
  3. In a small bowl whisk together pomegranate juice, vinegar and shallot and let stand 5 minutes. Whisk in 3 tbsp oil, remaining 1/4 tsp salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Whisk vinaigrette again, then toss arugula in a large bowl with enough vinaigrette to lightly coat. Cover the bottom of a serving platter with dressed arugula, then place pieces of pumpkin on top. Sprinkle with candied pumpkin seeds, and add shavings of Parmesan cheese. Drizzle with remaining vinaigrette.
  5. You can roast the pumpkin earlier in the day. You can make the pumpkin seeds up to three days in advance and keep them an airtight container. To juice a pomegranate, firmly roll in on a work surface until it feels softer, then cut a small hole in the skin and squeeze.
  6. This recipe originally appeared in Gourmet Magazine, October 1991
This recipe appears in: Fall
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