Like most Generation-Y’ers, my grandparents saved every Styrofoam meat tray, every bread clip, and [at least in my Japanese grandparents’ household] every tofu container. I always thought this was sort of silly (when and why would I ever need 57 meat trays?!?!). I was raised to believe (and still maintain) that material things are all replaceable, and have thus wasted a hell of a lot of stuff — I’ve never had a shoe repaired, nor a television, and the S.O. and I have actually thrown away a printer because buying a new one was cheaper than buying ink cartridges for the old one.
But now that I’m, in a sense, running my own household, I’ve become much more conscious of waste. I try to get the most out of meats and produce — and I actually enjoy the challenge of maximizing a carrot’s utility. I’m better about consuming food before it expires and must be thrown away (except leftovers; I still can’t stomach last night’s chicken and rice for lunch today). And I’ve even started saving cottage cheese containers — they make great prep bowls!
After Halloween last week, I noticed the two pumpkins sitting on my porch. In years past, these little orange bulbs would have gone into the trash quicker than you could say, “Thanksgiving’s coming.” But these were perfectly good pie pumpkins. I challenged myself to use them — and to use every last bit of them.
Now, a few words of caution if you want to cook with your Halloween pumpkins: Hurry, they’ll turn bitter if left out too long in unstable weather. If you’ve already carved the pumpkin, it’s only use is compost (sorry, no eating). Smaller varietals grown for eating (e.g. pie pumpkins) work best. If you have a 12-pound jack-o-lantern pumpkin, that sucker was never meant to be eaten — you can work with the seeds and rind, but the flesh will probably be too bitter to be useful.
Dealing with the flesh is easy — I cubed and roasted mine with olive oil, and have reserved it for some other recipes. Dealing with the seeds is also straightforward — everyone has made roasted pumpkin seeds. That being said, I’ve never been happy with my roasted pumpkin seeds; they always turn out tough. So this time, I decided to boil them in brine before roasting — miraculously light, crunchy, airy pumpkin seeds result! Finally, to use the remaining rind and strings (or “guts”), I made a pumpkin-based vegetable stock (it’s vegan). I threw in an onion and some nearing-the-end herbs I foraged from my fridge. But DIY stock is a very flexible recipe. You can add any other veggies you have — carrot peels, leeks, a celery base — as long as there’s enough water in the stockpot to submerge them.
So here you go, two recipes for a totally waste-free Halloween!
[A nod to Treeworks Idaho, who crafted the lovely spoon in the photos.]
Pumpkin Vegetable Stock
Makes about 8 C of stock
- 10 C water
- rind and strings from 1-2 pie pumpkins (do not include the stem)
- 1 medium onion, quartered
- 1 T salt, or to taste
- few sprigs of thyme
- 1-2 sprigs of rosemary
- small handful of lovage (can substitute celery tops)
- Place all ingredients into large stockpot, and stir to incorporate. Can add any additional veggies and herbs you might have. Can also adjust the amount of water — more water produces a more dilute stock, less water a more condensed stock. Just be sure there’s enough water in the stockpot to cover all the veggies.
- Over medium-high heat, bring to a simmer, then maintain the simmer for about 1 hour, stirring from time to time.
- Remove from heat, and pour through a mesh sieve to separate the stock from the vegetable and herb remnants. Be sure to press any trapped stock out of the veggies, simply by pushing on them (while they’re sitting in the sieve) with the back of a ladle.
- Store stock in sterilized jars in refrigerator up to 2 weeks.
Garam Masala Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
- seeds from 1-2 pie pumpkins (about 2 C, give or take)
- 4 C water
- 1 T salt
- olive oil
- garam masala
- chile powder*
- Clean the pumpkin seeds. Bring water and salt to a boil in a large stockpot. Add pumpkin seeds, and boil for 10 minutes.
- Prepare a parchment- or foil-lined baking sheet, and preheat oven to 325°F.
- Drain boiled pumpkin seeds. Toss with olive oil, garam masala, and chile powder. Add coarse flake salt if needed, to taste. Spread pumpkin seeds onto single layer on baking sheet. Bake 30 minutes or until dry, but not darkened.
- Let cool before storing in air-tight container.
* I prefer a lighter chile powder, like that from Japanese or Korean red chillies, birds-eye chillies, Hawaiian chillies, etc. The chile powder you buy in most grocery stores is too bitter, and almost smoky, for pumpkin seeds.