Who better to ask about pumpkins than some of San Diego’s top chefs? They spill the seeds for how to select a perfect pumpkin, tips for perfect roasted seeds and much more.
Alberto Morreale, Farmer’s Bottega
During the Halloween season, Chef Morreale heads to Oma’s pumpkin patch in Lakeside where there is a cotton seed slide and a dairy farm with newborn cows for the kids. And, it’s no surprise that his jack-o-lantern contributes to tasty dishes cooked at home.
Tip: After baking pumpkin seeds, he scoops out a little fresh pumpkin to add to the pies his daughter and wife make. “We also make a spicy chipotle pumpkin soup with sliced avocado, it’s just the right mix of sweet, salty and spicy,” he says.
Christina Pancheri, Miss B’s Coconut Club
Halloween is one of Chef Pancheri favorite holidays and while grocery stores have a nice selection of pumpkins, she prefers to head to the pumpkin patch for a more memorable experience. “I remember going to the local pumpkin patch in Poway when I was a little girl; the smells of the hay, corn, and pumpkins in the air, with the excitement of Halloween coming up around the corner,” she says.
Tip: “First and foremost, when picking your pumpkin, you want to make sure the pumpkin is in tip top shape, which means checking for soft spots, openings, or wrinkles; those need to be avoided,” she says. Make sure the pumpkin has a flat bottom surface so the pumpkin can stand upright but don’t ignore ones that stand up on their sides as they provide unique twists on carving creations.
Shelly Velez, Pillbox Tavern
Chef Velez is an advocate of making delicious snacks from pumpkin seeds… it’s her favorite part about pumpkin carving.
Tip: Because removing pulp from the seeds can be time-consuming, she suggests soaking them in water to so they float. Next, dry them off on a sheet pan over a paper towel. “After they are dry, I melt butter and pour it over the seeds to cover them and add my favorite seasoning,” she says. “I suggest Cajun, salt and pepper, curry, ranch, or cinnamon and sugar. Brown sugar and maple is good, too, but it would need to sit a little longer.” Cook them for approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour (depending on how big the seeds are) at 325° until they are nice and crisp.
Kevin Templeton, barleymash
Chef Templeton has fond memories of heading to Bates Nut Farm as a kid to pick out pumpkins and participate in all of the farm’s awesome fall activities. He has advice for keeping that jack-o-lantern in tip-top shape.
Tip: “For good carving pumpkins, I suggest getting a medium size one,” he says. The reason is that they’re easier to carve when they are a little smaller and the big ones can be really hard to clean and carve. Chef Templeton also advises dunking carved pumpkins in a little bleach and water to help them last a little longer.
Have any expert pumpkin tips? Please share!