I think I’m finally out of my pre-fall funk and much of the credit has to go to the recent appearance of pumpkins. Driving through the Skagit Valley last weekend, we came upon Hedlin Family Farm just outside of La Conner. That morning the sky was gray, leaves on the Big Leaf Maples seem to have skipped their lovely yellow autumn color and have gone straight to brown and we were returning from Orcas Island to the city. But before things got completely dreary, there was Hedlin’s with piles of pumpkins of every size, shape and color. We stopped, wandered around, shot a few photos and before I knew it, I started to feel the teany tiniest excitement about fall and by the time we reached Seattle, I was already dreaming of the delicious dishes I could make with my sweet little pie pumpkin.
I mean, seriously, who doesn’t like pumpkins? Big, beautiful and orange, which happens to be one of my favorite colors. They make me think of fun and family, jack-o-lanterns and pumpkin pie. A trip to a local pumpkin patch can counteract the darkest Northwest day and get you primed for Halloween and then on to Thanksgiving. By all means, you have to try Sally & Bob’s pumpkin pie from scratch. Even if you don’t have time to make a pie now, you can roast, puree and then freeze the pumpkin for later. Not being much of a pie-baker, I went down the pumpkin, lentil and goat cheese salad path instead.
This recipe will work with black or green lentils but use black and you’ll have the perfect dish for Halloween.
Pumpkin, Black Lentil and Goat Cheese Salad Recipe
3/4 cup black lentils
4 cups pumpkin or any winter squash, peeled, seeds and pulp removed, cut into bite-sized chunks
4 T olive oil, divided in half
1/2 t ground cumin
1/2 t smoked paprika
1/8 t cayenne pepper (optional)
1 t chopped fresh thyme
1/2 t sea salt
2 T apple cider vinegar
3/4 c soft goat cheese
Pumpkin seeds, toasted for garnish
Rinse lentils and cook them in boiling salted water until tender but firm, about 30 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
In a large bowl, place pumpkin chunks, 2T olive oil, thyme, cumin, paprika and salt. Toss to coat the pumpkin.
Spread pumpkin chunks in a single layer on baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes at 425, then turn pumpkin over and roast until brown and tender, about 15 more minutes.
Remove pumpkin from the oven and let it cool for about 10 minutes.
Make a simple dressing of 2 T apple cider vinegar and 2 T olive oil.
Combine the lentils and pumpkin, gently toss with dressing and goat cheese. Serve on a bed of greens and garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds.
If you’ve never heard of black lentils, I highly recommend them. Believe it or not, the Palouse region of our state is not only a wheat producing area but grows more lentils than any other area in the country. Pullman, WA even hosts an annual lentil festival each August. These adorably delicious little black beluga lentils are local to our state but are impossibly hard to find, even in Seattle. I found mine at Pleasant Ridge Farm, 4 miles east of La Conner near Rexville Grocery, just off Best Road. Pleasant Ridge has a huge selection of dry beans, apples grown right there, a fridge filled with freshly pressed cider and lots of other seasonal produce. It’s a wonderful farm stand on the honor system (with a money box) and even has decent jazz playing while you shop.
I just couldn’t let all the pumpkin seeds go to waste (or into the compost) so I tried toasting them. So far, toasting pumpkin and squash seeds has been a hit or miss thing for me. These were more of a hit, at least for me, as I couldn’t stop eating them. Lily was my assistant and felt the salt/sugar ratio was too far in the salty range and not sweet enough, but that’s what I would expect from most five-year-olds. I didn’t take the time to measure anything and I probably was a little too heavy-handed with the salt.
I didn’t follow a recipe and decided to just wing it and this time it worked well. Here’s what I did: Place the pumpkin seeds in colander and with the water running, use your hands to clean off all the pulp. Drain the water off and spread the seeds in one layer on a baking sheet to dry. (If you use paper towels, don’t leave too long because they’ll stick to the seeds). I let mine dry overnight. Whisk one egg white with tablespoon or so of apple cider with seasonings — I used sea salt, demerara sugar and cinnamon. Put all the seeds into the egg white/seasoning mixture and stir to coat. Spread seeds on baking tray in single layer. Toast in a pre-heated oven at 375 for about 12 minutes. You can also use melted butter instead of the egg white.
Toasting pumpkin seeds is very easy and fun for kids. It makes an excellent tea party food served with fresh mint tea.