Fall is in the air and my cooking thoughts always turn to simmered meats and vegetables, with lots of warm, spicy layers of flavor. It’s also the time of year to carve our pumpkins in preparation for the ghouls and goblins. Don’t waste your pumpkin seeds! Dry them in the sun and then use them for this authentic Mexican green molé sauce. Of course you can buy them, too.
Toasting the ingredients in a dry skillet is essential for coaxing out the complex flavors of the vegetables, spices and seeds. If you don’t have a cast-iron skillet, you can use any sturdy, good quality skillet that isn’t non-stick. This sauce is vegetarian and as such, makes a versatile sauce for simmering anything from tofu to winter squash, poultry, pork or seafood. Or even for making tamales.
Pumpkin Seed Molé Sauce
Makes about 2 1/2 cups
1 whole, dried red chile such as New Mexican or Ancho
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
2 Roma tomatoes
2 -3/4 inch thick slices of white onion
3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 green onions cut into thirds
2 Serrano chiles
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
1 small handful cilantro
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Bring a kettle of water to a boil. Cut the dried chile open lengthwise and remove the seeds. Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Toast the chile on both sides until fragrant but not smoking. Remove to a small bowl. When the water boils, pour it over the chile and let the chile sit for 10 to 15 minutes. You will need about 1 cup of this water later.
Meanwhile, in the same hot skillet, toast the cumin seeds for 2 to 3 minutes, shaking the pan often until the seeds are brown and fragrant but not smoking. Transfer them to a small bowl and let cool.
Put the pumpkin seeds in the same hot, dry skillet and toast the pumpkin seeds until brown and fragrant, shaking the pan often, about 5 minutes. Transfer them to a small bowl to cool.
In the same hot, dry skillet, place the tomatoes, garlic cloves, green onions and Serrano chiles. Toast the items together, turning often with tongs, until brown and soft. Take them out as they are done. The green onions will take the least time, the garlic and tomatoes the most.
Grind the cumin seeds in a mortar and pestle or in an electric spice grinder. When the garlic is cool enough to handle, peel it. Remove the seeds and stems from the Serrano chiles and discard. If you want the sauce really hot, leave some or all of the seeds.
Place the red chile (reserving the soaking water), ground cumin, pumpkin seeds, tomatoes, green and white onions, garlic, Serrano chiles, oregano, cilantro, and about 1 cup of chile soaking water into a blender. (If the dish you are making is not vegetarian, you may choose to use chicken broth). Blend until smooth, adding more water or broth if necessary. Add salt a little at a time, tasting to adjust. Transfer the sauce to a small saucepan and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to blend flavors. The sauce is ready to use.
Use local, organic ingredients whenever possible and natural, humanely raised meats.
Recipe Copyright Vanessa Barrington 2009
Image: D3 San Francisco