The Smashing(ly Good) Pumpkins

31 Oct

Despite the (candy) corny title (and evidently opening sentence of this post), I do like The Smashing Pumpkins, and apologize for any discomfort my distasteful title may have given the band or their fans – not that anyone in those two categories are reading this post. I also like pumpkins and apologize to anyone or thing in that category that might have taken offense as well. But most of all I like Halloween and that’s why I couldn’t resist this overly festive title. Furthermore, I couldn’t help but make a pumpkin/Halloween themed post that may or may not feature the music of the previously named popular 90’s band at some point in this blog entry. But I guess you’ll just have to keep reading to find out how…

Halloween is one of my favourite holidays. Whether you get a kick out of the crazy costumes and parties, or are more a fan of the spooky occult-themed activities, it’s a great time of the year for fun with friends and family.

One wonderfully eerie, but pleasantly informative Halloween activity well known in Victoria is the annual Ross Bay Cemetery ghost tour that takes you through the historic graveyard while hearing tales of those that once were, and those that still are as they haunt lower Vancouver Island.

Another fun activity to do a few days before Halloween is to grab a pair of your favourite wellies and visit the local pumpkin patch. Here you can enjoy the crisp fall air and open spaces while you choose your jack-o-lantern-to-be, as opposed to hard-to-reach boxes that are soggily stacked high with picked-over rejects at the grocery store.

Image taken by Annie O'Brien

But no matter where you choose your bounty, one of the best parts of Halloween is the actual act of carving that pumpkin. Whether it’s whimsical and goofy, or scary and creepy, you can get a lot more out of your jack-o-lantern than just a festive glowing orb on your doorstep if you keep the innards for yet another Halloween activity, this time located in the kitchen! This year I decided to make three different types of roasted pumpkin seeds, as well as a creamy pumpkin soup inspired by a recipe a friend of mine passed along to me.

To make the first treat, I removed the seeds from the rest of the innards, rinsed and dried them, and then put them in three separate bowls for seasoning. For the first batch I added a simple mix of olive oil, salt and pepper. For the second, Williams Sonoma Chili-Lime rub, and for the third, a sweeter mix of melted butter, brown sugar, ground cinnamon, and a teeny splash of vanilla extract.

I baked them all on parchment-paper covered cookie sheets at 350 for about 30 minutes. Make sure you’re watching and turning the seeds throughout, as some toppings cause them to bake a bit faster (for this batch I found the sweet ones were the quicker cookers). These little vitamin-packed treats also make lovely autumnal gifts, although recipients should be warned of their addictive nature.

The soup is a rather loose recipe, with little guidance and practically non-existent quantities. Really the exercise here is to taste constantly and go with your intuition. I began by softening the pumpkin innards in a slow-cooker for about 4-5 hours. If you’re not using the bulk of the meat for your jack-o-lantern, another method is to roast the insides like you would with squash, until it’s soft and somewhat caramelized.

Once the pulp was malleable, I ladled it into a food processor and mixed it on high until it formed a smoother but still moist paste. I then added some applesauce, and a splash of coconut milk, and mixed it again until the ingredients were well combined. To flavour the soup I added a combination of curry, chilli and garlic powder, as well as a couple tablespoons of maple syrup, a splash of vegetable stock, wine and balsamic vinegar, a dash of Worcestershire sauce, and of course generous amounts of salt and pepper to taste. Really the whole recipe is “to taste,” so make sure you have plenty of people in the room to sample as you go if you don’t trust your own palate.

I know it seems like I emptied all my cupboards to supply the numerous ingredients of this recipe, but you can add or leave-out as you see fit. Because I was kind of winging the recipe as I went, I experimented with flavours and textures to create this light but interesting soup. An added bonus is that it’s completely vegan, and thus easily enjoyed by almost all audiences.

After my crazy concoction was complete, I reheated the soup and served it with a garnish of the chilli-lime pumpkin seeds and a sprig of fresh rosemary. So even though all hallow’s eve has almost come to an end for 2011, you now have an ample 365 days to plan for next year’s festivities with a few added suggestions to help. In the meantime, here are a some rather unexpected Halloween themed songs (including your much anticipated Smashing Pumpkins promise) to inspire you as you do all your carving and cooking. But I warn you…some might be a tad “frightening” to the more conservative crowds. Happy Halloween!

Image taken by Stan Shortt

Smashing Pumpkins – Rat In a Cage

Snoop Dogg – Murder Was The Case

The Cranberries – Zombie

Mike Oldfield – Tubular Bells (Aka. The theme song to The Exorcist)

Marilyn Manson – The Beautiful People

Anything by Ryan Gosling’s band Dead Man’s Bones

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