haunted.

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It is very, very hard for me to work up any kind of enthusiasm about Halloween.

Except for a few great years in my partying days, it’s never been my favourite occasion – and this year, I am feeling especially curmudgeonly about it. If it weren’t for my children, I would, without a doubt, be one of those people who turned off the lights and locked the doors and stayed in the attic drinking wine until it was all over.

Thankfully, earlier this week – before I got too mired in irritation about it all – I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon with the fabulous Kristin Sjaarda. We hung out, drank coffee, dissected the latest unpleasant news of our world, weathered an epic rainstorm, and put together a spooky mantel to be featured on the Marion House Book today.

If you head over there right now, you’ll miss my (humbug) rant about the senselessness of sending our children out into the cold, dark night with the sole mandate of gathering and gobbling up as much refined sugar as they possibly can – lucky you! – but if you stick around here, you get this recipe for pumpkin seeds.

First published on this blog three years ago, they have become a Halloween tradition around here (if such a thing exists) and remain my go-to reward for getting through this day.

Well, these and the baby Kit Kats.

Trick or Treat!

Pumpkin Seeds for Snacking

the seeds of one large pumpkin, cleaned of goo, rinsed, and well dried
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp (lightly packed) brown sugar
1 tsp sea salt
2 pinches cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment.

Place pumpkin seeds in a large mixing bowl. In a separate small bowl, stir together remaining ingredients, then toss with pumpkin seeds until they are well coated.

Spread seeds onto prepared baking sheet and bake 45 minutes, until dry and slightly golden in colour, stirring every 15 minutes or so.

Serves one spooked Mama.

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we’ve come a long way.

I love a leap year.

In this era where nearly everything can be adjusted to suit standards that seem more exacting by the day, where we calculate our time down to the second on a regular basis and even a baby’s birth can be scheduled, there is something to be celebrated – something pleasingly archaic if slightly bizarre – in the continuing existence of February 29th.

The only down side is that it prolongs the end of this dreary month, which, as far as I am concerned, could not come soon enough.

Just when I thought I had endured this balmy winter largely unscathed, I was beset recently by the dreaded seasonal slump – I’ve mentioned it before, and I even had the temerity to suggest that I had avoided it this year; but that was sadly not the case (as evidenced in part by the recent waffle-mania that has overtaken our house).

So we aren’t celebrating the extra day in February, exactly.

 

But it will be six years ago tomorrow that my husband and I moved to this city that my family now calls home, and to that I’ll happily raise a glass.

It’s been an eventful few years – which coming from me, having lived a fairly unconventional and action-packed life, is saying a great deal – and although there were some harrowing times that I could certainly have done without, most of the time I marvel at how far we have come.

This recipe takes me back to the early days of my first pregnancy, and the beginning of my time here: a time when I felt utterly unmoored, far from everyone who knew me well and overwhelmed by what I had undertaken when I decided to embrace this new life, new love, new neighbourhood – and vastly empty new home.


Of course it all came together, and relatively quickly at that.

But before it did I made a batch of socca one cold, bright March afternoon and ate it off a paper towel with my fingers, sitting on the floor all alone and looking out the bare kitchen window and shaping, in my mind’s eye, a life.

Our life.

A long way, indeed.

 


Nearly Mark Bittman’s Socca

I have made one addition to to this simple recipe, and fiddled somewhat with the method, so if you are a stickler you’ll find the original here. This is a southern French dish, ideally paired with cold rose served in tumblers in the heat of an August afternoon, but for some reason it always comes calling for me at this time of year.

2c chickpea flour
2 tsp coarse sea salt
2 tsp ground cumin (I am currently obsessed with roasted cumin and would recommend that if you can find it, but regular ground cumin is of course more than fine)
a generous grinding of black pepper
2c warm water
1/4c extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, halved lengthwise and then thinly sliced, lengthwise
2-4 tbsp olive oil (not necessarily extra virgin, since it’s going into a very hot pan)

Sift flour into a large mixing bowl. Add salt, cumin and pepper and stir to combine, then slowly whisk in water to form a smooth batter. Whisk in extra virgin olive oil. Cover and let the batter sit for as long as possible, ideally an hour or two and overnight if it comes to that.

Set a 10-inch cast iron skillet on a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Stir onions into batter.

When oven and pan are hot, remove pan from heat; swirl about a tablespoon of olive oil into the pan, then add a scant ladleful of batter, tilting the pan so that the batter reaches the edges and thinly coats the bottom. Return pan to oven and cook 8-10 minutes, until batter is golden around the edges. Gently flip the socca in the pan; return to the oven and cook a further 3-4 minutes, until golden and crispy on both sides.

Slide socca onto a plate and eat (or serve) immediately.

Repeat with remaining olive oil and batter.

Makes six beautiful socca.


Boo!

I will not be sorry to see the back of Halloween.

I have never liked it, not even as a child, when the lure of the kind of refined sugar that we would never, ever, set eyes on at home should have been a very powerful motivator.

Thankfully, my children are too young yet to express the kind of rabid interest in trick-or-treating (my least favourite part of the whole thing) that I know is inevitable, and I am grateful for another year’s reprieve.

The one consolation, as I wait for the minutes of today to tick by, is the availability of these pumpkin seeds, which my husband prepared himself and then very thoughtfully left at my disposal.

Sweet, salty, spicy (the ultimate taste trifecta) and highly addictive, they, and not the mini chocolate bars in the bowl by the front door, are what I am counting on to get me through.

At least that’s what I am telling myself.

Pumpkin Seeds for Snacking

the seeds of one large pumpkin, cleaned of goo, rinsed, and well dried
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp (lightly packed) brown sugar
1 tsp sea salt
2 pinches cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment.

Place pumpkin seeds in a large mixing bowl. In a separate small bowl, stir together remaining ingredients, then toss with pumpkin seeds until they are well coated.

Spread seeds onto prepared baking sheet and bake 45 minutes, until dry and slightly golden in colour, stirring every 15 minutes or so.

Serves 1 spooked Mama.