Toasted Squash Seeds

For a tasty snack, toast the seeds from butternut squash. Heat oven to 275°. Wash the seeds in a bowl of water to remove seed fiber. Drain the seeds and remove any remaining bits of flesh or fiber. Spread on a cotton dishtowel and allow to dry. Place seeds in a bowl, add olive oil to lightly coat, and salt. Place seeds in one layer on a cookie sheet and toast in warmed oven until seeds brown, about 10 minutes, checking doneness by taste.


Toasting Nuts and Seeds

Here are two techniques to toast nuts and seeds:

  1. The most convenient way to toast any nut or seed is to preheat the oven to 375, spread the nuts on a sheet pan and place in the oven. Check them every 5 minutes, stirring each time for an even toast. Remove them from the oven when they reach desired toast and transfer them immediately to another container.
  2. They may also be toasted in a preheated, dry, sauté pan. Heat the pan over medium-high heat and add the nuts. Start to stir, toss and sauté the nuts immediately. When they become golden and fragrant, transfer them immediately to another container to stop the cooking.

Important Note: If you leave the nuts in the hot pan, the oils in the nut will continue to conduct heat and can scorch the nut. When the nuts or seeds are toasted, transfer them immediately to another container to stop the cooking.


Unique Ingredients Up the Taste Ante

Masa Harina is made from hominy and has a very distinct flavor. I prefer it for my chili, but any type of flour may be used as a replacement.


Use a Pencil Cut for Maximum Flavor

I like to use a “pencil cut” to prepare mirepoix for stock or vegetables for puréed soups. This cut creates a vegetable that is not only more even in size but, with more surface area exposed, it’s also more flavorful. Use a pencil cut for long vegetables like carrots and parsnips. Here’s how: First peel the vegetable. Holding the vegetable in one hand with the tip on the cutting board, cut on an angle, as if you were sharpening a pencil. Rotate the vegetable a quarter turn and make another cut. Continue to the end.


Why Brine?

Brining gives meat a firmer consistency and seasons the meat to the bone. Salt causes the protein in meat to unwind as if exposed to heat or alcohol. When the protein unwinds they tangle together again to form a matrix that traps moisture, resulting in a moist, juicy product. Sugar in the brine has little effect on the texture but adds flavor and promotes browning. Aromatics added to the brine also have no effect, but add flavor to the meat.