This past weekend, I took the train to Montreal to visit with the CFO (unfortunately, the HH stayed at home on dog duty, as our regular doggie daycare was closed and it was too late to find an alternative). Just before I left, though, I was delighted to learn that I’d been awarded the “E for Excellence” award by Misty over at Mischief blog! Misty is also the owner of 2 adorable dogs (check out their Halloween duds!) who often appear on her blog (plus lots of yummy food, of course). Sorry it’s taken me so long to acknowledge this, Misty, as I ran off on Friday and just returned yesterday evening. It’s much appreciated and I’m so glad you think my blog is excellent! Thanks so much.
While lovely nonetheless, the visit was over in a flash, filled with a cocktail party, brunch with the family, a birthday lunch with friends, and a stroll through the area known as the Plateau (fascinating, isn’t it, how 90% of social activities revolve around food? Sorry, what’s that you say? What do you mean, it’s just me–??). Since my birthday (sort of) coincided with the CFO’s annual cocktail party, we combined celebrations. As the HH remarked before I left, this year I seem to be enjoying The Birthday That Wouldn’t End. But who am I to argue?
Let me tell you, that CFO sure knows how to throw a party! The menu featured several vegan options, as well as a few gluten-free choices (though, if I remember correctly, the two never overlapped in a single hors d’oeuvre). Still, there was plenty for me to eat and drink, such as tapenade-topped mini-toasts; an apple-pecan butter-cracker combo; crudités and spinach dip; thai rice salad with peppers, cilantro and mango; spanakopita; plus a few others I’ve forgotten (and don’t even get me started on the desserts). Saturday afternoon was reserved for a leisurely lunch with my old buddies Phil, Linda and Babe, and on Sunday morning, my family brunched at a restaurant I’d not heard of before, called Orange, where they offer the most astonishingly boundless bowls of steaming, perfectly creamy yet nubby oatmeal, capped with your choice of imaginative toppings, from fresh berries to cinnamon-apple pie filling to walnuts and coconut doused in maple syrup.
Still, it was good to be home. That final stretch of the journey always seems to elicit in me a certain psychic restlessness, the desire to stretch, stand up and stroll the length of car as the train approaches Toronto. No matter how many times I leave and return, I still experience that familiar ripple of excitement and anticipation, the tingle in the chest, when I first catch a glimpse of city life twinkling in the distance beyond the blanket of black outside the window. Slowly, the number of flickering lamps or silhouettes in apartment windows multiplies, then the glaring neon billboards make their appearance above highway overpasses, and cars’ flashing headlights join the symphony of movement and glitter. Before I know it we’re within reach of the CN tower and the station beneath the Royal York Hotel, the buzz of the downtown humming up through the rails. Toronto, with its denizens crowding the streets at 11:00 PM, knots of taxis and buses jammed in front of the station, the clang of the train and roar of the subway and yips emanating from staggering groups of twenty-somethings as they exit the bars after midnight. . . yep, it’s good to be home.
As it turned out, we didn’t ”do” Halloween this year. Due to both my absence and The Girls’ xenophobic reaction to strangers at the door (read: frenzied barking and growling, at a volume of around 120 decibels), the HH chose to forgo the treats. Still, like many of you, we do have a surfeit of pumpkin and pumpkin seeds left in the house. I remembered this recipe and thought it would be a perfect way to use the pepitas.
I call this mixture “pesto,” but it can also be used on its own as a spread for crackers or bread. In fact, the inspiration came shortly after I sampled roasted garlic for the first time and was immediately transported. As I recall, the HH and I were served an entire head of garlic once at a restaurant, the top sliced clean across and the pudgy exposed cloves baked to a rich, earthy mahogany, glistening with a sheen of olive oil. We squeezed the garlic from the papery casing like toothpaste from the tube, spreading the softened, caramelized pulp on fresh slices of bagette. It was heavenly, and we polished off the entire thing in minutes.
Garlic smell? Yes, heavenly. When baked, its scent is subdued, sweet, and alluring. It’s one of my favorite foods, and I use it as often as I can. In this pesto, the garlic adds richness and a smooth base for the grainy pumpkinseeds, contrasted perfectly with the cilantro and citrus tang of the lemon zest and juice. You can use this spread directly on crackers, as I like to do, or toss it with pasta (save about 1/2 cup of the pasta water to thin it out a bit and create a slight creaminess to the mix). Or, hey–I bet it would even be great as a snack while you mull over some election results!
Since this recipe uses both garlic and cilantro, I thought it would be perfect for Weekend Herb Blogging, newly managed by Haalo of Cook (Almost) Anything At Least Once). This week’s host is Wiffy of Noob Cook.
Roasted Garlic and Pumpkinseed Pesto
This dish is great for your heart, and also terrific for flu season: both garlic and pumpkin seeds are high in antioxidants, and the pumpkinseeds contain zinc, essential for fighting viruses and bacteria.
1 whole bulb garlic (about 8-10 cloves)
4 T. (60 ml.) extra virgin olive oil, separated
1/2 cup (120 ml.) pumpkin seeds (pepitas), lightly roasted
3/4 cup (180 ml.) loosely packed cilantro or parsley, or a combination
2 T. (30 ml.) freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp. (5 ml.) lemon zest
Sea salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Cut the top off the garlic to expose the cloves inside. Place the garlic on a square of aluminum foil or in a garlic baker and drizzle with one tablespoon (15 ml.) of the olive oil. Wrap in foil or cover the baker and bake for about 40 minutes, until soft and dark golden. Let cool.
Meanwhile, in the bowl of a food processor or blender, whir the pumpkin seeds, cilantro or parsley, lemon juice, zest, and remaining oil until almost smooth. Squeeze the garlic from the bottom toward the top so the cooked cloves are pushed out of the skin; add the garlic to the processor and blend again until combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Best served at room temperature. Store, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Makes about 1/2 cup.