Pepitas and cinco succulents


Plenty of people will have a tough time taking pumpkin seeds seriously.
Fair enough. Americans unfamiliar with Hispanic foods generally only encounter them in the scrape out of jack-o-lanterns.
But roasted, hulled pumpkin seeds (properly known as pepitas) are a delicious, nutty backbone of many Mexican dishes and thanks to the popularity of Hispanic foods, they are easy to find. Grocers sell several varieties‚ raw, roasted, salted and not, among others.  Don’t buy regular “snacking” pumpkin seeds still in their hulls.
Like many nuts and seeds, pepitas taste best when toasted and salted. The flavor is nutty, pleasantly oily and crunchy but not hard.
To toast pepitas, add a handful or so to a dry skillet over medium heat. Stir constantly until the seeds puff and begin to brown.
Traditionally, pepitas are included in mole sauce, mixed into roasted butternut squash. Pepitas really shine when added to salads.
Marcona almonds are a Spanish variety of almond that have a  buttery-savory flavor quite different from conventional almonds.

Grilled Flank Steak with
Pepita-Cilantro Sauce

For the steaks:
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 pounds flank steaks

For the sauce:
1 cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup packed fresh cilantro
1/2 cup toasted pepitas
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
2 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper. Add the steaks, turn to coat, then refrigerate for 30 minutes. To make the sauce, in a food processor combine the parsley, cilantro, pepitas, olive oil, vinegar, oregano, cumin, salt, garlic and red pepper flakes. Process for 2 to 3 minutes, or until very smooth. Set aside.
Heat a grill to high. Remove the steaks from the marinade, then grill for about 7 minutes or less per side for medium-rare. Transfer the steaks to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes. Slice the steaks across the grain into thin slices. Serve topped with the sauce. Makes about four servings.

2 cups salted marcona (or other) almonds
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg, beaten
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 tablespoon olive oil
5 ounces sliced button or cremini mushrooms
1 large yellow onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup fat-free half & half
3  green onions, chopped
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. In a food processor, combine almonds and red pepper flakes. Pulse until coarsely ground, but not reduced to a paste. Transfer the mixture to a shallow bowl. Mix in breadcrumbs. Place the flour in a second bowl and the egg in a third. One at a time, lay each chicken breast flat on the cutting board. Use a knife to carefully slice each in half horizontally to create 2 thin cutlets. Dredge each cutlet first through flour, then egg, and finally through breadcrumb mixture until well coated. Arrange on the baking sheet.
Bake the cutlets for 10 minutes, or until lightly browned. In a large skillet over medium-high, heat the oil. Saute mushrooms, onion and garlic until mushrooms are browned and liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Stir in the cream, scraping the bottom of the pan. Season with salt and pepper, then stir in the chives. Serve the chicken cutlets topped with the mushroom sauce. Makes about four servings.