We have been on winter squash overload. Between our Winter CSA share and my penchant for buying beautiful vegetables at Farmers Market that I don’t need, I ended up with a pumpkin, a monster butternut squash, and an acorn squash all in the same weekend. Since Keith and I love roasted squash as an addition to any meal (we will even mix it in with our scrambled eggs for brunch on the weekends—it’s so good with fresh fried sage and a little manchego cheese), we had no problem envisioning what to do with all of those lovely cubes of carmelized sweetness. Needless to say, I had a ton of pumpkin and squash seeds, so I turned them into a spiced sweet and salty snack. I know it seems like a ton of work for a snack that you can eat all in one sitting, but, since my obsession with putting warm spices (cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, ect) on everything has returned (as it does every winter), these squash and pumpkin seeds seemed to be the perfect way to get the intensely spicy flavors of chai into a crunchy and healthy snack.
Ever since Starbucks made Chai a household “Venti” beverage way back in the late 90s, I have seen a million incarnations of “chai spiced” something (lattes, cookies, teas) pop up at eateries all over New York. Unfortunately for all of us, whenever any spice blends from another country is co-opted by Chain Restaurant USA they are often ‘adjusted’ (read: corrupted) to appeal to the American palate. For anything in the dessert realm this normally means that High Fructose Corn Syrup and refined white sugar are added with reckless abandon until you end up with a product that is a shell of its former spicy self and oozing with a sweetness that will make your teeth hurt. For me, the intensity and the warmth of the Chai Masala is one of my favorite characteristics of this spice blend, and, because my Chai Masala came straight from India by way of one of my former colleagues (shoutouts to Deepika and Gurav) I am doing my best to let its authentic self sing. If you have not been blessed with such a Chai Masala hookup, check out this chai masala recipe to make your very own for this sweet, salty, and spicy snack (please note: omit the water and the black tea leaves and throw in a half teaspoon of cloves to make it work really well with these squash seeds).
1 3/4 chai spice blend
1/2 tbs pink Himalayan salt
1 tbs sugar
1/3-1/2 cup of raw pumpkin or squash seeds
¾ tbs grapeseed oil
Preheat oven to 350 F (if you plan on soaking them prior to roasting them preheat oven to 400F). Clean squash seeds in a bowl of warm water. Remove as much residual squash flesh from the seeds as possible.
Drain seeds and let dry. Some recipes that I have read recommend that you soak the seeds for an hour, dry, and then roast them. Though I didn’t do that for this batch, soaking them makes it much easier to get even toasting (especially if you have an oven that was manufactured the same year you were born with extreme hot spot issues). If you soak them you can also crank the temperature of the oven up to 400F, which will melt the sugar on the seeds and will create an almost candy like shell around them.
On a foil lined baking sheet toss seeds with oil, salt, sugar, and chai masala. Roast for 10-20 minutes. The timing of this roast really depends on how much you trust your oven. Since my oven is less reliable than the L train when you have to get to Williamsburg in a hurry, my strategy is to keep a close eye on them after minute 12. Let them cool for around 10 minutes, and enjoy!