Fragrant with cumin and enhanced with the addition of a homemade pumpkin seed pesto, this sautéed rice dish is perfect to serve as an accompaniment to a grilled meat meal or with a chili dish, a white chicken chili comes to mind. According to Chowhound, sautéing the rice first gives it a toothier texture, maintains the integrity of the grain and adds depth to the flavor of the rice. I learned this years ago when making Mexican rice and it’s become a standard when cooking rice for many dishes.
Pepitas also play a starring role in my Mexican and Southwestern kitchen, either roasted for a snack or ground for a green pozole with chicken. I can see that this pumpkin seed pesto will also become a favorite pesto to serve over pasta, as part of a salad dressing or in guacamole. Redolent with garlic and cilantro, the toasted pumpkin seed pesto comes together quick and easily using a food processor to grind the ingredients. The pesto keeps well for two days, its surface and bowl tightly covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated. I actually froze my batch of pesto and time will tell if the pesto holds up after freezing.
For your information, pepita is derived from “pepita de calabaza” meaning “little seed of the squash” and is harvested from many varieties of squash. Most of our pepitas come from China now, but pepitas from Mexico are my favorite. I prefer to buy them raw and roast them myself. The seeds are a good source of protein and can be made into an oil for salad dressings or as a cooking oil.
Sauteed Rice with Pumpkin Seed Pesto
1 cup white rice
2 tablespoons oil
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups hot chicken broth, or water
3 tablespoons pumpkin seed pesto, recipe follows
Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add rice and stir until it becomes lightly golden. Add onion and cook until it is golden. Add cumin, broth,salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and cook for 15 minutes or until broth is absorbed and rice is tender. Stir in the pumpkin seed pesto and keep hot until serving time.
Pumpkin Seed Pesto
Makes about 2 cups
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cups, unsalted, hulled green pumpkin seeds
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup water
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
4 green onions, chopped
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice, or to taste
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook pumpkin seeds with salt and pepper to taste, stirring constantly until seeds are puffed and beginning to brown, about 4 minutes. Do not let all of them brown. Add garlic and cook, stirring about 1 minute. Transfer pumpkin seed to plate and let cool completely.
Pulse seed mixture with water, cilantro, green onions and remaining 4 tablespoons oil until mixture forms a coarse paste. Transfer to a bowl:stir in lime juice along with salt and pepper to taste. Use immediately, or cover surface and bowl with plastic wrap. Keeps 2 days refrigerated.
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