My coworker E blows my mind regularly. As a celebration of Rosh Hashanah, she brought in four varieties of homemade herb and spice infused honeys to eat with sliced locally grown apples. I am the elated recipient of small jars of two varieties of those honeys - buckwheat honey infused with lavender, and clover honey infused with a variety of Indian spices (honeygasm, honeygasm). She also made two other clover honey infusions, one with garlic and jalepeño, and the other with fennel, anise, mint, and something else licoricey that is currently slipping my mind. Lord have mercy, those honeys were knee-weakeningly good.
Anyway, this isn't the only thing she does. E often makes amazing marinated vegetable concoctions and brings little containers into work for me to try, and they are always delicious and complex. We both saute greens in the kitchen over the lunch hour and talk about food while we share containers of oil-cured Moroccon olives and meaty cerignolas. I bring fermented vegetables for her and other homemade goodies, but truthfully, I have a hard time keeping up, because she rocks. Lately E has been amazing all of us with her homegrown and epically enormous Moon and Stars variety watermelons to share. These melons are huge, round, heavy, lovely things that measure roughly 1 1/2 feet in diameter. She transports these watermelons to work on a wheely cart. Yes, that' right: my friend E wheels watermelons through the downtown Minneapolis skyways while people in boring business suits whiz past carrying briefcases and talking on their dorky Bluetooth headsets. The last melon she brought in - quite possibly the largest melon I've ever seen - was so unwieldy that it actually broke the wheely cart mid-trip, and she managed to get into work somehow anyway. She is wonderful.
Despite the fact that these watermelons are absolutely enormous, they are beautifully juicy and sweet. I can't tolerate much in the way of watermelon, but I always sneak a little bit, because I can't resist. Last week Friday, as we were gazing upon a bowl full of watermelon seeds, E suggested something that came to me as a bit of a revelation: roasted watermelon seeds. The thought of it made my brain explode. After the initial "whoa" passed, I was hit with absolute shock that this idea had never even crossed my mind. I mean really, we eat roasted squash and pumpkin seeds, so why not watermelon? I knew I had to do it as soon as possible, like, that afternoon. Thankfully, our workplace (a commercial photo studio) has a oven and all the kitchen gear I could ever need, so I was ready to go. And I just so happened to have some leftover seeds from an acorn squash that I baked that morning, so I threw all those seeds together in a roasting pan with some butter, my dad's homemade spice mix, and smoked salt. It was amazing! All my coworkers loved them.
Roasted watermelon seeds are like the kettle chip of the roasted seed world: thick, crunchy, and hearty. Any leftover bits of watermelon caramelize when you roast the seeds, adding a slightly sweet flavor. Besides being delicious, watermelon seeds are also nutritious. Like all seeds, they are a source of fat, fatty acids, and protein, as well as minerals. They are a great source of magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and zinc, and even provide a decent amount of iron. Pretty cool right? In Asia and the Middle East, roasted watermelon seeds are a common snack. So, it's funny that here in the West we are always encouraged to spit them out or throw them away, right?
Since E brought another one of her amazing watermelons in yesterday (using someone else's cart, by the way), I couldn't resist the urge to roast more seeds for my coworkers. So, roast I did, which was followed very shortly by gorging. I snapped a quick photo so I could write up this post, because I knew I needed to share this idea with all of you.
There are lots of recipes online for pan-roasting watermelon seeds, but I have been roasting them in the oven with success. Both times I opted for a medium high temperature rather than super hot, and a longer baking time. The results were excellent! Eat up the last of your garden's watermelons, save the rinds for some homemade watermelon pickles, and save the seeds for a little roasting - what an amazing fruit!
Occasionally my friend E reads this blog, and she has absolutely no idea I've written this about her... I wonder if she'll find it, or if I should tell her I wrote an ode to her? ;)
Roasted Watermelon Seeds
olive oil or melted ghee or other oil
1 Tbsp butter, cut into tiny little pieces (optional, include only if you are a dairy eater)
other spices as desired: ground pepper, cumin, cayenne, paprika, herb blends, etc
Rinse watermelon seeds and soak for 2 hours in salted water. Drain, pat dry, and remove as much of the leftover watermelon goo as you can. Place seeds in a large oven-proof glass or heavy metal baking dish. Drizzle with oil and stir to coat thoroughly, then sprinkle with salt, spices, herbs, etc. and tiny pieces of butter, if using. Place in oven and bake for about 40 minutes at 325º F, then bump it up to 350º F for about 15 minutes until crisp and darker brown (may vary depending on your oven and the size of the seeds). Remove from oven and let cool, transferring to paper towel or a rag to absorb excess oil. They will become more crisp as they cool. Then eat!
Store leftovers in a well-sealed jar in the refrigerator.