Crunchy, nutty and delicious, there's so much more to pumpkin seeds than a hasty handful snack. They're a calorie-dense snack rich in mono-unsaturated fats to help lower cholesterol as well as being high in magnesium, potassium, zinc and iron. Pumpkin seeds, often called pepitas, are also an excellent source of tryptophan and glutamate, both of which aid sleep and relieve anxiety. One could go on and on about the nutritious value of this incredible “super food,” but the true value is their culinary versatility and, of course, they taste fabulous!
Uptown on Magazine Street, the folks at Del Fuego Taqueria are no strangers to the green beauties of the gourd. My favorite dish, aside from the Mission Burrito with carnitas, would have to be their “loaded” guacamole overflowing with chicharrones (cracklins), cotija, roasted poblano peppers, bacon and, you guessed it, pepitas.
Head Downtown to Johnny Sanchez where traditional Mexican cuisine is prepared with a decidedly modern slant by Chefs/Owners Aarón Sánchez and John Besh. Among items like “Albondigas,” or Mexican meatballs, made with creamy masa, and chipotle and squash blossom tacos, one can try a wood-fired shrimp salad with roasted squash and avocado drizzled with a pumpkin seed-cilantro pesto.
What's really cool is that the use of pepitas has crossed over cultures to appear in dishes that aren't remotely Mexican, like the marinated Gulf snapper at the newly opened Toups South located in Central City on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard. In a dish that tastes of Thailand, this crudo consists of fresh Gulf snapper tossed with green pepitas, which is served in a butternut squash and coconut milk sauce plus a spicy chili oil.
Although it shouldn't surprise anyone, Chefs Micheal Stoltzfus and Kristen Essig at the incredibly popular neighborhood restaurant, Coquette, have featured pumpkin seeds on their menu from time to time. For example, just recently on their Friday lunch menu, a three-course prix fixe for $30, the second course offers a crawfish agnolotti with kohlrabi, pumpkin seeds and English peas. Though $30 is just a tad out of our $20 limit, why not have a friend join you and split it? With dishes like coffee-cured cobia, beef brisket sausage and a key lime tart, I'm sure there will be plenty of food for two!
Vegans use pepitas (like many other nuts and seeds) in a lot of their preparations. So it's no surprise to find them at Seed, probably the only all-vegan restaurant in New Orleans. At this Lower Garden District anomaly, you'll find pumpkin seeds in their roasted carrot and avocado salad, and in the Creole zucchini wraps with cashew cheese and spinach.
Finally, Owner Lauren Morlock at Sólo Espresso is caffeinating the denizens of the Bywater with craft coffee drinks made with Miami-based Panther Coffee. But, the café also makes it a point to offer lots of goodies from Port City Pantry. Plus, Morlock herself makes her own gluten-free granola, chock-full of pumpkin seeds and crunchy oat clusters, which makes a perfect breakfast along with Crescent City Creamery's decadent Greek yogurt.