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Insights, tips, and restaurant reports from CHOW editors and Chowhound.

Don’t Toss Out Those Pumpkin Guts

Autumn is pumpkin season, whether you're carving a jack-o'-lantern for the front porch or cooking up a sugar pumpkin for dinner. Either way, you get a bonus: pumpkin seeds. Cleaned and roasted, they make a great snack or recipe ingredient.

For snacking, you can go sweet or savory. Apple likes to toss them with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and brown sugar "and bake them until sweet and lovely." MVNYC roasts them with a mixture of butter, maple syrup, and Sriracha, and tosses them in salt and pepper when they come out of the oven. That sounds meh? CHOW has 10 more ways to season pumpkin seeds.

You can use the seeds in recipes, too. KilgoreTrout toasts the seeds with cumin and chile powder and uses them to make pumpkin seed–cilantro pesto with jalapeño, lime juice and zest, and Parmesan. And pumpkin seeds roasted with nothing but a bit of sea salt "provide a great salty contrast in pumpkin or oatmeal cookies," says Emme.

Discuss: what to do with pumpkin seeds

When Spaghetti Is a Vegetable

Spaghetti squash is a magical vegetable, a winter squash the flesh of which, once cooked, can be pulled into strands that resemble spaghetti with a fork. Most hounds prefer to roast or microwave spaghetti squash. They are very hard and require deft and careful cutting when raw. "I often partially roast mine whole to make it easier to cut—10 minutes in the oven will soften it up enough to cut through, and then you can continue roasting the two halves," says biondanonima. katecm pokes a few holes in the whole squash, then microwaves it in five-minute increments until a fork pierces it easily; let cool a few minutes, then halve, remove seeds, and pull the flesh out with a fork.

Once you've cooked the squash, you can simply toss it with butter and salt and pepper, or with olive oil, garlic, and Parmesan, or with the same tomato, pesto, or Alfredo sauce you'd use with pasta.

rosepoint loves this spaghetti squash gratin with walnut and bacon. It's nice "when you want to really treat the squash as a side dish." HillJ uses spaghetti squash to make a crust for quiche: Chop the flesh and mix with a generous handful of grated Parmesan, some plain breadcrumbs, and chopped fresh sage and thyme. Press into the bottom and sides of two pie plates or a muffin tin, pour in your favorite quiche filling, and bake.

Discuss: Spaghetti Squash Recipes

Spice Up Dinner with Poblanos

Poblanos are fairly mild yet flavorful green chiles that are the traditional choice for chiles rellenos in Mexico.

bear likes Steven Raichlen's barbecued bean and cheese chiles rellenos, which are cooked on the grill. truman roasts poblanos, stuffs them with a mixture of polenta, corn kernels, and cheese, and bakes them in a spicy tomato sauce.

bushwickgirl makes a layered gratin of crisp baked wedges of corn tortilla, strips of roasted and peeled poblano sautéed with diced fresh or canned tomatoes, onions, and garlic, and a rich cheese sauce. Val thinks this fettuccine with chicken, red onion, and peppers is fabulous; she recommends slicing the poblanos very thin for best results.

janeh purées roasted poblanos with Mexican crema to make a sauce to accompany tamales. "In the absence of tamales, the stuff is pretty great on anything, including a spoon," she says.

Discuss: Poblano Pepper recipes

Overheard on the Home Cooking Board

"With an heirloom tomato, just slice it, salt it, maybe sprinkle it with fresh basil and olive oil, and serve it raw. Use good canned tomatoes to make the sauce. A fresh, ripe tomato is a thing of beauty that should never be refrigerated or cooked." – Euonymous

"There is a difference in taste and texture between chopping, grinding, food processor, and mortar and pestle. I personally like the chopping method because the sauce stays more separated and identifiable, plus you have some nice texture from the pine nuts which tends to get lost in the other methods. I also like the appearance of chopped better; the basil and pine nuts are left larger and it doesn't look like a homogenized green sauce." – RetiredChef, on making pesto

"I love my spätzle maker even though I only use it a couple of times a year. Sometimes it's worth having a specialized tool that makes a job easy. Also, it's so much faster and easier than the knife/board method that it's not even comparable. Kudos to those who are happy with their inexpensive, low-tech method, but as for me, I'm never going back." – Karen_Schaffer

Halloween Candy: A Working Hierarchy

At this time of a year, a lot of people agonize over the question of what sort of candy to hand out to area children, in an effort to placate the little monsters. The good news is that just about anything does the trick. But if you're interested in going beyond pacification and actually making a great impression, the list below—compiled from notes assembled via years of painstaking field research in the early and mid-1980s—should be of great use.

From best to worst ...

READ MORE

Can Smirnoff Ice Pull Off “Premium”?

Can Smirnoff Ice Pull Off “Premium”? With all this business of bros icing bros—and the implicit conclusion that drinking a Smirnoff Ice is the worst thing that can happen to a dude other than being markered while passed out—it's not surprising that Smirnoff would try to spiff up its image. READ MORE

You Say “Gamey” Like It’s a Bad Thing

"I'm always a little annoyed when I read lines like 'lamb was great; not at all gamey' or 'yuck, the goat curry had a gamey taste' in restaurant reviews," says Humbucker. "Why has gamey become a pejorative term? As someone who is fond of powerful and pungent flavors, gamey taste is something I actively seek out. Wouldn't people who don't like strong-tasting meat be better off just avoiding lamb, duck legs, mutton, etc., instead of eating it and hoping that it doesn't display too much of its intrinsic flavor?"

"Gamey is a bad word: I propose we not use the word 'gamey' or 'gamy,'" says intrepidtech. The problem is that the word is confusingly used to refer to both meat with a particular flavor characteristic and also to tainted meat. "When we talk about food, especially food that tastes like wild game, we should do our readers, or listeners, a favor and not use "gamey" without qualifying it; otherwise, it confuses people," says intrepidtech. So for clarity, one could refer to meat as having "a pleasant, gamey flavor," suggests tarteaucitron—the way people might refer to cheese as having a "pleasant, nutty flavor."

One problem is that our culture has lost direct experience with the referent of the word. "It's generally been my personal experience that many foodies have never eaten anything wilder than a domesticated lamb, tapas from the tin, or a serving of mackerel nigiri from the sushi bar," says deet13. "I was fortunate to come from a family of experienced hunters and butchers and it wasn't until I was nearly 30 years old that I tasted truly gamey venison," says cleobeach. "It was passed on to us from a friend of the family and I simply could not eat it. The meat was not spoiled, it just had a very distinct and unpleasant (to me) flavor—gamey."

"In wild mammalian game, two things can affect a strong 'gamy' flavor," says Passadumkeg. "If the animal was in flight and the adrenalin has kicked in, it will affect the flavor, strongly. How the animal is butchered after killing also affects flavor. If the carcass is not cooled down quickly, the flavor gets strong as well. In many mammals, there are glands in the thigh region that if not quickly removed also strongly flavor the meat."

Discuss: Is 'gamey' really such a bad thing?

Free-Range Armadillo

rworange recently tasted what she thought was some kind of deep-fried goose or turkey leg. Actually, it was a free-range, corn-fed leg of armadillo, and it was fabulous, she says. "It was crispy on the outside with succulent, rich meat," says rworange. "My first thought was turkey, but the bone was too small and this was richer tasting."

"When I got the armadillo leg I figured for some reason they decided to fry some sort of poultry in lard and it was greasy, glorious goodness," she says. "Greasy like bacon is greasy ... good greasy. It had sort of a carnitas texture about it. I was thinking that maybe this was some sort of goose carnitas and that was why they used what smelled like lard."

"Think of the best turkey or goose you've ever had," says rworange, "but much, much better."

Discuss: Eating free-range, corn-fed leg of armadillo – One of the tastiest things I've tried in my life

Is Harissa Supposed to Be That Bitter?

Harissa is a luscious Tunisian condiment made from chili paste and spices. You can make your own, but good luck finding the North African peppers commonly used in its preparation. Canned harissa is another option, but it's extremely bitter, says prunefeet. "I just picked up some harissa, it's a Tunisian brand and comes in a can ... it's hot and very bitter," says prunefeet. "Should it be so bitter? The bitterness kind of obscures any other flavor."

"I've had canned harissas that are unpalatably bitter as well," says CoconutMilk. "I think part of it is the canning process and part of it is the bitterness of the types of peppers used in the paste. My homemade versions have also been a little bitter, which I suppose comes from the guajillo, ancho, and other dried chiles I've used."

"I use Le Phare du Cap Bon, which is Tunisian and comes in a tube," says Harters. "Not bitter and nicely hot and spicy."

Discuss: Harissa – should it be so bitter?

Pile That Plate High at Kebab Factory’s Buffet

Kebab Factory's buffet lunch is a thing of great deliciousness: "Really some of the very best Indian food I have had in Boston. $8 for the buffet is a steal," avows StriperGuy. "Lots of variety, mustard, mango, onion, tamarind chutneys, mint sauce, saag paneer, cauliflower, dal, meat, chicken, and shrimp dishes."

On a day that FoodDabbler tried the buffet, there was "enormous variety," with eight dishes including chicken tikka masala, chicken biryani, and goat curry, plus samosas, soup, and condiments. Also on the buffet were black-pepper chicken kebabs, "maybe my favourite bit of the buffet, served on roasted peppers and onions, and always succulent," says chickendhansak. It's a regular on the steam table.

Some complain that the regular menu's a little pedestrian: "almost entirely textbook Indian-restaurant-in-America," says FoodDabbler, "with the same tired list to be found in so many places: tandoori chicken, various tikkas, sag paneer, etc." But there are gems to be found, like that buffet, almost universally adored by hounds, and the soups: "I've tried one broccoli, one mushroom, and one spinach soup," says Pia. They weren't "typical menu items at an Indian restaurant, but they were all delicious, comforting soups, not too heavy, and with subtle Indian spices." There's usually at least one soup on the buffet at lunch, and they're always good.

If you visit during a nonbuffet time, the chicken kofta and ras malai (paneer soaked in clotted cream with cardamom) come recommended. The buffet is a shockingly reasonable $8 during the week; a somewhat-less-shocking $12 on weekends.

Kebab Factory [North of Boston]
415 Washington Street, Somerville
617-354-4996

Discuss: Kebab Factory Thanks for the Recommendation