Halloween is Thursday, and while the holiday is not necessarily thought of as an excuse for feasting on anything other than store-bought candy, it doesn't have to be that way.
There are plenty of culinary delights perfect for the holiday.
For instance, the Irish make colcannon, a lovely meal consisting of mashed potatoes with kale or cabbage. If you have never had it you should give it a try.
And, since the pumpkin plays a big part in Halloween, we might think of something good to do with the seeds, which are most often tossed out.
Candy apples, a treat that we often associate with this spooky holiday, were invented in 1908 by William Kolb. At first they were sold at carnivals and boardwalks, but there seems to be a tradition of apple treats for fall festivals, if for no other reason than apples are harvested in the fall.
So here I offer up some recipes perfect for Halloween.
3 pounds potatoes, rinsed and well scrubbed
1 cup local butter (two sticks)
1-1/4 cups local milk
1 bunch kale
1/4 cup chopped, smoky bacon
Freshly ground black pepper
4-5 chopped green onions
Chop the potatoes into quarters and steam them until they are done, about 30 minutes. Peeling them is optional, the peels are not attractive, but they do taste good and are good for you. While the potatoes are still hot, chop and then mash until smooth; you do not want any lumps. Warm the milk, and add half the butter, chopped into four pieces, one at a time, then slowly pour in the milk, stirring as you do so. Season with salt and pepper, taste and re-season as necessary. The kale is best cooked by steaming in a little water, then drain it well, chop and toss into the potatoes. Cook the bacon until crispy and add it to the colcannon, then add the chopped green onions. Give it all a big stir, serve it in individual bowls, with the balance of the butter, make a hole on the top to hold the melting butter.
HOMEMADE CANDY APPLES
8 apples (use your favorite variety)
1-1/4 cup dark corn syrup
1-1/4 cup sugar
1-1/4 cup heavy cream
1-1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 or 2 pinches salt
3-4 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons vanilla extract
2 cups roasted peanuts, pecans or cashews in a large bowl
8 sticks, about 6 inches long
2/3 cups water
Remove the stems of the apples and insert the sticks. Cut a 12-inch piece of wax paper and lightly oil. Combine the salt, cream, corn syrup, sugar, brown sugar and the water in a heavy bottom sauce pan and bring to a boil, stirring all the while.
Cook until the thermometer reads 240 degrees, then whisk in the butter and the vanilla extract. Dip the apples into the candy mixture, making sure to cover the entire apple and letting the excess drip back into the pot.
Roll each candy coated apple in the nuts and place on the wax paper to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.
ROASTED PUMPKIN SEEDS
1-2 cups pumpkin seeds
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 pinches salt
1-2 pinches Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. If you are using seeds you have harvested from a Halloween pumpkin, clean them up as best you can, a little pumpkin flesh won't matter much, but you do want to remove as much of the stringy part as possible.
Toss the clean and dried seeds in a bowl with the oil, when coated add the salt and Tony's (remember Tony's has salt in it, so don't overdo it) and toss again. Spread the seeds evenly on a large baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes or so, tossing or stirring every once in a while until they are well toasted. Let them cool a little before eating, but serving them at room temperature is OK, too. If you are going to store them put them in a Ziploc bag, remove any excess air and seal.