My Little Helper

By Casey Seidenberg

A few friends have opened my freezer and inquired about the Mason jars of messiness that I have stacked on a shelf. When I tell them the concoction inside is my little helper, they peer at me strangely. In truth, it is a lightly curried pumpkin seed mixture that makes the most delicious crust for almost any piece of fish, chicken or meat. Were you expecting something more exciting? This recipe has rescued me countless times when I don’t know what to make for dinner.

For the swanky dinner party, it wows on a piece of tuna or swordfish. For a weeknight dinner, it transforms the traditional crusted chicken into something more notable. It flavors any salad and adds crunch and spice to plain lentils, rice or quinoa. My 2-year-old and I enjoy eating it with a spoon, although we do endeavor to restrain ourselves.

Not only does this little helper add just the right amount of special to dinner, it also ups the nutritional ante. Pumpkin seeds contain:

●Zinc, which aids the immune system.

●Protein, including the important amino acid tryptophan.

●Magnesium, which is good for the heart.

●Manganese, which supports the nervous system.

The curry powder also has anti-inflammatory properties.

Toss some together, pour into an airtight container and pop it in the freezer. It will be there for you when you need it.

Pumpkin Seed Crust Recipe:

Makes about 1 3/4 cups

  • 1 cup raw, unsalted, hulled pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup plain dried bread crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

To use it on the chicken or fish, whisk 2 large egg whites until they are foamy. Pound 4 chicken breast halves to an even thickness, then dip them into the egg whites, coating both sides. Press both sides into the pumpkin seed crust mixture, making sure to coat them evenly; this will use about 1 3/4 cups. Saute in a nonstick skillet with a little bit of olive oil; the crust will brown nicely.

MAKE AHEAD: The crust mixture can be frozen for up to 3 months.

Recipe adapted from San Francisco Flavors.

Article first appeared in the Washington Post on Thursday, March 28, 2013.