Joe Virgilio and daughter Marissa
Years ago, there was an even balance of traditional “American Carnival foods” and “Italian Specialty Foods” sold during Fiesta in and directly abutting St. Peter’s Square. Growing up the entrance to Commercial Street was lined with vendors peddling their Italian delights of Pizza, Spinguini, and cannoli, to people as they passed by. I often dream of those days and can still smell the aromas of Italian food and I can hear the voice of the “Nut Vendor” repeating “Simenzi! Ceci! Roasted Nuts! Here!” like it were yesterday. Each Fiesta my cousins and I were sent over to the nut man to purchase Simenzi and Ceci for family member sitting in front of the bandstand/altar countless times throughout Fiesta weekend. Snacking on “Simenzi and Ceci” during Fiesta has been tradition for Sicilian Gloucester Families who gather together to listen to the Italian music during Fiesta weekend for generations! Simenzi and Ceci may no longer be sold at the Fiesta, but the tradition of eating them in front of the bandstand/altar still remains. Yesterday I stopped by Virgilio’s Bakery to stock up with enough Simenzi and Ceci to get my family through Fiesta weekend. Stop by before supplies run out and get yours!
Each fall growing up my grandparents took a road trip north, which always included a purchase of seven giant pumpkins, one for each grandchild. It became a fall tradition to gather around the kitchen table as a family to make this recipe from the pumpkins they purchased. That tradition of family time together in the kitchen, carving the pumpkins, scraping out the cold flesh and separating the slippery seeds are memories of my childhood that I will forever cherish. Today this tradition continues, my mother Pat, has taken over my grandparents love of annually buying giant pumpkins for my children and my adorable nieces. With always keeping my grandparents spirit a part of todays traditions especially in the kitchen, I always remember to roast our pumpkin seeds on a cookie sheet that once belonged to them. The crunchy seeds taste specially seasoned with their love when roasted on that cookie sheet! You can read more about my grandparents annual journey north in my newly released cookbook “Gifts Of Gold In A Sicilian Kitchen With Sista Felicia”. Click the link below to order your copy for the holidays now.
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Step By Step
1 Preheat oven 375 degrees
2 To remove seeds while carving a Jack-O-Lantern cut 1-2 inches around stem, remove and reserve section of stem; if not carving simply cut pumpkin in half; using a large spoon, scrape, remove, and separate pumpkin seeds from pulp, reserve seeds in a colander, dispose flesh
3 Rinse seeds under cold water; transfer to kitchen towel; pat dry, and evenly distribute seeds onto a cookie sheet
4 Season seeds with 2-3 tablespoon kosher salt
5 Roast seeds 10 minutes on middle rack of oven for 10 minutes, toss seeds and roast 5 -10 additional minutes or until slightly golden in color
*A perfect fall snack, especially when served warm from the oven… they never last long in our house!