Old New World: Hopi fresh corn stew

Hopi fresh corn stew topped with green chile sauce

My sweetheart is crazy about corn. As soon as it shows up at the farmers markets, we eat as much as we can: grilled and topped with lime and chile elote-style, baked in the husk with just a little salt, raw and mixed into cold salads. We roast and freeze the rest for winter use. This Hopi fresh corn stew was a big hit - my sweetheart even packed the leftovers for lunch the very next day, which is a rare thing indeed.

shucked corn cut off the cob

Hopi fresh corn stew 

makes 4 generous servings

  • 1 TBSP sunflower oil
  • 8 oz ground or finely chopped seitan (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste (I used 1/8 tsp salt and a few grinds of pepper)
  • 2 ears of green or fresh yellow corn
  • 2 cups of summer squash (about 2 small round ones), cubed
  • 2 cups water or vegetable broth+ 2 TBSP water, divided
  • 1 TBSP cornmeal

Shuck the corn and cut the kernels off the ears. Heat oil in a pot over medium heat. If using seitan, brown for a few minutes and then stir in salt and pepper to taste. If not using seitan, add the corn and squash, stir, then the salt and pepper and stir again. Add  water, adding more if necessary to cover the vegetables, cover the pot and simmer for 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add the 2 TBSP of water to the 1 TBSP of cornmeal and stir until smooth, then add to the stew and stir. Simmer uncovered 5 minutes and serve.

Hopi fresh corn stew simmering


Green corn is traditionally used here; if you grow it or can find it, use it. Otherwise fresh yellow corn works nicely as a substitute. Cut the kernels off the cob into a large bowl by standing the ear on the pointed end in the bowl, holding the stem like a handle. I like to gather the husks at the stem end and twist them around it to make for an easier grip. Use long downstrokes. No muss, no fuss; be sure to watch your fingers.

Add other seasonal vegetables with similar cooking times if you like. 

Wheat is an Old World crop that was not brought to the New World until the early 16th century to what is now Mexico; seitan is obviously in no way authentic for a pre-colonial dish but I was curious as to how it would work as a meat substitute here. It added a nice savory taste and a hearty texture but I don't think the stew would suffer if it was left out. Be sure to use vegetable broth instead of water if you leave the seitan out, though, for a richer taste than water alone. Tempeh or pinto beans would also be nice if non-traditional additions. 

Top the stew with blue corn dumplings, green chile sauce, or both.

Recipe adapted from Hopi Cookery by Juanita Tiger Kavena. 


Hopi fresh corn stew topped with green chile sauce

Old New World: Mayan k'um yach'

k'um yach' 

This past weekend was the first weekend we had rain in Oakland in a long while - and just in time for the first day of fall. Also this past weekend, my sweetheart surprised me with a pretty ghost pumpkin - so clearly I had to make some kind of pumpkin stew to celebrate. K'um yach means "mashed pumpkin" in Maya; yach' is the word for something that is mashed or kneaded and k'um, as I learned last week, means "pumpkin." This is a wonderfully fragrant, spicy and rich naturally vegan dish cut through with a citric brightness. Perfect for the first days of fall.

surprise ghost pumpkin

k'um yach' 

makes about 5 cups

  • 3 pounds pumpkin or winter squash
  • 6 cups water, plus extra as needed
  • 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 cup parsley
  • 2 hot green chiles like jalapeños
  • 2 limes

Rinse, peel, seed and chop your pumpkin into 2 inch segments. Place the pumpkin in a pot with the 6 cups water and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer. Simmer for about 1 1/2 hours or until very tender, adding water as necessary to keep the pumpkin covered. While the pumpkin is simmering, seed and chop the jalapeños,  juice the limes and chop the parsley. Drain if necessary and mash in the pot with a sturdy fork. Mix in the parsley, chiles and lime juice, stirring well.  Serve hot, garnished with a few leaves of parsley.

peeled and chopped ghost pumpkin, about to be simmered


The original recipe calls for the squash to be simmered cut into pieces with the skin still on; out of habit I peeled it first. Feel free to try simmering it with the skin on, draining and peeling it after it is tender, then returning it to the pot to mash.

You can save the squash seeds to plant or to use in other recipes. 

The original recipe also calls for cilantro, which I always replace with parsley as I have a serious genetic distaste for cilantro. Feel free to use cilantro if you like.

Recipe adapted from Mayan Cooking: Recipes from the Sun Kingdoms of Mexico by Cherry Hamman.


k'um yach

Old New World: Inca chuchuqa

fresh shucked corn

There is not as large a library of food of the Inca as there is of food of the Aztec or Maya, at least not as has been translated into English that I could find - so I wound up getting a book in Spanish so I could read more about Inca foodways. My Spanish is unfortunately very rusty, so that means doing a quick scan through recipes is out of the question. That also means that by the time I have finished reading through a passage, it turns out I am trying to figure out how to make dried ground corn - which is much more of a project than a recipe! If you have a little bit of free time on your hands, perhaps you are up to it. I have typed out the instructions in both Spanish and my shaky English translation below. I won't tell you how long it took me to translate as it would just embarrass us all.

preparación para chuchuqa

  • maíz tierno o maíz seco

Desgranar el choclo (maíz tierno) o el maíz seco. Hervir los granos durante corto tiempo hasta que estén medio crudos. Algunos hierven el choclo en mazorca.

Extender los granos sobre que espacios cubiertos con paja o ichu durante varios días hasta que el grano se seque, se "chupe" hasta que llegue la mitad de su tamaño original.

Una vez seco, el maíz se muele no muy fino y se cierne para que elimine el afrecho.


dried corn; I did not dry this myself

how to prepare chuchuqa

  • sweet corn or dried corn

De-grain the sweet corn or dry corn. Boil the grains for a short time until they are medium raw. Some boil the corn on the cob. 

Spread the grains over areas covered with straw or bunches of grass for several days until the grain is dry and has "sucked" to half its original size.

Once dry the corn is ground very fine and any hanging bran is removed.


The quantities are up to you!

I assumed that "de-graining" the corn meant to simply remove it from the cob. This is incorrect! Desgranar is actually much more specific than I had thought, which makes sense. It refers to lifting out the kernels of corn from the cob by wiggling at the individual roots, one camino, or row, at a time.

I don't really know what the difference between maíz tierno o maíz seco or sweet corn and dry corn is - or why there would be the same instructions for both. Perhaps they are just synonyms?

I am also not sure why this particular kind of dried ground corn is not nixtamalized; when I look up chuchuqa or chochoca online most of the results I get refer to a kind of potato bread. However, it seems like some corn was simply secado al Sol: dried in the sun.


dried ground corn; I did not dry or grind this myself

Old New World: Mayan ts'anchak bi k'um and pim

ts'anchak bi k'um, pim and garnishes

Squash and their seeds were incredibly important to the Maya. Ground or crushed pumpkin seeds show up in drinks, soups, sauces and the rare treat. When my sweetheart surprised me with a pretty Delicata squash, I knew I wanted to make a typical Mayan dish with it. K'um is the basic word for "pumpkin" in Maya and ts'anchak means "boiled;" this is a very simple preparation that uses garnishes to build flavor and it is one that is still made today. Pim is still the word for "tortillas" in Yucatec Maya today, sometimes doubled as pimpim.

squash about to be boiled

ts'anchak bi k'um

makes about 8 cups

  • 4 pounds pumpkin or other winter squash
  • 10 cups water
  • salt to taste
  • 2 dried chili peppers
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin or squash seeds
  • 2 limes

Seed and cut the squash, peeling if necessary, into 2 inch pieces and place in a large pot with the water. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook until squash is tender, about an hour. Stir in salt. 

While the squash is simmering, toast your pumpkin or squash seeds until golden brown, then destem and toast your chili peppers, separately, in a heavy skillet (I use a small cast iron pan). Let cool, then chop the pumpkin seeds finely and set aside in a small bowl. Grind the chile peppers with a mortar and pestle or a molcajete  and set aside in separate small bowl. Quarter the limes when serving. Garnish the squash with the pumpkin seeds, chile peppers and lime or set out the small bowls of the garnishes along with the squash and pim.



makes 6

  • 1 cup masa harina
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup water plus more if necessary

Place the masa harina in a large bowl and stir in the salt. Add water and knead until the dough is firm but pliable. Form 6 balls of dough and cover them in the bowl with a damp  towel for 1 hour. 

Heat a flat pan over medium heat until drops of water dance and evaporate when flicked. Press between wax paper on a tortilla press or roll out into circles, then cook for about 2 minutes on each side. Fold stack of pim in a clean towel to steam for about 10 minutes.



If you have a spice grinder, feel free to use it to grind the pumpkin seeds and the chile peppers. 

You can substitute 1 TBSP crushed chile pepper if you don't have access to whole dried chile peppers. 

If you also use a Delicata, you don't have to peel it - you can eat the skin! 

You can save the squash seeds to plant or to use in other recipes. 

Recipe from Mayan Cooking: Recipes from the Sun Kingdoms of Mexico by Cherry Hamman. 

ts'anchak bi k'um, pim and garnishes

Old New World: Aztec chianatolli

Aztec chianatolli

The Aztecs ate or drank a variety of what are technically gruels. While I tend to associate the notion of a gruel with being sick, most of these starchy liquids were simply daily meals, though some of them were said to have medicinal qualities. There was atolli (water, lime and maize), nequatolli (water, lime, maize and maguey syrup), nechillatolli (water, lime, maize, honey and green chile), hoauhatolli (water, red amaranth, and honey) and many, many, more, including pinolli (ground toasted maize that could be transported and added to water) which is probably the most familiar today. Chianatolli (chía seeds, sometimes toasted and ground) could be taken plain or with chiles. You'll see a lot of optional options below!

chía seeds


makes about 5 cups

  • 4 cups water
  • 3 large limes (optional) 
  • 2 TBSP agave nectar (optional) 
  • 1/4 cup chía seeds
  • 1/4 tsp dried ground chile (optional)

If using limes, juice and set aside the juice. Toast the chía seeds by spreading in a pan over medium heat, stirring constantly,  just until they smell nutty, about two minutes. Set aside to cool.  Add agave nectar (optional) and lime juice (optional) to water and stir briskly. Strain into a pitcher and whisk chile (optional) and chía seeds. Chill for at least 30 minutes and stir briefly before serving.



I tried grinding the chía seeds with a mortar and pestle, but my mortar and pestle are very small - I wound up with tiny seeds all over the kitchen, so I opted to leave them whole.  If you have a larger mortar and pestle or a dedicated spice grinder, that would work.

I was pretty excited to learn that the maguey plant is the agave plant.  Maguey syrup would have been pretty similar to agave nectar, I imagine, although not raw agave nectar as maguey syrup was boiled down.

More modernly in Mexico lime juice is added to make a chía fresca; I'm not sure when this became commonplace but I find it more to my taste than the austere chianatolli. The plain chianatolli is more accurate, but try it both ways and see what you like!

Recipe adapted from Paletas by Fany Gerson and America's First Cuisines by Sophie D. Coe.

Aztec chianatolli