Vegan MoFo week four retrospective

How can this have been the last full week of MoFo? This week I celebrated fall with a Mayan pumpkin stew, used seitan in a Hopi stew and managed to incorporate the most vegan green of all, kale, into a pre-contact dish - but not in a stew.

outtake: juicing limes

 

Here, in no particular order, are five posts from other bloggers that I really enjoyed reading this week:

I am a sucker for a beet burger, and this beautifully scarlet recipe from Claryn at Hell Yeah It's Vegan! is right up my alley. 
 
Like chel from chelrabbit, I am a hungry bear who should probably just make her own darn fruit and nut bars already.
 
I love that The Good Karma Kitchen's Kyleigh was skeptical of tacos. Food detectives are my kind of detectives.
 
Pumpkin for everyone! Shannon's pretzels at Yup, it's vegan sound perfect for cooler weather.
 
Finally, I might have squealed when I saw that Hayley made Abaratian pastries at Lima Bean Lover.

Old New World: Mayan ha tsikil kab

ha tsikil kab

The literal translation of ha tsikil kab is "squash seed honey water." Ha is water and kab is honey.  Tsikil, squash seeds, were an incredibly important part of the day-to-day Maya diet -  it is thought that the oil from squash seeds was the main source of fat for the pre-contact Maya! Squash seeds were also a frequent offering to agricultural deities, as was honey. These candies, combining those two important foodstuffs, are still made today. In this adaptation I use corn syrup instead - I thought it was a fitting substitution for the honey in a sweet from a society that also valued corn highly.

pumpkin seeds about to be pan-toasted

ha tsikil kab

makes about 36 candies

  • 2 cups pumpkin or other squash seeds
  • 1 cup corn syrup

First, toast the pumpkin seeds, either in the oven for about 5 minutes at 350 or on the stovetop until most are golden.  Place the seeds in a pot and add the corn syrup. Bring to a simmer - you'll be able to hear it hiss even if you can't quite see it - and stir constantly for about 5 minutes.  Drop tablespoonfuls onto wax paper and let cool. Store in a closed container.

ha tsikil kab, cooling on wax paper

notes 

I do use corn syrup here - something I have never purchased before! I used an organic non-GMO kind, but you could also try agave nectar, which is something that was known and used at the time. The Aztecs made a similar sweet of squash seeds "stuck together with cooked syrup" that was most likely cooked down maguey syrup.

Work quickly as the corn syrup gets tacky fast and will start to leave thin threads.  Use two spoons, one to scoop and one to help release the candy from the first spoon.

However tempted you might be to lick the spoons, don't. They will be hot and sticky! 

You might recognize the sikil in tsikil from sikil pak!  I'm not sure why it's spelled differently in this sweet application.

Recipe adapted from Mayan Cooking: Recipes from the Sun Kingdoms of Mexico by Cherry Hamman and America's First Cuisines  by Sophie D. Coe.

 

ha tsikil kab

Old New World: Mayan toksel, tsah bi yax ik and wah

toksel, tsah bi yax ik and wah

This pre-contact Mayan dish of toasted lima beans and squash seeds is traditionally made using heated cooking stones in a vessel - toksel means "burned and coarsely ground."  Rather than risk the dire twin possibilities of stones either exploding or flying from my pot, I opted for a more modern adaptation, used by the cooks today who still make this "elusive" and marvellously savory recipe. Tsah bi yax ik is a spicy green chile sauce with some oil added to it: tsah refers to the enriching fat, ik is used to name sauces and yax means green here. Wah are tortillas, thinner than pim, and the average Mayan may have eaten as many as 30 in one meal!

soaked and drained Christmas limas

toksel

makes about 4 servings

  • 1 cup dried lima beans, washed and soaked overnight
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 square inch dried Kombu
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup pumpkin or squash seeds
  • 1 hot green chile
  • 3 green onions

Rinse soaked beans and add to a pot along with the water and dried Kombu. 

Simmer for 1/2 hour, then add  salt. Simmer 1/2 hour more or until beans are tender, adding water if necessary - you want to cook them down until they are mostly dry - and stirring occasionally.  Remove Kombu. 

While the beans are simmering, toast your pumpkin or squash seeds until golden brown either on the stove over medium heat (I use a small cast iron pan) or in the oven for 5 minutes at 350. Let cool, then grind them in a molcajete or a food processor, and set aside in a small bowl. Toast the hot green chile on the stovetop over medium heat as well, then destem and chop and set aside. Chop the green onions and set aside.

When the beans are done, drain if necessary and add the ground pumpkin seeds, chopped green chile and green onions. Stir very carefully so as not to crush the beans and simmer for 15 minutes on the lowest possible heat. Serve with wah and tsah bi yax ik or your favorite salsa.

 

chiles waiting to be toasted

tsah bi yax ik

makes about 2 cups

  • 1 small onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 5 fresh hot green chiles
  • 2 TBSP canola or other mild-tasting oil
  • 2 limes
  • 1/8 tsp salt

Toast your onion, garlic and chiles, either on the stovetop until the skins have some black spots or in the oven for 20 minutes at 425. Juice the limes and set aside the juice.

When you are done toasting your vegetables, peel the garlic and chop the onion, destem the chiles and chop. Grind the chiles in a molcajete or a food processor.

Sauté the onion and garlic in the oil over medium heat until the onion is translucent, about 6 minutes. Add the ground chiles and sauté for another 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the lime juice and the salt.

 

wah 

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 wah in a clean towel to steam for about 10 minutes.

 

notes

The Mayans did not distinguish between blue and green as abstract notions, so yax also refers to blue. 

If you're making toksel and tsah bi yax ik at the same time, you can toast all the chiles at the same time on the stovetop or roast all the vegetable together in the oven.

I used Christmas limas here, but you can use any kind of lima you like. If you can't find dried lima beans, frozen would work, just adjust the initial cooking time to about 10 minutes. I imagine fresh lima beans would be really tasty as well. 

If you keep the root end of the green onions in a little water after chopping off the green part, more green will grow - and quickly, too. 

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

toksel, tsah bi yax ik and wah

Old New World: Mayan ts'anchak bi chay and pim

ts'anchak bi chay, toasted and chopped pumpkin seeds, pim

The leaves from the chaya tree were used for both food and medicine by the pre-contact Maya and apparently every family grew a tree whenever and wherever they settled. If you do happen to come across a chaya tree, keep in mind that the leaves are toxic when raw; cook them for at least 20 minutes. Since I don't have a chaya tree, I used kale in this simple, naturally vegan dish. Ts'anchak means "boiled" - as in the "boiled squash" dish from last week - and though "boiled kale" doesn't necessarily sound tasty, it is. You can serve this either as a soup with the broth, or as I did: removed from the cooking liquid and served as a vegetable with a spicy sauce and fresh corn pim in addition to the garnishes. Pim were slightly thicker than modern tortillas, about as thick as three corn tortillas stacked; you can try making them that way if you like.

kale, a substitute for chaya

ts'anchak bi chay 

makes 4 servings

  • 1 bunch kale
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 dried chili peppers
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin or squash seeds
  • 2 limes

Wash, stem and chiffonade the kale and place in a large pot with the water. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook until kale is tender, about 8 minutes. 

While the kale 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 kale with the pumpkin seeds, chile peppers and lime or set out the small bowls of the garnishes along with the kale and pim.

 

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.

 

 pim, chile poblano sauce, toasted and chopped pumpkin seeds

notes

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 don't have a spice grinder be very careful to grind the dried and toasted chile peppers very finely, otherwise the larger chunks of chile pepper may burn!

You can also substitute spinach, chard or any other seasonal green. Greens do cook down significantly, so keep that in mind. 1 bunch of kale cooks down to about a cup.

I actually stem my larger greens first just by pulling out most or all of the tough center rib by hand, then I rinse and chiffonade them. 

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

 

ts'anchak bi chay, toasted and chopped pumpkin seeds, pim

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

notes

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