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: Northeastern hazelnut soup and missiiagan-pakwejigan

Norhteastern hazelnut soup and missiiagan-pakwejigan

Nut soups were well-established in the pre-colonial Northeast and prepared by both the Algonquin and Iroquois or Haudenosaunee. I'm not sure who to attribute this version to, exactly, but it is a delicious soup. Erring on the side of Algonquin, this could be served with missiiagan-pakwejigan (Algonquin sunflower flatbread) or cornbread to round out the meal.

hazelnuts ready to be toasted

Northeastern hazelnut soup

makes 4 servings

  • 1 pound hazelnuts
  • 6-8 green ramps, green onions or nodding onions, white part only
  • 1/2 cup watercress, including stems
  • 2 TBSP hazelnut, sunflower or corn oil
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350. Spread the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes, until toasted. Remove and allow to cool. Place the cooled nuts in a clean kitchen towel and rub vigorously to remove as much of the papery skin as possible. 

Trim roots from the ramps and remove any woody stems or flowers. Thinly slice the ramps with their tops on and set aside.

Rinse and drain the watercress, removing woody stems or pale leaves. Chop coarsely. 

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add ramps and watercress and wilt for 3-5 minutes, stirring continuously. Add the broth and hazelnuts. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, then decrease to medium-low and simmer for about 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and mash, or, using a handheld blender, process until smooth.  Return to a simmer over medium heat, thin if necessary with more broth, and stir in salt. Serve immediately.



makes 4

  • 3/4 cup + 1 TBSP sunflower seeds
  • 3/4 cup + 1 TBSP water
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 TBSP corn flour
  • corn oil for pan-frying

Place sunflower seeds, water and salt in a pot over low heat, cover and simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Most of the water will be gone when well cooked; crush the seeds to make a paste, add the salt and stir. Then add the corn flour 1/2 tablespoon at a time to thicken. Allow to cool. Divide dough into 4 rounds, making small, flat pancakes. Heat the corn oil and fry each side until golden.


I substituted spinach for the watercress; any tender seasonal green will work here.

You can also make a sunflower seed or black walnut soup following the soup recipe. Don't toast the sunflower seeds, though.

I mashed the sunflower seeds with a potato masher right in the pot for about 7 minutes. 

If you don't want to use corn oil for the missiiagan-pakwejigan, you can use sunflower oil.

Shaping and pan-frying the missiiagan-pakwejigan  was very similar to shaping and pan-frying falafel for me, so if you've ever done that, you're halfway there.

Recipes from Foods of the Americas: Native Recipes and Traditions by Fernando and Marlene Divina and nativetech.org.


Northeastern hazelnut soup and missiiagan-pakwejigan

Old New World: Inca chilcano de pirana

chilcano de pirana with fauxrana

Over the course of reading up for my Old New World Vegan MoFo project, I've mostly been focused on naturally vegan pre-colonial/pre-contact food. However, I couldn't resist the intriguing siren song of this simple chilcano de pirana - a piranha soup from Iquitos. I think in Quechua, the language of the Inca, this would be called challwalawa - challwa meaning "fish" and lawa meaning "soup." The Incans did eat "small, white fish" in a broth and a common ration in the Inca army was dried fish, so this brothy piranha soup seemed entirely plausible. I mulled for a while, debating if I should use thinly sliced marinated and baked tofu as a substitute, lightly mashed lima beans or something else altogether. It's been over 20 years since I ate any kind of fish and I have to confess: I've never eaten piranha. When I remembered that Kittee Berns had a recipe for chickpea fish in Papa Tofu Loves Ethiopian Food my path became clear.

Inca chilcano de pirana

makes 4 servings

  • 4 servings recipe fauxrana of your choice
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 4 cloves garlic, ground to a paste
  • 1/2 tsp salt or to taste
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 2 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Prepare your fauxrana, in advance if necessary, and keep warm or warm up.

Bring your vegetable broth to a boil; add the garlic and salt and cover. Cook over medium heat for 8 minutes. 

Add onion, parsley and fauxrana and cook for 2 minutes more, uncovered. 

Ladle broth into individual bowls, dividing the fauxrana equally, and serve. 


Thinly sliced tofu, marinated in sunflower oil and toasted, crushed nori would also work, as would thinly sliced and lightly fried tempeh, lima beans or small navy beans for different kinds of proteins.

The original chilcano recipe calls for 2 springs of fresh cilantro, chopped, to be added. Cilantro tastes like terrible soap to me, so I substituted parsley.

Recipe adapted from The Exotic Kitchens of Peru: The Land of the Inca by Copeland Marks. 

Can't find PTLEF available for sale? Never fear, Kittee has a book deal!  You'll be able to get your hot little hands on her amazing recipes soon. Congratulations, Kittee!

 *This post was featured in the September 10 roundup on the Vegan MoFo website!


extra fauxrana: as portable as an Inca dried fish ration 

Old New World: Reconstructed Aztec xitomatl and tlaolli stew

reconstructed Aztec xitomatl and tlaolli stew

I love this passage on the naming of tomatoes in Nahuatl (the Aztec language) from the Florentine Codex:

"...the tomato seller (Tomanomacac)  sells large tomatoes (xitomatl), small tomatoes (miltomatl), leaf tomatoes (Izoatomatl), thin tomatoes (xaltomatl), large serpent tomatoes (coaxitotomatl), nipple-shaped tomatoes (chichioalxitomatl), serpent tomatoes (Coatomatl). He also sells coyote tomatoes (coiotomatl), sand tomatoes (tomapitaoac), those which are yellow, very yellow, quite yellow, red, very red, quite ruddy, ruddy, bright red, reddish, rosy dawn colored."

I have no idea what all these tomatoes could possibly be, but what a marvelous market! Between this passage and encountering several recipes for tomato and corn (tlaolli) stew that had some obvious post-contact influences such as cream I decided to try my hand at reconstructing what an Aztec tomato and corn stew might have looked like.  I would have loved to have made a serpent tomato stew, but it was large tomatoes that I had on hand.

large tomatoes

reconstructed Aztec xitomatl and tlaolli stew

  • 1 sweet red chile
  • 1 green chile, like a Poblano
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 4 large tomatoes
  • 2 ears corn cut off the cob (about 2 cups) 
  • 4 cups of water
  • 1/4 cup chopped epazote

Blacken your chiles - this can be done in advance, either on a burner, in the oven or on a grill. Let them cool, remove the blackened skin and deseed and chop them into bite-sized pieces. Roasting the corn can be done in advance as well, also in the oven or on a grill. Let cool and cut off the cob.

Heat a pot over medium heat and add the garlic. Sear for about a minute, stirring constantly, then add chiles, tomatoes and corn. Bring to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Add the water, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 30 more minutes. Stir in chopped epazote before serving.

Serve with tortillas, called tlaxcali in Nahuatl, and small pan roasted chiles, like Padrons. 



If you can't find epazote, use cilantro or parsley or just leave it out. The soup will still be tasty. 

Recipe adapted from The Mitsitam Cafe Cookbook: Recipes from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian by Richard Hetzler and Cocina Prehispanica by Ana M. de Benitez.

reconstructed Aztec xitomatl and tlaolli stew, pan-roasted Padron peppers