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

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.

 notes

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: Pueblo corn pudding

corn, summer squash

If there are two seasonal things my sweetheart loves most, it's summer squash and corn. If you're a fan as well, this Pueblo corn pudding might just be the thing for you. Don't be put off by the fact that it's so different from modern sweet American style puddings - it's an interesting thing in and of itself. Serve non-traditionally with agave nectar and toasted pumpkin seeds for dessert, or eat with pinto beans and green chile sauce as a savory side dish.

Pueblo corn pudding

makes 3-4 servings

  • 2 cups green corn cut from the cob
  • 1 medium summer squash or 2 small ones, diced fine
  • 1 small sweet pepper, diced fine
  • 2 TBSP shelled sunflower seeds or shelled roasted piñon nuts chopped fine

Put all ingredients in blender or mash until milky, then bring to a boil and simmer until thick like pudding.

 

Pueblo corn pudding, mashed pinto beans, green chile sauce

notes

If you can't get green corn, use fresh young corn.

Piñon nuts are not the same things as pine nuts, but you can use them as a substitute if you can find them. 

Recipe from Pueblo Indian Cookbook by Phyllis Hughes. 

 

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. 

 

notes 

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