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

notes

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

moveable feast: empanada fillings

Hachiya persimmons at the Grand Lake farmers market

Thanksgiving was never a very big deal in my house growing up, except for the Twilight Zone marathon on KTLA! Seriously, that was the best. These days I pop on whatever episode I want with Netflix, and then settle in for a Millennium marathon with my sweetheart. And even though we do Thanksgiving feasting on the following Saturday, I'm  always excited to go to my omnivorous sweetheart's sister's where, thankfully, there is always something for me to eat.

I'm in charge of breads and desserts each year, and they happily eat both with nary a complaint and only the highest praise for vegan cooking - in fact, they requested a repeat performance by the sweet empanadas I made last year! They get super excited about multiple fillings, so, to ease the process, I take a page from every entertaining handbook ever and make them in stages. Three days before, I make the fillings. Two days before, the dough. And the day before, I assemble and bake the whole shebang.

This year's roster stars saffron pear apple, cinnamon nutmeg persimmon and - the dark horse - maple lime pumpkin. The instructions are all pretty much the same for each filling, just keep an eye out for burning or boiling over.


saffron pear apple

saffron pear apple empanada filling

makes enough for 6

  • 1 pear, quartered and sliced
  • 1 apple, quartered and sliced
  • 6 TBSP sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 TBSP lemon juice
  • pinch saffron
  • pinch salt

Combine all ingredients in a nonreactive pan, bring to a boil and boil gently for 15 minutes, stirring intermittently. Allow the thickened mixture to cool, then store in a covered container in the refrigerator until you are ready to assemble the empanadas.


cinnamon nutmeg persimmon

makes enough for 6

cinnamon nutmeg persimmon empanada filling

  • 1 ripe Hachiya persimmon, scooped
  • 2 Fuyu persimmons, quartered and sliced
  • 6 TBSP sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 TBSP lemon juice
  • ¼tsp cinnamon
  • ¼nutmeg
  • pinch salt

Combine all ingredients in a nonreactive pan, bring to a boil and boil gently for 15 minutes, stirring intermittently. Allow the thickened mixture to cool, then store in a covered container in the refrigerator until you are ready to assemble the empanadas.


maple lime pumpkin 

makes enough for 6 with leftovers

  • 2 cups pumpkin (not pumpkin pie)
  • 6 TBSP sugar
  • 2 TBSP grade B maple syrup
  • 1 TBSP lime juice (about ½ lime)
  • pinch salt

Combine all ingredients in a nonreactive pan, bring to a boil and boil gently for 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Allow the thickened mixture to cool, then store in a covered container in the refrigerator until you are ready to assemble the empanadas.


notes


The saffron pear apple mixture should be a gorgeous dandelion yellow, the cinnamon nutmeg persimmon should be vibrant dark orange, and the maple lime pumpkin should be deep reddish brown. The persimmon filling may develop dark spots as you cook it down, do not panic. And make sure to check for seeds!

They will all thicken even more as they sit. If they separate during storage, pour off the thin liquid or stir it back in; I prefer to pour it off to reduce the chance of empanadas leaking. Use any leftovers stirred into oatmeal, spread on toast or over other roasted fruits! 

Stay tuned for two days before!

potage au potiron

musquée de Provence - the fairytale pumpkin

I go nuts for winter squash every year. As of today, there's one butternut in the spice rack, another camping out with the potatoes and two Kabochas in with the avocados. But the most exciting squash this year, for me, is the musquée de Provence. But wait; I should not lie. It was also the most exciting squash for me last year, but I hemmed and hawed over what to do with it and the beautiful slice I had snagged at the farmers market went bad.

This year I was determined to not be so undone! When these fairytale pumpkins popped up this year, my sweetheart picked up a slice for me while I was pawing the pomegranates under the condition that I cook it up tout de suite. "Tonight we feast like French monks!" I exclaimed, and promptly adapted the recipe for Potage au Potiron from Victor-Antoine d'Avila-Latourette's This Good Food.


fairytale pumpkin soup

makes 4-6 servings

  • 4 cups of water
  • 1 slice pumpkin - about 4 cups - cubed
  • 2 potatoes, cubed
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • a pinch of tarragon
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup coconut milk

In a large pot, bring the water to a boil and then add the pumpkin, potatoes and carrot. Stir, then add the onion, garlic, tarragon, salt and pepper. Keep at a low boil for 20 minutes, then reduce heat and simmer for another 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and blend with an immersion blender, upright blender or food processor. Be wary of the steam! Pour the soup back into the pot, stir in the coconut milk and simmer for another 10 minutes.


potage au potiron - fairytale pumpkin soup, garnished with green onions

potage au potiron - fairytale pumpkin soup, garnished with green onions

notes

This is a remarkably rich soup that honestly doesn't "need" any dairy or oil in the first place, and is very omni friendly. Feel free to leave out the coconut milk entirely, or substitute your favorite non-dairy milk. Garnish as you please; traditionally with a pinch of parsley, though green onions are nice, as are spicy toasted pepitas.

If you get a whole pumpkin or even just a slice with seeds, you can clean and save the seeds to plant. Or so I hear; we haven't gotten to the planting stage yet.