It was time to twitch my culinary creativity with a recipe that used all this bounty; just from the colour scheme, a green sauce came to mind, but the still-unripen butternut squash was a little puzzling. Some fruits from the squash family are eaten while still immature, for example zucchini, and chayote (pear squash). In Mexico, another iconic example is chilacayote (Cucurbita ficifolia), from the Nahuatl tzilacayotli, also known as the seven-year melon, Malabar gourd, or more commonly in the US and Canada, fig leaf gourd or fig leaf squash; chilacayote is often cooked in pipián verde sauce, either by itself or with a protein, such as chicken or turkey. I have never seen fig leaf squash in stores here in Southern Ontario, but it served as the inspiration to make a batch of pipián verde with my still-green butternut squash.
I have several posts regarding pipián; Mexican pipián is defined as any dish composed by cooked meat or vegetables, smothered in a very rich sauce, thickened with ground seeds. There are many regional pipianes, which may be red, green or even white, from using different chiles, tomatoes, tomatillos, or their absence, and a range of textures and flavours may be obtained from the use of pumpkin seeds, or others, such as almonds, peanuts, and sesame. For my recipes for Red Pipián (with vegan option), White Pipián (classic Mexico City recipe), Fish Filets in Garlic Scape Pipián (my take to use garlic scape from my garden), and Blushed Pipián (with pork), click on highlighted text. Pipián verde (green) is very traditional nationwide; my recipe is close to Central Mexico styles, where squash is often paired with this bright green preparation.
Green Pipián with Squash –
Pipián verde con calabaza
1-2 green squash, such as chilacayote, or tender winter squash (e.g., unripen butternut); washed
½ lb (225 g) tomatillos; husks removed, and washed
2 hot green peppers, such as serrano or jalapeño, or to taste; washed
2 tbsp epazote, if available, or omit; washed, use leaves only
1 cup lettuce; washed, and coarsely sliced
1 small bunch cilantro; washed
¼ white onion; peeled
2 cloves garlic; peeled
½ cup pumpkin seed; shelled
½ tsp cumin seeds, or ground
2 tbsp oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Hot water, as needed
Cut and remove ends of squash, peeling is optional. Slice squash into wedges lengthwise, then slice into cubes. Bring a large pot with water to boil, then add squash, tomatillos, and hot green peppers (photo below, left). Remove tomatillos and peppers when they start to change colour (photo below, right):
Allow to cool down in a bowl.
Continue cooking squash (photo below, left), until tender, then transfer to a bowl (photo below, right):
Transfer tomatillos and peppers to a blender jar, then add onion, garlic, epazote leaves (if using), lettuce and cilantro (photo below, left). Process until smooth, makes about two cups of sauce (photo below, right):
In a pan over medium heat, roast pumpkin seeds, just lightly, being careful not to burn because they become bitter (photo below, left). Transfer to a bowl. In the same pan, roast cumin for a few seconds (photo below, right):
Place pumpkin and cumin seeds in a mortar, or a spice grinder (I have a dedicated coffee grinder, photo below, left); grind until powdery (photo below, right):
In a large pot, warm up oil over medium heat, then pour the reserved sauce; it should sizzle as it touches the hot oil (photo below, left). Cook for ten minutes, stirring, then add ground seeds, and incorporate (photo below, right):
Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and continue cooking and stirring, adding a little hot water if becoming too thick, until some oil comes to the surface (photo below, left). Incorporate reserved squash (photo below, right):
Continue cooking for a couple of minutes, just until the squash is warmed up. Adjust seasoning with more salt and pepper, if needed. Serve with a side of rice, or refried beans, as pictured at the top of this post, and below, and offer warm corn tortillas at the table:
This was a successful way to use up my harvest, and very tasty, too! For a different meal, cooked pieces of fish, chicken, turkey or pork, may be added with the squash, to please the meat lover’s palate.
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I am sharing my post at Thursday Favourite Things #562, with Bev @ Eclectic Red Barn, Pam @ An Artful Mom, Katherine @ Katherine’s Corner, Amber @ Follow the Yellow Brick Home, Theresa @ Shoestring Elegance and Linda @ Crafts a la Mode.