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Fried squash: A seasonal pumpkin recipe inspired by Yucatán

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As we prep our decor for this year’s Halloween, we might find our homes covered in pumpkins. But if you still haven’t decked your living room and want to put a local twist on jack-o-lanterns, we suggest giving Yucatecan pumpkins a try.

In Yucatán, pumpkins aren’t just for decoration. They are also for dinner. 

There are over 20 pumpkin varieties all over the country. Some local, some domesticated, introduced by the Spaniards. Photo: Courtesy

Among its many varieties, there are some which more closely resemble a squash, or zucchini, but form part of the same family. Pumpkin was a fundamental ingredient in the pre-Hispanic diet, particularly in the center of the country.

Yucatecan varieties are known for their tough exterior, which is usually pealed or cut off during preparation. Photo: Courtesy

Its seeds and flowers occupy a prominent place in Mexican cuisine, in dishes like Pipian, originally pepián —a sort of sauce or cream made from pumpkin seeds; and quesadillas with flor de calabaza, considered by many to be practically a delicacy. 

Empanada of flor de calabaza, by Jardín Baldío. Photo: Verónica Garibay

In Yucatán, however, pumpkin is usually enjoyed fried.

In Yucatán Magazine: Día de Los Muertos or Hanal Pixán: What’s the difference?

Accompanied with “cabax” — frijol colado beans, Calabaza Frita will continue to be a star dish in the traditional food card of our region. Although you can add some chicken or pork to vary the preparation, the original recipe only includes vegetables:

Fried pumpkin, or calabaza frita, is sometimes enjoyed alongside other Yucatecan dishes, like pork or chicken stew.

Approximate prep time: 50 minutes.

Ingredients

  • 600 grams pumpkin
  • 1 onion
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 bunch of cilantro
  • 3 tomatoes
  • 1 sweet seedless chili (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon of dehydrated chicken bouillon
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 200 gr. fresh cheese
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • Ground black pepper to taste
  • Salt to taste

Preparation of Yucatecan fried squash

Before starting, remove the skin of the pumpkin with a sharp knife and cut it into small pieces. Then wash it well and drain it. Set aside.

Peel the onion and cut it into cubes, wash the cilantro and chop it finely. After rinsing the tomatoes, chop them into 4 large pieces and crush them together with the garlic and water in a blender or mixer. If you prefer you can leave them into cubes as well.

If you are going to include the chili peppers, cut them in julienne strips but do not include the seeds which are what gives the spiciness. Unless you’re looking for spice, of course.

Place the chopped pumpkin, onion, cilantro, and crushed tomato in a pot, stir so that everything is integrated, and cook over low heat with the lid on.

After 5 minutes, add the oil, salt to taste, dehydrated chicken bouillon, oregano, and a little pepper for flavor.

Stir and cook until the vegetables are tender. Cover again.

When your fried Yucatecan squash is ready, serve it hot with a little cream and grated fresh cheese. Enjoy!

In Yucatán Magazine: Recipe: Yucatán’s Kaaxil Sikil just happens to be vegan

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