Legumbres en Pepian
This weekend I prepared Squash Stew with Chilies, Spices and Ground Nuts (Legumbres en Pepian) from The Greens Cookbook by Deborah Madison and Edward Espe Brown. This is a cookbook you need. Most folks don’t need as many cookbooks as I need, but everyone needs this book. The rich and vividly flavored recipes are clear, gorgeously written and very easy to follow. Read The Greens Cookbook! Support your local independent bookseller!
I almost always double this recipe. It is labor intensive—you’re already grinding nuts, seeds, and chili powder—you may as well make some to keep. And you might as well cook your own hominy too, even though the recipe calls for canned. It only takes eleven hours (less if you soak the hominy first or use a pressure-cooker).
I won’t quote entire recipes from cookbooks in print, but I will quote substantial parts of
the recipe below. My comments are in the square brackets.
Squash Stew with Chilies, Spices and Ground Nuts (Legumbres en Pepian) from The Greens Cookbook by Deborah Madison and Edward Espe Brown.
[Ingredient list omitted. You will infer it from the method, and you’re going to get the book anyway, remember?]
Toast the cumin seeds in a dry pan [cast iron is ideal for this] over medium heat for several minutes until they begin to brown and the aroma is strong. Shake the pan back and forth frequently so they won’t burn. Add the oregano, toast for five seconds more, and remove to a bowl [Wow! I love that! I cannot think of any other recipe in which we are directed to do something for five seconds. She’s just right, though—five seconds is exactly long enough to toast dried oregano. This wonderful recipe balances between the eleven hours needed to simmer the hominy and the five seconds needed to toast the oregano]. Using the same pan, toast the sesame seeds until they are lightly browned and fragrant. Set them aside; then toast the almonds [love that semicolon]. When they are lightly browned, remove the almonds to a cutting board and roughly chop them. Grind the cumin and oregano to a powder in a spice mill [oooooh, the smell of freshly ground roasted cumin and oregano! You almost don’t have to make the rest of the recipe. Well, yes, you do]; then grind the almonds and the sesame seeds to a fine meal.
Preheat the oven to 350F. Roast the chilies until they puff up and are fragrant, about 4-5 minutes. Cool slightly; then cut them open, remove the stems, seeds, and veins, and tear them into pieces [I like that instruction to tear up the chiles before grinding—It’s hard to remember things like that when you write recipes down]. Grind the chilies in a spice mill or small blender jar to make a coarse powder [The recipe specifies pasilla chilies. I had some large black chilies of forgotten provenance which I think were pasillas, or something really close].
Heat the oil in a casserole, add the onions, and sauté over medium-high heat until they have begun to soften; then add the garlic, cumin, oregano, and two tablespoons of the chili powder, and cook another minute. Next add the squash [kabocha squash is ideal for this, and you don't need to peel the squash], mushrooms, a sprinkling of salt [a sprinkling!], and 3 cups water, tomato juice, or stock. Bring to a boil; then lower the heat, cover, and cook slowly until the squash is tender, about 20 minutes. Check to see if the mixture dries out while cooking and add more liquid if necessary.
Add the ground almonds and sesame seeds, cauliflower, hominy, and puréed tomato [here’s where you really watch the stew happen. Take a minute between each addition. See what the almonds do when you add them, then the sesame, then the other ingredients. It is beautiful. The first time I prepared this recipe, I almost cried when I got to this part]. Check for salt and season with additional ground chili to taste. Continue cooking until the cauliflower is nearly tender; add the peas and chopped cilantro, and let stew a few more minutes. Serve with the sour cream or crème fraîche [I almost never say this, because I love cream, but you don’t even need to serve any cream] and a garnish of cilantro sprigs.
This goes very nicely with all kinds of rice, an avocado salad, that rutabaga kugl-type thing below, and coconut cornbread prepared with Iroquois roasted cornflour. I mean maizebread and maizeflour! This is the most comforting of all winter comfort foods, and in that spirit I submit it squashy salutes to Alicat and Sara’s comfort food cookbook challenge.