There's a Seat for Everybody at This Table

There's a Seat for Everybody at This Table
Photo by John Anderson

Mayan Hummus (Sikil P'aak)

Gluten-free, paleo
Prep time: 10 min. Cook time: 45 min.
Yield: 5 cups

I found this recipe in some old historical Mayan research and then tweaked it. I made a version of it for the end-of-the-world Mayan food party at Rancho Winslow last year, and we were all blown away by how good it was, and how unique the flavor is. It became known in our recipe shorthand as "Mayan hummus."

P'aak is Mayan for "tomato" and sikil means "squash seed" (close enough to pumpkin seeds, right?), and it dates back to pre-conquest times. While it is delicious any time of the year, this dip was traditionally served in the autumn, when pumpkin seeds were used to celebrate the harvest.

2¼ cups (9-10 ounces) hulled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano

½ medium onion, chopped

6 scallions, chopped

6 cloves garlic, chopped

6 tomatillos, husked and rinsed, chopped

1 cup cilantro, roughly chopped, plus extra sprigs or leaves for garnish

½ cup parsley, roughly chopped

6 interior romaine leaves, roughly chopped

6 large radish leaves, roughly chopped

6-9 serrano chiles, stemmed and roughly chopped (to taste)

5 cups rich turkey or chicken broth

1 teaspoon salt (to taste)

3 tablespoons avocado or olive oil

1) Dry toast the pumpkin seeds in a large skillet or comal over medium heat until they have popped and turned golden (it should take about 5 minutes). Add the cumin seeds and oregano, and toast until fragrant. Spread the mixture out and let cool to room temperature. Reserve a tablespoon to use for garnish.

2) In a blender, combine the pumpkin seeds, onion, scallions, garlic, tomatillos, cilantro, parsley, romaine, radish leaves, and serranos. Add 3 cups of the broth and blend to a smooth purée. Heat the oil in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the purée and cook while stirring constantly until very thick (about 10 minutes). Stir in the remaining 2 cups of the broth, partially cover, and simmer 20 minutes.

3) Scrape the sauce into a blender, loosely cover, and blend to a smooth purée; you might need to add a little extra broth (or water) to attain a medium consistency. Rinse the saucepan and return the blended sauce to it, taste and season with salt, and keep warm until service, stirring occasionally.

4) Garnish with the reserved pumpkin seeds and cilantro sprigs. Excellent with grilled, sautéed, or braised chicken or turkey.

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