Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Fiery Pumpkin Seed Dip

Now it can be revealed: One of the most popular things we make is deceptively simple and doesn't even look edible. It's this humble dip made with toasted pumpkin seeds and cooked tomatoes, flavored to a fiery pitch with a roasted habanero pepper. We always make it in a Mexican molcajete, the traditional mortar made out of basalt stone.

Start with the habanero pepper. We have an electric range with large, flat elements. These are perfect for roasting peppers, but you can also use a traditional comal or a heavy iron skillet. Over moderately high heat, lay the pepper on its side and turn occasionally as it cooks, until it is lightly charred all around. Remove the pepper and when it is cool enough to handle remove the stem, slic it open and remove all the seeds. (I like to wear rubber gloves for this part.)

Next, grind the pepper in the molcajete with 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt.

Use your heaviest skillet to toast 1 1/4 cups hulled pumpkin seeds. We buy ours in bulk from Whole Foods. Over moderate heat, toss the seeds frequently. They will begin to pop and turn from green to tan. Be careful not to burn them. Place the toasted seeds in the molcajete and grind away until you have a rough powder. This may take some elbow grease, but if you're like me, you can use the exercise.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan, cook three ripe plum tomatoes in plenty of water. They should be completely cooked through and soft, almost like tomatoes from a can. Set the tomatoes aside to cool and when they are cool enough to handle remove the stem ends and the skin. Place the tomatoes with the ground pumpkin seeds in the molcajete and grind together until you have a smooth mix.

To the pumpkin seed and tomato mix add 2 tablespoon roughly chopped cilantro (or more) and 2 tablespoons chopped chives. Use a fork or a spoon to mix in the herbs.

Present the finished dip in your molcajete garnished with more cilantro. We like to serve it with freshly sliced jicama. The crispy coolness of the jicama acts as a nice foil for the spicy dip. But you can also scoop it up with your favorite corn chips. Have plenty of cold beer on hand to douse the flames.


Catofstripes said...

That looks so good.

Karen said...

I will try this when I get home to New Mexico. Definitely.

Sylvie, Rappahannock Cook & Kitchen Gardener said...

I just toss pumpkin seeds in my salads or on soups. That's a very good alternative and another use for my beloved stone mortar! Thank you.

I Heart Kale said...

Our local farmer's market sells a Mayan pumpkin seed dip called sikil pak that looks just like this--I've always meant to make it at home, so thanks for the recipe and the inspiration to do so!

Ed Bruske said...

Cat, this dip actually tastes much better than it looks. People are always surpised--usually in a good way.

Karen, this should go well with your native New Mexican cuisine.

Sylvie, I never think to put pumpkin seeds in our other foods. This will look very good served in your stone mortar as well.

Hannah, this does originate from the Yucatan or Mayan area of Mexico. It must be very similar to what you are seeing at the farmers market. Who knew?

Anonymous said...

This is an excellent dish! I had it at Cafe Atlantico in Washington, DC as an appetizer special one night. It was delicious and I'm very happy to have found a recipe....time to throw a dinner party!

Ed Bruske said...

DC, I had know idea our favorite pumpkin seed dip was being served in a restaurant right here in the District of Columbia. Hat tip to Cafe Atlantico and thanks for the intel.

Sylvie, Rappahannock Cook & Kitchen Gardener said...

Finally, made this for dinner tonight (taming down the heat, and replacing cilantro I did not have with fresh oregano leaves which I had) and served it on top of dinner. Not as a dip but as a little extra. We had venison and black bean quick chili, rice & braised turnips. It really reminded me of a dish I make with ground peanuts (my husband actually though at first it was peanuts). Anyway a keeper: easy, tasty and versatile.

Thanks for posting.

Ed Bruske said...

Sylvie, I'm glad you had a chance to try that and even improvise on the original. Now that you mention it, peanuts would be an interesting substitute. I could see that.