Food of the Gods – Mayan Pumpkin Seed Dip
By Cheryl Forberg, RD
Aside from a few brief trips to Mexico, I haven’t yet travelled beyond Mazatlán or Mexico City. The country of Mexico has 32 states and the furthest state (from me!) is Yucatán on the southeastern tip of Mexico. In fact, the entire Southeastern tip of Mexico is called the Yucatán Peninsula which is comprised of 3 states. Bordered on the north by the Gulf of Mexico, Yucatán state is bordered to the east and southeast by the state of Quintana Roo (Cozumel and Costa Maya are there), and to the southwest and west by the state of Campeche, which is the state least visited by tourists, probably because it’s the furthest!
My husband and I are taking our first cruise together this year, and chose to visit the Yucatan peninsula, with a focus on Yucatán state as well as other coastal gems in Central American including Cozumel, Belize (formerly the British Honduras) and Santo Tomás de Castilla (in Guatemala). As a chef, I am naturally most interested in the ingredients and cuisine on this trip and decided to do a little research before we depart.
Yucatan food has a strong influence from traditional Mayan food, which includes ingredients such as corn, squash, beans, chili peppers, chocolate, honey, avocado, pumpkin seeds (pepitas) and tomatoes. Colonial occupation introduced new ingredients from Lebanon and Spain including sesame seeds and Seville (sour) oranges, which I am using in today’s recipe, Sikil P’ak or Mayan Pumpkin Seed Dip.
Sikil P’ak is really easy to make and absolutely delicious. I haven’t tried it yet, but I think it would also be a scrumptious spread on a chicken or fish sandwich. The name Sikil P’ak comes from two of its key ingredients, pumpkin seeds and tomatoes. Though it’s often served with fresh crispy tortilla chips, I prefer it with crunchy crudité such as local jicama and cucumbers.
Mayan Pumpkin Seed Dip
Makes about 2 cups
1 package (6 ounces) Melissa’s Pumpkin Seeds (Pepitas) (about 1 1/8 cups)
1 cup drained diced (canned) fire-roasted tomatoes
1 peeled and chopped shallot (about 3 tablespoons)
2 tablespoon Seville orange juice (see note)
1 tablespoon chopped (stemmed and seeded) Jalapeno pepper (or chipotle paste if you prefer a smokier flavor)
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
3/4 teaspoon regular or smoked salt
Tortilla chips and/or sliced jicama and cucumbers for dipping
Note: If you don’t have access to Seville oranges, you can use 1 tablespoon fresh orange juice + 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice.
In a dry skillet, lightly toast the pumpkin seeds over medium low heat, stirring regularly, until they smell toasty and just start to change color and pop, approximately 7 minutes. Let them cool slightly and then grind into a powder using a spice grinder or clean coffee grinder. Transfer to the bowl of a food processor.
Add tomatoes, shallot, Seville orange juice and pepper; process into the food processor just until blended.
Transfer mixture to a medium bowl and stir in chopped cilantro and salt. If mixture is too thick, you can add a tablespoon or two of water.
Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with cilantro leaves.
Serve with tortilla chips and/or crudité.