The auyama is a member of the pumpkin family, which in turn, is a member of the greater family of squash. I’m sure there are purists who would argue this point, but let’s not debate. Concentrate instead on the variety of uses of this very versatile vegetable. Here in the Dominican Republic, auyama is used primarily in sancocho (a stew-like soup) and cream of auyama soup. However, even these examples are like snowflakes, in that no two recipes are exactly alike.
Since this vegetable is a member of the squash/pumpkin family, it can be successfully used in many recipes calling for winter squash or any pumpkin variation. For example, baked with butter, sugar and cinnamon, pumpkin pie, bread, cheesecake, snack bars, etc. It can also be substituted for sweet potatoes (North American variety) in candied yams, bread, pies, and casseroles.
I stumbled on the “sweet potato” side of the auyama while trying to find something to use for candied yams, which is one of my husband’s favorite dishes. Christmas was only a couple of months away, and it was hard to imagine our traditional dinner without one of the main menu items. A little experimentation produced a dish that was similar in taste and texture, and my husband was a very happy man.
The world would be a much poorer place without this fabulous fruit. Most folks enjoy them ripe and juicy right off the trees, but here again, the uses for this Dominican favorite are endless. Aside from any number of mango treats, almost any recipe calling for fresh peaches can be made with mangos. Ice cream, shortcake, pies, breads, pastry fillings, chutneys, salsa, pickles and a fantastic butter cream frosting for an amber hued jewel of a cake are just a few examples. I came up with mango bar-b-q sauce and mango butter when we were inundated with fresh fruit from our neighbors last fall.
Some varieties of mangos are more fibrous than others. When a recipe calls for puree, these fibers are easily removed by using a ricer, food mill or heavy duty, fine mesh kitchen strainer. For a silky smooth and creamy product, squeeze the pureed pulp through at least two layers of cheesecloth. The end result will be worth the extra effort. Try to use less fibrous types when the recipe calls for sliced or chopped fruit.
These fruits are probably the world’s best “pre-packaged” food. Great for grab and go snacks or sliced and added to your favorite cereal, but don’t stop there. Here again, is another fruit that can be used either green or ripe. Before moving here, I never realized just how many varieties of bananas exist. The first time I saw them prepared green, they were simply peeled and boiled in lightly salted water and served as a side vegetable. I thought they were sausages, and was reluctant to try them. Finally I did, and to my surprise, they were quite tasty.
I’m sure there are numerous local recipes using the green as well as the ripe fruit, but I would like to mention a few that I haven’t seen offered in our particular area. Banana Boat Salad, Banana Pudding, Bananas Foster, Chocolate Covered Frozen Bananas and Banana & Pineapple Sorbet
Aside from the fact that all three of these tropical favorites are just plain delicious, they also have the added benefit of being extremely nutritious. The following recipes are included for your enjoyment; Old Fashioned Pumpkin Pie, Candied Yams, Mango Bar-B-Q Sauce, Mango Butter, Banana Pudding and Bananas Foster.
Old Fashioned Pumpkin Pie
(Makes one 9” Pie)
1 1/2 cups plain all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup Crisco or lard (room temperature)
3 to 4 tablespoons ice water
Sift flour before measuring, then resift with salt. Cut Crisco (or lard) into flour with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of water over the dough and very lightly work in with a fork. Keep adding water just until dough starts to stick together and can be formed into a ball. Do not “over work” your dough or the end product will be tough rather than tender and flaky. Cover ball closely with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 12 hours or overnight. Remove from refrigerator about an hour prior to rolling out crust.
Sprinkle smooth surface generously with flour, flatten ball slightly and roll dough lightly from the center out. Do not roll back and forth . Roll the dough into a 12 inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Let dough rest for a few minutes, then lift and loosen the edges all the way around without stretching the dough. Very carefully, fold dough and place in pie plate. Try not to stretch you dough will lifting or placing in pan. Trim crust leaving a 2 to 3 inch overlap. Fold edges under and crimp crust. Place in refrigerator while you prepare filling.
Note: A very light touch is needed when making and handling pie crusts. Refrigeration helps to tenderize the dough.
2 cups cooked pumpkin puree 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 cups white granulated sugar 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon 2 large or 3 small eggs, beaten
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice 1 1/2 cups evaporated milk (12 oz)
Preheat oven to 450 degrees
Mix sugar, salt and spices – set aside. In a large bowl, mix beaten eggs and pumpkin then add sugar mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk. Mix thoroughly. Pour filling into chilled, prepared pie crust. Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue baking for about 40 to 45 minutes or until a knife inserted near (but not in) the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack 2 to 3 hours prior to serving. Cover and refrigerate leftovers.
Note: I use a high sided, fluted edged 9” oven proof glass pie plate. We also like a spicy pie, so I generally use just a pinch more of all the spices. Peel and cube about 2 1/2 to 3 lbs of really orange and very ripe auyama. Steam (preferred method) or cook in a small amount of water until soft. Press through a fine mesh strainer before using. Measure after straining. I buy auyama that is already cut in order to make sure it’s good and ripe. If it doesn’t cook up to a very soft state, your pie will have a grainy texture.
(Makes 6 to 8 servings)
4 cups cubed auyama (very orange and ripe) 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons cinnamon 6 tablespoons butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
In a large stock pot, bring 6 cups of water to a rapid boil. Add auyama, bring back to a boil, reduce heat and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Strain – reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid. Place strained auyama into a buttered 2 quart, flat casserole dish. Melt butter in a heavy bottomed sauce pan. Add brown sugar, cinnamon and reserved cooking liquid. Bring to a slow boil and cook until sugar is thoroughly melted and mixture starts to look syrupy when dripped from a spoon (about 8 to 10 minutes). Stir often. Pour over auyama and bake for approximately 30 to 35 minutes until syrup has thickened and auyama is tender.
Mango Bar-B-Q Sauce (Makes approximately 2 1/2 to 3 cups)
3 cups ripe, peeled and chopped mangos (catch the juice while peeling)
3/4 cup water
Mix fruit, any juice and water together in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Cover and simmer over very low heat for 1 1/2 hours stirring often. Uncover and continue stirring and simmering for an additional 30 minutes until thick. Press through a fine mesh strainer to remove fibers, then, return to saucepan.
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder 1/4 cup A-1 steak sauce
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoons ground red pepper 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce (red)
2 tablespoons bitter orange 1 small (3”) red onion, finely grated
1 tablespoon pickled pepper vinegar 1 teaspoon pancake syrup
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 to 12 minutes stirring often. Will keep in the refrigerator for several days or frozen, up to a month. Very good on grilled or sautéed chicken or pork.
(Makes approximately 4 cups)
4 cups ripe, peeled and chopped with juice 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 cups white granulated sugar dash ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon dash ground allspice
2 teaspoons fresh lemon (lime) juice
Using a heavy bottomed saucepan, over slow simmer, cook mangos and juice until very soft. Stir often to avoid scorching. Press through a fine strainer. You should have about 3 cups of puree. Return puree to saucepan and add sugar, spices and lemon juice. Return to a simmer, stirring constantly until sugar dissolves. Continue to cook, stirring often, until mixture starts to thicken. The mixture is ready when a small amount dropped on to a saucer does not separate and no liquid forms around the edges of sample.
My favorite way to use this is as a fruit filling with plain white or yellow cake layers. Spread between layers and on top of cake. It isn’t necessary to spread on the sides. The remainder of the butter is wonderful used as a spread on pancakes or toasted bread. Keeps in refrigerator for several days. Adjust spices to taste.
Southern Style Banana Pudding
(Makes 8 to 10 servings)
1/2 box vanilla wafers 1 1/2 tablespoons butter (not margarine)
1 cup white granulated sugar 6 large eggs, separated
1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon flour 2 3/4 to 3 cups milk
Dash salt 6 ripe bananas, but not overly ripe
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Combine sugar, salt & flour in a heavy bottomed sauce pan. Whip together egg yolks and milk and add slowly to flour mixture stirring until well combined. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and is creamy and smooth in texture. This may take a few minutes. Remove from heat and add vanilla and butter. Stir to combine.
Spread a small amount of pudding over the bottom of a 1&1/2 to 2 quart casserole dish. Place a single layer of vanilla wafers over pudding. Peel and thinly slice 3 of the bananas and layer evenly over the wafers. Cover with half of the remaining pudding. Repeat layers, making sure the bananas are completely covered. Top pudding with Italian Meringue and place under broiler for a minute or two to lightly brown peaks of meringue. Be careful, as the meringue will burn very quickly. Serve at room temperature. Cover and refrigerate any leftovers. Best eaten within a couple of hours.
Note: Use the back of a spoon to lightly “tap” the top of the meringue to form peaks with curly tops.
(Makes 4 servings)
1/4 cup butter (not margarine) 4 barely ripe bananas
1 cup brown sugar, packed 1/4 cup banana liqueur
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/4 cup good quality dark rum
Pinch ground nutmeg 2 cups vanilla ice cream
Melt butter in a heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat, being careful not to brown the butter. Add brown sugar and spices. Cook stirring constantly until sugar dissolves. Stir in liqueur. Cut peeled bananas in half lengthwise and then cut each piece in half. Add bananas to sugar mixture and cook on both sides until soft and lightly browned. Carefully add rum and tilt pan to warm. Remove from heat and flame the rum. When flame dies down, baste the bananas with the sauce.
Place 1/2 cup of vanilla ice cream in 4 shallow serving bowls. Top with 4 pieces of banana and spoon sauce over bananas. Serve immediately.
Lovers of Dominican cuisine we may be, but sometimes nostalgia for our own traditions overcomes us and we have to prepare a favorite recipe, only to find that the necessary ingredient is not available, or too expensive. Or is it? Necessity, the mother of invention, has worked its magic here. Those of us who hail from distant lands with different culinary traditions, like this week’s guest contributor Dianne Christophers, have been inspired to engage in some culinary experimentation, with interesting results.