The holidays are here and one of the best things about celebrating is recognizing and acknowledging the different ceremonial and traditional feasting throughout. In our household Christmas is the principal celebration, always fueled by food. And, following is Kwanzaa, though we didn’t celebrate it growing up. It wasn’t until my early adulthood I decided honoring footways and traditions specific to the African diaspora was something I wanted to incorporate and honor.
For my very big, dynamic family of over 20, I always stick to the same menu and dish contributions. My mom and cousin have the Cuban dishes on lock so I thought this year I would switch it up by offering dishes that have greater meaning in that we can tell stories around the food’s and dishes’ genesis. One of the things that I’ve been very intentional about in year’s past is exploring more deeply where our food comes from. I’ve always said that if we know where our food comes from, we can appreciate, respect and love it more.
Though I already know my mother is going to ask me to stick to what I always do, I am throwing in the mix this year a few dishes that I made in season one of my cooking show, ‘Culture Kitchen’. This roasted butternut squash purée was a hero side I made in one particular episode, and my best friend who guest-appeared loved it so much, I thought it’d be a great idea to introduce it more widely to my family. Whipped with butter and invoking some Caribbean elements, it’s no doubt decadent, creamy and elevated with toasted pistachio, pomegranate seeds and fresh sage. Not only is it delicious and vibrantly beautiful, but it also represents a squash that is so ubiquitous and typical in Latin and Caribbean cuisine. I already know it’s going be a family hit and added to or family menus going forward.
Although butternut squash is indigenous to Central and South American, namely Mexico and Guatemala, the lager pumpkin group Cucurbitaceous gourd has origins in Asia and Africa. There is some conflicting information on its true continent of origination, but we do know pumpkins, squash, and gourds and are part of the African Heritage Diet, which is Black America’s way of celebrating and honoring the food and traditions brought from Africa to the Caribbean, South American, and the southern American states.
This centuries old calabaza is a mainstay and staple in my home, and something I grew up eating regularly as added to stews or simply roasted to eat in mind course salads. Truth be told, I’ve been making a much simpler version of this purée for years but have never brought it to big family gatherings. I’m excited about sharing it with my family, talking about it and filling our hearts. From my kitchen to yours, happy holidays, happy Kwanzaa and seasons greetings!
Eat well, love unapologetically, pray with true intention, and take care of yourself.
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Butternut Squash Puree with Sage and Pistachios
Recipe courtesy of Bren Herrera
- 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks
- ¾ cup coconut milk
- ½ stick softened butter
- 1 teaspoon light brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons agave nectar
- A few drops of Angostura or walnut bitters
- Kosher salt
- ½ cup toasted and crushed pistachios
- 1/2 cup fresh pomegranate seeds, for garnish
- Fresh sage for garnish
- Place butternut squash in a large pot and cover with water and salt to taste.
- Simmer or bring to medium boil and cook until tender then strain.
- Add the squash into a blender along with coconut milk, brown sugar, agave, bitters, salt to taste, and half of the pistachios.
- Blend the butternut squash until smooth and fluffy. You want it to be whipped and airy! (For a chunkier texture, mash using a potato masher, leaving chunkier forms.)
- Pour the butternut squash into a large serving vessel and sprinkle with remaining pistachios and garnish with pomegranate seeds and fresh sage!